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Could high-rise accommodation help ease the UK housing shortage?

  • 3 Mar 2017

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A new academic project plans to explore the role that post-war high-rise public housing in London and Birmingham plays in providing homes, amid a growing shortage of housing and a trend to replace the architecture of the period.

PhD researcher at Birmingham City University, Tim Lewis, will reassess the reasons for construction of the raft of tower blocks built in urban areas between the 1950s and 1970s as well as the problems they encountered and their viability as homes today.

Over 400 tower blocks were constructed in Birmingham alone over the two decades, 200 of which have been demolished since.

The project will explore and investigate all forms of high-rise and examine later structures such as the system build developments that largely focused on increasingly tall developments in urban areas.

This qualitative study could play a major role in shaping future developments, especially with the UK currently experiencing a shortage of available housing.

High-rise housing has divided opinion since its inception and has become a symbol of social housing and the welfare state, and deserves a re-evaluation to inform its continued viability as housing, according to Tim Lewis.

Examples in London and Birmingham will be examined in case studies which will explore whether the original ideals may meet the needs of modern urban housing. In addition, the research will aim to answer the question as to whether the properties could provide a viable solution for a new demographic of people living in cities.

The research will also explore views on conserving buildings, from evaluating the importance of these buildings through the extent to which redevelopment is possible, and whether gentrification is an inevitable consequence of conservation.

A number of demolitions have already taken place in Birmingham, with various iconic Twentieth Century buildings and several local groups calling for a reassessment of Birmingham’s 20th century heritage.

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