London office towers could be multipurpose, says Michael Stiff, founder of the architecture practice Stiff + Trevillion
In the west, towers tend to be monocultural, for residential or business use. Hong Kong’s tall buildings often stack all the uses you would find on the street, a vertical public realm. Most notorious was Kowloon Walled City demolished 25 years ago, a 10 storey self-built, self regulated, self-sufficient mega-block. It provided its own food, schools and medical services. It housed 50,000 people in 2.6 ha; at its heart was a shared space where residents could meet and socialise.In central Hong Kong today California Tower is 25 floors of restaurants, bars and clubs, and H Queen’s is a tower of art galleries, cafes, terraces, a vertical Cork Street.
I would like to see this concept explored in a city like London. Rather than just sticking a cafe or bar on top of a commercial tower to satisfy the planners, let’s repurpose an office tower as a high-rise city block, a vertical Wardour Street or Brick Lane. A building with places to live, work, play and worship. A building that generates its own power and food, planted decks that clean the air and provide sanctuary. A diverse and meritocratic quarter that would not slide into Ballardian anarchy.
A founder of architecture practice Stiff + Trevillion, Mike has taught at Westminster, Brighton and Sheffield universities, and makes regular contributions to discussion panels, and magazines.
He works primarily on central London commercial projects, and has an overview of design across the studio. He is a BEE (Built Environment Expert) for Design Council Cabe.