The High-Rise: Vertical Alternative to Horizontal City Growth

High-rise buildings stem from 19th century, when they became icons of modernity and wealth. Since 1980’s, economic growth has led to large-scale tall building developments in the US, Australia, South-East Asia, China. More recently, the Middle East and Eastern Europe are working fast to become the new high-rise centres.

As urban population increases, shortage of urban land results. This leads to development of higher buildings, or otherwise increased city footprint. Tall buildings are a vertical alternative to horizontal city growth. With rising ecological pressures, tall buildings can offer a good solution.

The last two decades have seen extreme misuse of the high-rise building type, the focus being on how high and how sculptural a building can be rather than what contribution it makes to its environment. High-rises have become tools for global marketing strategies as opposed to good urban design strategies. However, it is not the height itself, but the relationship of height to urban form that is of importance.

High-rise buildings will continue to be constructed, and in particular in developing countries. We can expect to see a continual implementation of these buildings into existing urban structures, just as we will see new cities built entirely out of high-rise buildings. The relationship of this building type to urban form is key to urban sustainability. High-rise developments should not be looked at in terms of individual icon buildings, but in terms of collectively forming unique high-rise urban systems.

Ms Ewa Maciejewski, Senior Lecturer, Architecture, University of Portsmouth, UK

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