In a new world where technology and innovation are the key words, sky rises are an answer to address a myriad of issues including the increasing population.
Architecture is all about form and function. But when you look at the city skyline, it seems to represent individual ambitions and dreams which keep soaring higher and higher. But then there’s more than that which justifies its existence
Need for High Rises
“Cities have to cope with increasing population. Metro cities have been the centre of commerce and progress; hence it has seen people from nearing neighbourhood gravitate here in search of a future, a better life. No Large city with a growing population can afford to not go tall. Higher demand has increased the land prices and taller buildings made It feasible to work with the economics. This trend can be seen not just here in India but all around the world. Prime cities see an increase in the floor rise while it starts to diminish as you move away from the city centres”says Shilpa Jain Balvally, Principal Architect, Studio Osmosis.
Ar. Pathik Joshi, Executive Director, Kalayojan, urban designers and architects voices a similar opinion “With land becoming scarce and expensive, particularly in big cities, developers and builders have no alternative but to build up and consequently high-rise buildings are beginning to appear in large numbers, dramatically changing city’s skyline almost emulating designs trends in the west. Though High-rise residential buildings have some unique aspects, the prevailing understanding that tall buildings are more sustainable as compared to their shorter less resource-intensive counterparts might be not true. In India we have a vast history of architecture to learn from, the challenge is to be able to and re-imagine the idea of high density living in local socio – economic conditions”
Ashok Kularia, Director, ANJ Design believes high rises are a city phenomenon “Need for high rises is definitely accentuated due to the scarcity of available land banks, a direct result of which is increasing prices. High rises in India is more a phenomenon in the metro cities primarily. In tier 2 cities you still have 3 to 4 storey buildings. So yes, in order to maximise available land and profits, there arises a requirement for high rises.”
So What Is A Good High Rise?
Structural Stability is perhaps one of the most important aspects of high rises. But it dosen’t end there. In the words of Sameer Balvally, Principal Architect, Studio Osmosis there are a number of parameters which defines a good high rise, “Primarily a solid structural design conforming to the seismic belt it is situated in. Adherence to bye-laws and putting people’s safety before monetary benefits and complying with strict fire norms and use of fire resistant material is essential. Then there is good quality construction leading to a longer life with lesser maintenance. The use of sustainable practices to reduce waste, recycle by-product thereby causing lesser impact on the neighbourhood. It also needs some sort of connect and relation to the human scale/ ground level by ways of layers, open spaces and other common interactive areas. Each high-rise should be responsive to its own surrounding and geography, but as an inspiration from its time and even today, the John Hancock center where the structural and wind requirement became a prime aesthetic for the building.”
Every architectural structure tends to have an impact on the life of its occupants hence it is essential to understand that part of the story too. “A full account of architectural science must include empirical findings about the social and psychological influences that buildings have on their occupants.” points out Ar. Pathik “Tall residential buildings can have a myriad of such effects. Though the literature suggests that high-rises are less satisfactory than other housing forms for most people, that they are not optimal for children, that social relations are more impersonal and helping behavior is less than in other housing forms, that crime and fear of crime are greater, architecture should be able to address these issues by designing more humane environments in these tall buildings. Many such concepts are tried by Indian architects, including us at Kalayojan. One of our concepts was called “Jenga stacks” or vertical terraces. The idea was to make sure that with high density living, good open terraces are also incorporated for social gatherings and public festivals. For us, all challenges have design solutions which require ideation and re-imagination”
Major challenges in building, constructing and maintaining a high-rise
The major challenge is balancing the cost versus the saleability as per land cost and passing of the by-laws for the same. The more vertical one goes the higher the cost of construction. Floor rise imparted on sale of apartments make them more expensive than the apartments which are at a lower level. The useable square foot for a high rise apartment is lesser than that of a low rise due to the structural requirements. High rise building deems stricter construction practices and specialised agencies to carry out construction. In India too this has seen the influx of multi-national companies carrying out the execution to meet the high quality standards that are required for the stability and life of the building. High rise building often requires ancillary services which needs to be monitored closely for an efficient operation of the building. A failure in one department could lead to a domino effect and thereby a collapse of the entire service system.
The climatic conditions in India pose a challenge too. The varying degrees of heat and cold affect a structure. The quality of soil beneath the ground is an equally important aspect as high rises have deep foundations. Dusty environment hampers the exterior beauty of the structure and continuous maintenance and upkeep is a challenge in high rises.
However having said that the high rise industry is yet to reach its peak, though India seems to be heading in the right direction, currently, a lot of the high rises are mundane and lack the soul of design making skylines very impersonal and over arching. Many redundant codes that still are part of the bye laws need to be relooked, as they have a clamping effect on the freedom of design and expression.
High- Rises amidst the changing Topography
The construction of high rise is predominantly seen in larger metro cities and more recently in tier 2 cities. The changing topography requires adhering to varying local norms and also climatology. The structural system depends largely on the soil condition and the seismic belt the building is located in. Ambient temperature and humidity also plays a major role in the choice of material for the exoskeleton. This also impacts the cost of construction and the nature of the openings that are deemed necessary from a sustainability aspect.
Logistics of labour and availability of materials play an important part in the design and construction of high rises. Availability of construction technology also plays a very important part in designing for different regions for example it is easy to design long span, columns free spaces in India but in some of the African countries such a possibility may not exists owing to high grades of concrete and steel not available locally and if required then they need to be imported and it escalates the cost significantly.
High rises have to be designed and built to be kept safe from the elements of nature. In regions prone to earthquakes, certain flexibility of the structure should be included in the design to withstand disturbances. Similar in high rises built closer to the sea where the underground soil is wet and moist, the foundations have to be cast accordingly.
Addressing space constraints
In many countries the concept of artificial island is quite popular. India being surrounded by sea on three sides, this would be a great way to maximize our resources. Science and engineering innovations could make this a reality. Luckily we have countries in the Middle East that have already tread down that path.
However before creating artificial islands, it is important to look at the support system and infra-structure, Water resources and public spaces of the city. Most metro cities are struggling or are way behind in the upkeep and the modernisation of their infrastructure and public amenities. It is extremely important that this is taken more seriously before we try to construct artificial islands. Most countries that are doing this have excelled at the grass roots level and are able to extend these resources to the new structures. It is important that before we ape the concept, we get our foundations and bearings correct and also have the right team, research and reasons to do the same.
Though making a new land by land fill seems to be a quick solution. But its effect on the eco-system has to be closely studied. Large ecosystems of marine life, sea water levels and coastlines get affected by such man made landfills. Today, technology allows us to combat the need to create more land by going vertical for living However another way is to create counter magnets by making many self-sustaining sub cities of 40000-60000 people a few miles away from the main city, this will lessen the need to create more land fill in the main city.
No Large city with a growing population can afford to not go tall. Higher demand has increased the land prices and taller buildings made It feasible to work with the economics.
Shilpa Jain Balvally, Principal Architect,Studio Osmosis.
Each high-rise should be responsive to its own surrounding and geography, but as an inspiration from its time and even today, the John Hancock center where the structural and wind requirement became a prime aesthetic for the building.
Sameer Balvally, Principal Architect,Studio Osmosis
A full account of architectural science must include empirical findings about the social and psychological influences that buildings have on their occupants.
Ar. Pathik Joshi, Executive Director,Kalayojan
High rises in India is more a phenomenon in the metro cities primarily. In tier 2 cities you still have 3 to 4 storey buildings.
Ashok Kularia, Director, ANJ Design