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Old February 8th, 2009, 07:28 PM   #1
DesignOfHomes
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High-rise living: good or bad?

I'm interested to hear everyone's thoughts are about living in a high-rise tower block. Do you currently live in one? What's the experience like? Would you rather live in a low-rise dwelling? If you don't live in a tower, would you ever consider living in one?

Sometime ago, I read the following passage from a book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. It's a well-known book that's often praised (but it's also been criticised for being a bit old-fashioned and too prescriptive).

Anyway, Alexander argues that buildings designed for living in should be limited to a maximum of four storeys. Here's what he has to say:

Quote:
In any urban area, no matter how dense, keep the majority of buildings four storeys high or less. It is possible that certain buildings should exceed this limit, but they should never be buildings for human habitation.
And also...

Quote:
High rise living takes people away from the ground and away from the casual, everyday society that occurs on the sidewalks and streets and on the grounds and porches. It leaves them alone in their apartments. The decision to go out for some public life becomes formal and awkward; and unless there is some specific task which brings people out in the world, the tendency is to stay home, alone.

I don't live in a high-rise, so I'm not sure whether to agree or disagree with Alexander. I think there are definite social and cultural factors that contribute to the success or failure of residential high-rise towers for living. I can imagine myself living in a block of apartments a few storeys high, but I don't know if I'd want to live near the top of a 30 or 40-floor tower block.

What are your thoughts?
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Old February 8th, 2009, 10:21 PM   #2
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"In any urban area, no matter how dense, keep the majority of buildings four storeys high or less. It is possible that certain buildings should exceed this limit, but they should never be buildings for human habitation."

Thats rather silly, just as the "skyscraper-only" crowd is or the pro-suburban detached-house-only crowd is. In reality, people have differing tastes - some will enjoy low-rise apartments, some high-rises, some rowhouses, or detached-houses. As such, it is economically viable to have a mixture of all of the above. And for "maximum livability" for as many people as possible, a city should include a diverse range of housing options that reflect our diverse tastes.
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Old February 8th, 2009, 10:29 PM   #3
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I like having a garden and greenery around me so no. I think most people do.
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Old February 8th, 2009, 11:01 PM   #4
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An apartment in a centrally situated luxury residential tower to live during the week and a mansion with garden outside the city to spend the weekend is my ambition!
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Old February 9th, 2009, 03:52 AM   #5
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High-rise living = good indeed. I don't get the argument about "sidewalk interaction" considering most single family houses worldwide are auto dependant and most people simply leave their houses to hop into their cars.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 05:55 AM   #6
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Old February 9th, 2009, 06:00 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Svartmetall View Post
High-rise living = good indeed. I don't get the argument about "sidewalk interaction" considering most single family houses worldwide are auto dependant and most people simply leave their houses to hop into their cars.
I agree. This is typically the case. With highrise developments, there's a higher chance of having good public transport links nearby which will encourage people to venture outside for necessity and for fun. Social interaction is much more likely than with the isolation that comes with driving an automobile.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 06:12 AM   #8
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I've lived in a smallish one of eight stories, and I wasn't crazy about it. I find there's far more social interaction in them than with smaller buildings because there are so many people sharing a common entrance/exit and using the same elevators. I personally found the building i was in to be like a small town with less privacy and more gossipy people than I'd like. For me, I'd consider the ultimate most desireable form of living to be in a townhouse set in a solidly urban setting (set very near or on the sidewalk, attached to neighbouring buildings or seperated by a small alleyway).

However, if given the choice between a highrise or lowrise apartment building with all things being equal, it's pretty much a draw. Highrises often have better views, there's more sound isolation from street level noise, and elevators provide convenience, but as I mentioned, I don't care for the forced socialisation.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 06:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Svartmetall View Post
High-rise living = good indeed. I don't get the argument about "sidewalk interaction" considering most single family houses worldwide are auto dependant and most people simply leave their houses to hop into their cars.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skybean View Post
I agree. This is typically the case. With highrise developments, there's a higher chance of having good public transport links nearby which will encourage people to venture outside for necessity and for fun. Social interaction is much more likely than with the isolation that comes with driving an automobile.
Low-rise doesn't equal single-family detached house. The hypothesis was that high-density low-rise development contributes to a more "livable" environment. Like this, for example:

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Old February 9th, 2009, 06:44 AM   #10
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Living in a highrise is certainly more convenient than in suburbia. Having experienced both, I don't think I need all the space a house can offer. I don't sit in the garden much anyway. However, I do miss the greenery now that I live in a highrise, although I gain nice harbour and city views from my balcony, which is probably far better than a few shrubs and trees in my garden. That being said, as long as a highrise project incorporates leisure areas, greenery, and services within walking distance, I don't see how living in one would be far worse than in a house. Everyone owning a house in a large city is simply unsustainable.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 07:32 AM   #11
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I've lived in smaller highrises (12 and 13 stories, both on the 6th floor) for several years. Love it.

Density and a central location mean that there's a lot of reasons to go outside, whether myself or meeting up with other people. Also, the small businesses know me and what I want.

Quiet is one benefit. I just moved to the alley side of a new building, with another residential across the way (I can see barely over it, with a little slice of Elliott Bay and West Seattle). The street noise (alarms, stereos, bar crowds) I despised at my other place is 80% gone, and my annoyance and related sleep problems are 99% gone.

I'm sure I'll be on a "how's it going" basis with a few neighbors in time, as I was at my last place. But I love anonymity. The idea of living in a house seems wierd. In a house or townhouse, you have a fringe of space that's yours, but out in the open. I don't want to hang out on display to others, or to be responsible for maintaining an area I don't feel comfortable in.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 07:39 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyronin View Post
Low-rise doesn't equal single-family detached house. The hypothesis was that high-density low-rise development contributes to a more "livable" environment. Like this, for example:

That's mid-rise not low rise.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 08:00 AM   #13
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I think that good quality high-rise living is probably fine for young single people but it's not going to appeal to many families with kids.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 08:03 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nouvellecosse View Post
I've lived in a smallish one of eight stories, and I wasn't crazy about it. I find there's far more social interaction in them than with smaller buildings because there are so many people sharing a common entrance/exit and using the same elevators. I personally found the building i was in to be like a small town with less privacy and more gossipy people than I'd like. For me, I'd consider the ultimate most desireable form of living to be in a townhouse set in a solidly urban setting (set very near or on the sidewalk, attached to neighbouring buildings or seperated by a small alleyway).

However, if given the choice between a highrise or lowrise apartment building with all things being equal, it's pretty much a draw. Highrises often have better views, there's more sound isolation from street level noise, and elevators provide convenience, but as I mentioned, I don't care for the forced socialisation.
As someone who currently lives in a high rise too, I agree with this comment.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 08:08 AM   #15
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I do overall think low rise living is more livable than high rise living - but it really depends on the urban planning more than it does floors..


To me personally this is about as good as it gets - bright and welcomming with the perfect density and light and no car needed thanks to the shops and stores within walking distance
http://i25.************/2606hjo.jpg
http://i25.************/5vdf93.jpg
http://i32.************/rwkshe.jpg
http://i26.************/2z7r7zq.jpg
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Old February 9th, 2009, 05:13 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Svartmetall View Post
That's mid-rise not low rise.
Now you're just arguing semantics. There is no absolute definition of how many stories a low-rise or mid-rise is (though I'd consider the mostly 4-storey buildings seen in the picture to be of the former). In any event, they are not high-rises, and the point still stands. But here's another picture of the same idea, with what are obviously low-rises:

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Old February 9th, 2009, 09:16 PM   #17
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Good to hear that people's experience of living in high-rises is generally positive. Access to amenities and services nearby make a huge difference. I think the future of housing in most cities across the globe is high-density (which includes low-rise and mid-rise blocks).

High-rise living is definitely a hard sell to families though, especially in Britain where most people's experience of housing is relatively low-rise and most families aspire to a garden for their kids to play in.

How do people feel about paying service charges? They are obviously necessary, but the costs seem to vary enormously from one building to another. I wish builders and architects would think more carefully about how they can minimise service charges wherever possible.
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Old February 9th, 2009, 10:44 PM   #18
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I think some people are getting confused between high-density and high-rise. One can obviously still live in a lowrise home or apartment (id say 3-4 stories) with high density (like rowhomes) and have access to all the ammenities. High-rise buildings I would say are like 15 stories or more. But I prefer a low-rise apartment building/rowhouse with a patch of garden in the back.
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Old February 10th, 2009, 02:14 AM   #19
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I like mid-rise building neighborhoods where buildings are integrated to the street.

Such as Ipanema and Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro:

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Old February 10th, 2009, 02:34 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DesignOfHomes View Post
Good to hear that people's experience of living in high-rises is generally positive. Access to amenities and services nearby make a huge difference. I think the future of housing in most cities across the globe is high-density (which includes low-rise and mid-rise blocks).

High-rise living is definitely a hard sell to families though, especially in Britain where most people's experience of housing is relatively low-rise and most families aspire to a garden for their kids to play in.

How do people feel about paying service charges? They are obviously necessary, but the costs seem to vary enormously from one building to another. I wish builders and architects would think more carefully about how they can minimise service charges wherever possible.
In Hong Kong, most of the newer highrises have recreation centres (gym, pool, sauna, games rooms) and private gardens, so they charge quite an expensive management fee (HKD$2/square foot or about USD 170/month for a small 650 square foot unit). For the older estates without these amenities, the management fee would be roughly half that amount.

Families with 1-2 kids would likely need an 800-1000 square foot unit to be comfortable. In terms of moving room, the kids can play downstairs in the gardens or the playground, albeit not as convenient as having a backyard, but I guess that's life in the big city.
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