The Vertical Open City
As the housing crisis escalates in London, those who operate the city are being forced further away from the centre, a process which is resulting in a monocultural anti-city urbanism. Out of 1 million key workers living and working across Greater London¹, only 1% can afford to buy a home in London. As a result, London is becoming increasingly socially fragmented. Simultaneously, more than one third of music and cultural venues in London have been lost in the last ten years², a process which is a symptom of the city’s urban qualities disappearing and suburban values taking over. My project is a propositional critique of these trends, contributing to a discussion on bringing the challenge of key workers into focus by densifying the centre whilst improving its social, cultural and city-like qualities.
How can we create new models for increasing the capacity of central London at underused infill sites such as those above tube stations, in order to create affordable housing for key workers and other marginalised citizens such as night-time workers with public functions that will act as social condensers? How can we integrate housing and social infrastructure, and build multi-functional schemes that will form sustainable 24-hour diverse communities?
As opposed to the existing trend of monotonous dormitory and gated developments, this project aims to mix and compact heterogeneous influences into a community and hold onto and revive civic living culture to the city centre. The project argues that the intense properties of a city such as the seemingly chaotic compression of multicultural societies can be seen as a positive condition, and that maintaining the presence of people from multiple social and economic backgrounds is key to this quality.
The project is a network of highly compacted vertical public and domestic spaces sandwiched between (or stacked on top of) each other, highlighting the relationship between the overlapping functions while forming three-dimensional open spaces on different levels that serve the broadest demographic of the city. The structures are focused on the civic role of dwelling and cultivating the public qualities of 24/7 city life. The qualities of the underground and the tube stations as places with crowded richness and mix of social strata, is intended to flow vertically and continue as a vertical street-scape. The public spaces such as the piazza, open-air performance space and the roof garden are formed as the expansion of the city into the building.
Location: London, United Kingdom
University: Royal College of Art
Semester: Master Project
Teaching: Nicholas Lobo Brennan - Douglas Murphy - Astrid Smitham