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Book Review: Tall Buildings And Vertical Urbanism

The book looks at the evolution of tall buildings and their relationship with the urban growth, land, economy, climate and ecology.

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India’s 7936 cities and towns, which have a population of 377 million, generate 60% of GDP and 70% of the jobs. These are the cauldrons of jobs, livelihoods, urban services, connectivity, education and health facilities. About 200 years ago, the Industrial revolution and the inventions of new building materials and new forms of energy radically changed the urban pattern. The discovery of engines, motor car, trains and petrol, diesel, etc in 1859, revolutionized the transport system and triggered the development of cities. The lifts, concrete, steel and electricity gave birth to high-rise buildings. This set-in motion a wave of upsizing the urban economy as manifested by global cities- New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, London, etc. However, Indian cities missed the bus and perpetuated with 19th century planning approaches and construction. As a result, India is dominated by villages with diminishing returns from agriculture. Both in rural as well as in urban areas, there is a stagnation in job market, shortages of infrastructure services, connectivity and housing. 

As the construction sector contributes to 8.2% of the national GDP and 11.52% of total employment, the buildings form one of the crucial areas of development. The Niti Aayog estimates that per capita residential space in India will increase from 5.9 m2 in 2012 to 35 m2 in 2047, and per capita commercial building space from 0.7 m2 to 5.9 m2 over the same duration. It projects that almost every building in the year 2031 will be air-conditioned. As urbanization surges, provision of adequate housing and workspaces becomes an important public investment. This demands a compact and dense urbanization which is efficient, economical and sustainable.

The sustainable urbanism starts with reducing the consumption of land and natural resources and expanding access to urban services and shelter. This requires urban densification and vertical urbanism which lead to travel reduction, economy of services and conservation of agricultural areas. The building should minimise their footprint, which involves exploring vertical space, synthesising the greenery and built form,  local and universal cultures, and ecology and technology. The challenge is to strike an alchemical balance among real estate interests, technology and architecture. 

The book ‘Tall Buildings and Vertical Urbanism’ by A.K. Jain discusses the raison-de-etre for tall buildings. Reducing pollution and environmental impacts are the basic reasons for a compact, dense and vertical urban eco-system. This requires a visionary and quantum leap that improves the liveability, equity and gender justice. The world is at the cusp of new generation technology which can leverage a momentum in providing affordable housing, workspaces, services and amenities. As location is one of the most important issues of urbanisation, there is no option but to go for smart and compact vertical growth. 

The book ‘Tall Buildings and Vertical Urbanism’ looks at the evolution of tall buildings and their relationship with the urban growth, land, economy, climate and ecology. Various iconic and landmark examples explain the context and processes, including design, structure, construction, façades, services, climatic systems and safety from fire and other risks. More than 165 visuals and flowing language make the reading interesting. It aims to trigger a debate for radical changes in the field of architecture, urbanism, engineering and real estate development.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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J S. Sodhi

The author is Ex Director, Ganga Institute of Architecture and Planning

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