Achieving design quality at scale is complex. While there are many approaches, we can only present SimpsonHaugh’s particular thoughts regarding the design of tall buildings, thoughts which are based on our experience of working at height in London, Manchester and other UK cities.
We believe that by appropriately considering civic, social, commercial and user experiences, it is possible to design beautiful, elegant and appropriate solutions and create tall buildings that contribute to a city at street level and skyline and reinforce the historical context.
To address civic design challenges, it’s fundamental that the building contributes at an urban design level and integrates with the street to create a sense of place. It should add to the public realm and be accessible and inviting. The building should also contribute to a city’s skyline and complement both the historic and contemporary structures, a beautiful addition to a city’s silhouette and an elegant marker for place.
Tall buildings should also create a sense of community and belonging through their identity. People make conscious decisions about where they want to live, to be part of that building, part of that design, part of that community. Beautiful buildings and spaces with originality, identity and amenity engender a pride in belonging, a desire to engage with, or be part of, a community with shared attitudes and interests: a celebration of the individual within the community.
Form and materiality can also serve to mediate between two scales, the distant and the intimate. Viewed from a distance, building forms offer distinctive and identifiable profiles. As you move closer to the buildings, individual apartments offer a more intimate and legible experience. At night, each home, each room, and each individual is defined within the building grid as lights switch on and off against the sky. So whilst strong, bold forms and graphic expression provide the overriding identity for the residing community, the variety, richness, colour and texture that’s visible closer to the building signal the more intimate choices people make and serve to reinforce that identity.
Design quality should obviously also extend inside, to create a secure spacious interior full of natural light, air, views, aspect and amenity. When designing private spaces, such as homes and hotel rooms, the aspiration is that they are a sanctuary, a serene oasis at distance from the noise and bustle of the outside world, yet only seconds away from the vitality and activity of the street. In this context, visual openness and connection with the outside can still be achieved by incorporating winter gardens. These indoor/outdoor spaces, effectively fully glazed balconies, provide a veil of privacy, which residents are able to extend and retract their living area, a flexible buffer zone mediating between inside and out, and, in addition, providing natural ventilation and enhanced thermal performance.