Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
 

CTBUH Expands UK Presence with Rousing Debate on Urban Housing in Manchester
July 26, 2017

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MANCHESTER – On July 26, 2017, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) held its first Manchester event in coordination with the CTBUH UK Chapter, marking the occasion with a debate on the development of urban housing in the city.

Hosted in association with Olsson Fire and Risk UK and Alinea Consulting at Schroders’ impressive City Tower building in Piccadilly, the event drew in big name speakers including the former City of London Corporation’s City Planning Officer, Professor Peter Wynne Rees, Professor of Places and City Planning, University College London, who argued that a “Northern Powerhouse” could only be created by ignoring the mistakes of London and New York: “Those cities are too rich in empty high-rise residential. The people who can actually afford them are either too busy working to inhabit them or have other homes in which they reside. The result is either wealthy soulless ghost towns or high-rise favelas containing social housing tenants.”

Matt Hayward, Associate Director, 5Plus Architects, participates in the debate.

Rees argued that Manchester has more potential thanks to its character: “Manchester’s got a number of ‘Shoreditches’; not through trying too hard, but it’s all thanks to the city’s identity, which has resulted in the unintentional sprouting of various cool quarters of the city; they use medium-rise buildings to great effect, but I still think they could be better occupied with foresight and better planning.

“The biggest strength in Manchester is land. You’ve got it, London and New York don’t. The city needs to use it to its advantage to create communities; physical spaces like quadrangles where inward looking, well-maintained spaces will provoke interaction. It’s a model that’s commonplace – and successful – in Europe where viable, high-density buildings of true mixed tenure simply work.”

Group photo, from left to right: Matt Hayward, Associate Director, 5Plus Architects; CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood; Professor Peter Wynne Rees, Professor of Places and City Planning, University College London; CTBUH Trustee & UK Chair Steve Watts, Partner, Alinea Consulting; and Simon Lay, Director, Olsson Fire & Risk UK.
Rees was joined on stage by Simon Lay, Director, Olsson Fire & Risk UK; Matt Hayward, Associate Director, 5Plus Architects; CTBUH Trustee & UK Chair Steve Watts, Partner, Alinea Consulting; and CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood. Echoing Rees’s comments, Wood said, “We get high-rise urban buildings wrong in a lot of places in the West; the contrast in places like Singapore is incredible – where a staggering 95% of the population live in government-designed high-rise buildings. Say those five words to buyers or renters in the UK and it’s an immediate negative.

“There are a number of reasons it’s being done wrong; a lack of creativity is seeing homogenized buildings. I want to see skyscrapers with local input that are embraced, add character, and draw communities in.”

All agreed that the connectivity of high-rise to the zones around them at street level was vital. Rees said, “You need to keep the fun in the center of the city.” There was also agreement from all that tall towers, with architecture that reflects the identity of the city, can enhance a sense of place if done well and with strategic vision.

The event was attended by more than 70 guests from the property sector. Hosted on the 28th floor of City Tower, guests were treated to unparalleled views of Manchester.