“If the only way is up, where will the children go?”
The continuing housing crisis provides an opportunity to re-examine post-war ideas about how to accommodate the city’s workers and their families in our increasingly vertical city. This proposal for a 32 storey tower revisits ‘streets-in-the-sky’ as articulated by the Smithson’s and other architects of that era and takes the theory to its absolute zenith with a one mile long continuous street spiralling upwards through its interior.
The design could be described as ‘Park Hill meets the Guggenheim’ and aspires to a vertical neighbourhood that embraces and encourages civic interaction, where the morning school run and the daily commute circumnavigate each other, and the milk delivery and rubbish collection take place centre stage on the street.
Primary public circulation is via the three metre wide central ramp - distinguished by the black and white stripes of an eternal zebra crossing. Secondary circulation provides a screened layer of semi-public frontages to the apartments, offices and public amenities. A tertiary self-contained route is just for children, connecting their bedrooms - perhaps through a secret door in the wardrobe - and running along the rooftops of the units underneath.
‘Sky Street’ exists in a scenario where corporations have once again assumed responsibility for housing their employees. It references various model or ideal communities such as Bourneville and Port Sunlight, re-imagining them not as garden city suburbs but as urban high-rise. Figurative ‘street’ language and materials are used to suggest a civic quality to the interior. Externally the tower attempts to blend and disappear into the skyline, as much as any tower could, with sky-blue rendering and cloud-shaped balconies. And an occasional sunburst.
This project arose out of a year-long study into the child’s experience of the city, and how a now unknown freedom to play on and learn from the streets has been degraded in contemporary society. Such critique stimulated my proposal towards a more inclusive mixed-use tower for society at large, the possibilities of which I now continue to explore further in my own practice.
Published in Dezeen and awarded Modern Decoration 'Best Project' Prize, 2014