When New Worlds Collide: Reconnecting the Medieval and Suburban City

Earle Arney
Arney Fender Katsalidis, London

Tall buildings, although deeply normative, are exceptional in their impact. The battleground of reconciliation often manifests itself at the scale of the immediate public realm, as well as the larger arena of cityscape. Since the Eiffel Tower in the 1880s, we have often witnessed a vivid and unabashedly partisan clash between those wishing to preserve the status quo and the introduction of the new. The evidence of such collisions can be marshaled under the heading “Medieval vs. Suburban City.” Set against this potentially negative portrait of colliding typologies is the symmetry of benefits that result from increased density, which fuels the public realm and underpins the most sustainable construct we know – cities. How then can typologies of varying use and scale effectively coexist to avoid apocalyptic conflict?

Two examples illustrate how the tall building typology can not only harmoniously coexist in the medieval and suburban city, but also inject new life and become an agent of urban repair. 100 Bishopsgate, London, is not only an antidote to the excesses of London’s passion for tall iconography that preceded the economic correction of last decade; its design also recognizes that people and cities matter. Brookfield Place, Calgary, confronts the challenge to stitch a tall building into a glue-less city fabric, in which the severity of climate and the susceptibility of flooding have conspired over time to unshackle the primary pedestrian network from the life-blood of the city – streets.

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