Up until June 2016, James was a very happy man.
He had just started renting a flat on the 9th floor of a Richard Rogers brand new building in Central London for his young family.
All these twenty years of hard work were worthwhile: He could now afford a large contemporary living room, a bedroom for each of his kids and a stunning view on the Thames and the rest of London’s skyline.
Up until June 2016, he was a very happy man indeed.
Then, the neighbouring Tate Modern extension was inaugurated, and the 10th floor made accessible to the whole of the London public. What does it mean for James? The whole of London can look at his flat, his living room, his sofa, his family, because his flat has a nearly completely glazed façade. If he wants to get changed, he has to think twice and plan it well.
Massive windows are great for great views, not so good for privacy.
James-and the rest of the building occupants have complained but it’s too late, too late. The damage has been done. Privacy should have been accounted for-with some safety margins- when designing the building.
But unfortunately, the trend in architecture at the moment is for highly glazed towers.
Why should we be cautious about highly glazed buildings?
1. In the summer, highly glazed facades can lead to overheating, and a very high energy consumption for cooling.
Indeed, the solar gains are very large through transparent windows, and the heat from the solar radiation is trapped inside the space. Think greenhouses.
2. In the winter, highly glazed facades are less efficient at keeping the heat inside compared to new walls.
This can lead to a high energy consumption for heating.
We already touched on the privacy issues created by living in a very highly glazed flat.The now very famous neighbours to the Tate Modern extension have protested by gluing giant pictures of naked people on their windows to the amusement of the Tate visitors.
But they are far from being the only ones feeling exposed to the public. In fact, a blog has been set up by engineers to share pictures of particularly bad designs of buildings on Tumblr. The blog shows some of the desperate occupants improvisations to get more privacy. Check it out on happyfacades.tumblr.com.
But why don’t architects move away from such transparent buildings design?
Unfortunately, most of the people who pay to build these buildings, i.e real estate investors, do not care at all about how it is like to live there. Indeed, they want to create a wow factor which will impress any potential buyer or tenant. This is why they ask the architects to design glossy, sexy glazed buildings with amazing views and great luminosity at the expense of privacy and low energy bills.
This could change if the tenants or buyers become aware of the implications of renting highly transparent flats.
What happened at Tate could be a first step in raising awareness among tenants. But could it trigger a change in the buildings’ architecture in London and in big cities?
Featured image photo credits: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
The name of the Neo Bankside resident has been changed to James to protect his privacy.