Housing in this country tends to be conceived of as either high-rise apartments or terraced and semi-detached housing. Compared to other major European cities, our cities are noticeably dominated by these two typologies, but there is a whole spectrum of solutions and innovative housing types in between that can raise the levels of density significantly, while at the same time improving the quality of the urban environment. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; the challenge for architects and planners when it comes to maximising density is identifying the right mix for each location.
Street-based urbanism holds the key to unlocking higher density. For instance, contemporary townhouses that combine a compact footprint with three or four stories, and where private outdoor space takes the form of balconies, terraces and roof gardens instead of traditional backyards on the ground. There are considerable opportunities for housing types that sit in the space between apartments and suburban houses – still giving residents their own front door and footprint on the land – and that are also often more aesthetically sensitive to and reflective of existing surroundings.
In addition, by reinforcing street patterns, urban design can improve the sustainability of higher density housing – if designed with good access to public transport routes, connecting easily to wider city networks and providing shorter journey times to local services and amenities.
One of the biggest problems with 1960s high-rise tower blocks was the wasted and often uninviting public space around them at the bottom with no clear usage or purpose. Instead, public space created around street-based developments has the benefit of being directional, comforting and familiar, with opportunities to create green buffers and allowing the creation of shared communal places. Improved standards of space, storage and amenities, have made high density development a much more attractive proposition and should start to challenge archaic perceptions of high density, high rise buildings.
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Density, Architecture, Public Realm