Comment 68326

By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted August 21, 2011 at 19:05:21 in reply to Comment 68325

Thank you Jason, and my apologies for bringing in the strawman!

Sometimes in life it is necessary to pull out strawmen from the closets, not just to air them out a bit as they do get musty! - but also in order to nudge conversations forward. :)

I still look forward to your views on this document: Urban Density Misconceptions. For, I think in analyzing this document you may get the directions you are seeking in: "I've yet to be convinced by anyone that highrises are bad."

No doubt we all are in sync on the need for Hamilton to get vibrant, however, how we get there - is what needs fair, honest and open conversations. In this, one does tend to lean to other cities for examples, or build vignettes of favorite spots from other cities - which is only fair and expected. But to bring authority to such comparisons is what creates unnecessary debates and conflicts.

Cities grow the way they do because of their economy. In order to get the vibrancy seen in other cities - we need to focus on our economy and realignment of our geographic patterns, and not on our built-form. Putting a city's built-form before its economy is like putting the cart before the horse. Emulating the 'Bilbao effect' deeply hurt many cities financially.

Our economy is not going to be pumping from our University, its innovation park or the medical complex. These are close-looped constructs which will continue to create jobs as long as the government continues to finance it. No new capital is being generated from such constructs outside of its own operations. The few enterprises that manage to leave its orbit are hardly sufficient to impact the built-form of this city.

Where are the highrises coming from here?

The price of condos in highrises that you visualize are always going to be in conflict with the price of a detached home with a backyard (primarily because of the differential in cost of constructing high-rise viz low-rise) - and as long as that happens, the kind of condo boom you visualize in downtown is going to remain only in our minds. Hence the fits-n-starts of many announced condo projects in downtown - not because the developers are evil people. Bad designs notwithstanding - which comes from bad designers.

Don't get me wrong on the high-rise form. I too love them for its purely inspirational qualities when able to see them from a distance - especially at nights. Romance is born from such images. It is what happens when you are in them and around them that needs a more dispassionate look.

Given your family structure presently, if there was a trade offered to you at par, with the moving costs paid for -- would you give up your new home to take your spouse & children into the 45th floor one-bedroom condo in downtown Hamilton, with a gorgeous view of Flamborough? I say 'one-bedroom' because that is what at par will barely get you on the 45th floor of a swanky, silvery, glass enclosed, concierge served, underground parking extra condo.

And if you don't accept this as fair trade, why would you want to impose such an offer on others.

Here in lies our economic reality - and the limits it sets on our imagination.

Affordability will continue to be an integral part of sustainability in the coming decades. If there is someone who can design affordable high-rise condos in our times, s/he may well deserve a Nobel price for such efforts. Failing which, our built-form will continue to reflect our economy in more manageable and more sustainable low-rise.

The fact that with some deft planning (as shown above) we can achieve the same urban texture and even larger density than highrises can - is an opportunity for Hamilton to lose, if it does get prematurely swayed by talks of sexy skyscrapers.

High-rise buildings operate well only in a context. That context is the economy. We need to focus on our economy and let the built-form be generated from there. Without this approach, we will become a broken-teeth like vertical bedroom community - which will not sustain the retail street-fronts in our disjointed high-rise canyons. Our skyline would tell this story so well in the scattered clusters of high-rises across the backdrop of an even more confused escarpment.

Borneo Sporenburg - One of the most celebrated contemporary examples of dense urban housing within a Western European context.

Louis Sauer - "Architects today are obsessed with expressing their personal form. But this won't solve the problem of how to give people a home and make our cities eco-sustainable."

Tall Buildings and Sustainability - When an economy is ready to churn out tall buildings, these are the kind of concerns a city will need to address besides aesthetics or form based planning, to derive the maximum benefit of tall structures.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-08-21 20:30:40

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