Melbourne’s proliferating high-rise towers need to be planned carefully to avoid damaging the city’s laneway culture, one of Chicago’s highest-profile modern-day architects Jeanne Gang says.
Gang, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the founder of Studio Gang, said on Tuesday – day three of a visit to Melbourne to give a talk at Melbourne University’s architecture school – that she was starting to “get hooked” on the city.
“I’m getting in that crush phase!” she said.
Gang, known for density-boosting designs that link a building to its street and the wider relationship it has with people and geography, said she had spent her first couple of days exploring the CBD’s laneways.
“I think that’s such a great way to connect. If you can make tall buildings come down to the ground and have the porosity – that’s the key to the Melbourne city,” she said.
She praised the fact that the city’s high-rise towers appeared to be clustered together, rather than uniformly spread out over the CBD – “different districts have different characters” – but also said it was crucial for the proliferating multi-residential towers to incorporate the city’s laneways into their footprints.
“The tall buildings that are being planned should pay attention to the vibrancy of the laneway pattern and incorporate it,” she said. “It would be terrible if we lost that quality.”
Rules protecting the wider environment also need, however, to be able to give developers the ability to be creative and make a return, she said. In New York, Gang designed Solar Carve, a 17-storey commercial building adjacent to the High Line, a linear park built on top of a disused railway line.
To prevent the trunk of the building throwing a large section of the High Line into shadow – even though planning regulations would have permitted it – Gang shaved off one side of the building, so it rises up from the ground outwards, to increase the sunlight falling onto the park.
In planning a building that reduced the floor area of the tower at lower levels, they were able to convince planning authorities to let the building go higher than it could otherwise as an offset, Gang said.
A tall building, she said, is “vertical infrastructure” for a city and needed to be given as much consideration as any other infrastructure.
“You need it as much as you need a train – think about it like that.”
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