Sydney’s high-rise towers risk making us sick: architects

Some of Sydney’s leading urban designers have called for a rethink on high-rise residential developments with warnings that long, dark corridors, balconies too windy to sit on and apartments with no cross-ventilation are damaging people’s health and well-being.

“Physically, these buildings are sick,” said Benjamin Driver, architect and senior urban designer with Hill Thails Architecture + Urban Projects. “In the long term, they make us sick.” About 1500 Sydney architects, urban designers and members of the public gathered this weekend for the 12th annual Sydney Architecture Festival, which has as its theme: “What makes a building truly great?”

The national festival aims to applaud the best projects, admit the worst excesses, promise better and educate the public on best practice.

Mr Driver has called for public support of “gentle urbanism”, a planning strategy that rejects the bulky footprint of 10-to 30-story-plus towers for slim footprint buildings with generous setbacks, landscaping with deep soils and mature trees and scope for three to four-bedroom apartments.

A survey of 2000 NSW residents by NSW Architects Registration Board found that the most important factor in people’s home life was the availability of natural light.

“Long corridors, deep corridors, closed-off corridors where many apartments might share the one lift – this is not considered best practice any more, “Timothy Horton, registrar of the NSW Architects Registration Board, said.

Where towers rise too far above the street, apartment owners may gain views but can no longer step out and talk to friends on the street below, Mr Driver said.

“In fact, many balconies are to windy to sit on at all. We are well above the tree line and so are exposed to elements, particularly the heat. We are reliant on lifts and unable to use the stairs – limiting regular exercise and interaction with your neighbours.”

Andrew Nimmo, President of the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, said far too many apartment developments were not delivering on the basic needs of good natural light, natural ventilation and creating a place you would want to call home.

He nominated The Rochford in Erskineville by Fox Johnston as a development that gets the basic right, a winner of the NSW Architecture Awards.

The 19th century, he said, had left the city a legacy of industrial and warehousing buildings “screaming to be adapted and reused”.

Another winner, The Griffiths Teas building in Surry Hills and languished for 30 years and fell into disrepair until Popov Bass architects adapted it into 38 new apartments, retaining the best qualities and romance of the old warehouse.

The Australian Newspaper.

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Sydney’s high-rise towers risk making us sick: architects