Comment 68330

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 21, 2011 at 22:50:34

Wow, things are getting heated...only one point to add to the above - if memory serves, Portland is known for fairly strict height restrictions, getting stricter as you move away from the core. Many anti-smart growth folks blame it for restricting density.

I'm not against skyscrapers, but I'm quite hesitant about them for a number of reasons.

First of all, there's the use-of-space issue. Not all high-rises fall into this trap, but most do - leaving large setbacks before the tower begins. What this means is that on the very same lot, a low-rise building can often house just as many people or units. So we don't need to demolish any more single family homes than we would otherwise.

Second, there's the economics involved. Condominiums just aren't affordable for most people. It isn't just that you're paying a mortgage which could buy you a much larger house - once you include the "condo fees", you may be paying enough to buy that house and rent a similar-sized apartment. There's a lot of social tensions that come along with these sorts of developments, as well as the inevitable issues with unsavoury condo "developers" (Vancouver's a great example of both).

Third, there's the community - or lack thereof. Jane Jacobs touches on this in Death and Life in her discussions about "turf". These buildings are unwelcoming and sterile by their design and nature. They don't generate the kind of cross-traffic that a dense grid-pattern of streets does, and don't often see the same kind of community vitality, even in the same communities. Even when they provide grass, barbecues and playgrounds, they're rarely used. The buildings are private property, and nobody has much business being on a floor unless they're a resident or guest - so aside from the elevators, lobbies and parking lot, there's barely any interaction.

Finally there's the question of "why?". What do tall buildings and an "interesting skyline" really add to a city in tangible terms?

Not all tall buildings follow these patterns. Putting 30 storeys on an old Tim Hortons lot is one thing, putting the same building on an acre of land and then surrounding it with parking lots and grass is another. It can be done well, but it certainly isn't always.

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