Skyscrapers: Why most Labs participants would not live in one

December 12, 2012, 4:40 PM GMT+0

Skyscrapers, the symbol of the modern city, have been around for over a century.

Rising higher than ever in the past 50 years, they are making the most of land values in buzzing and overcrowded cities.

Despite the challenging economic climate, this year saw the unveiling of the tallest Europe’s building, Italian architect Renzo Piano’s awe-inspiring the Shard.

The towering landmark, the architect believes, should not be just ‘another monolithic office tower’.

He hoped that Londoners will be able to ‘take possession’ of the tower, as above offices there will be apartments, restaurants and a hotel. A viewing gallery is expected to draw more than a million people each year.

While skyscrapers are traditionally used for offices, more and more people tend to choose them as their homes.

We asked Labs participants whether they would like to live in a skyscraper.

Here’s what we found…

As exciting as living in a building ‘majestically reaching up for the sky’ may sound, most Labs participants would not like to live in a skyscraper.

Many said they were too afraid of heights to live in one, while others simply couldn't give up such activities as quick walks in fresh air.

However, some Labs participants would be very keen to live in a skyscraper.

They outlined a number of reasons to do so: the view would be great; they would enjoy the remoteness from the traffic noise as well as the sleek and modern aesthetics of the flats.

Click on the headings below to see the emerging opinions in detail, as well as the participants’ comments.

Participants who would not like to live in a skyscraper

  • Many participants would not live in a skyscraper because of pragmatic reasons, such as not being able to go for a quick walk in the fresh air or the risk of a power cut, affecting the whole building – and trapping people there for hours. Plus, many said they really loved their gardens and would not give them up.

Safety reasons mainly. Lifts not working. What if the is a power cut...the whole building would be affected. If you are ill/sick then could be very difficult to manageTB, Bromsgrove

“Because there will be constant noise and disturbance from others in the skyscraper; because if the lifts fail it would be a struggle to get to and from your flat; and because if something happens you have very little chance of getting out safely. There is also the danger of criminals and thugs lurking in corridors and lifts” CC, Scotland

“I love my outdoor space, my garden, seeing my neighbours walk past and interacting with them. I would hate to be reliant on a lift for getting to my home - one of my daughters lived in a tower block when she was pregnant, and had to stagger up 8 flights of stairs with her shopping. I would be a little worried about fire risk. Cannot see anything good about it” Anon

“I like a garden, being outside during the summer months” Anon

“Where would I put my garden? Too many people around me” Anon

“Too impersonal and large. They're not a home really, they're more for offices etc. Also they're too high, I wouldn't want to live that far off the ground - also there'd [be] no gardens or anything so not really child friendlyAnon

“They are dreadful living environments. Try going out for a bit of fresh air or getting a bit of peace away from the worldSimon, North Cornwall

  • Other participants did not like the idea of many people living so close to them. Plus, they would feel ‘enclosed’ living in a skyscraper.

“The feeling of having other people living above, below and at the sides would be one I hate. I'd miss the freedom of my garden, being able to be outside but private for BBQ's in the summer or making a snowman in winter. There is so much I would hate about living in a skyscraper that I would be miserable and depressed” Rose H, Yorkshire

“The sense of being enclosed would be too overwhelming for me. Possible noise and distraction would also be a problem” J Mckever, North Shileds

“I like living in an old style house, skyscrapers make you feel like you’re living on top of other people everyone is too close together. Plus if it was quite a famous skyscraper i.e. the shard, I would worry that you’re living in a target for a terrorist attack, silly worry but still!” Anon, London

Safety. And I think I would feel like a sardine Anon

  • Some participants said they would fear a potential terrorist attack.

Frightened of height and not convinced that they could possibly be earthquake proof. Further, as we have seen from 9/11 they make an excellent target for terrorists. With the pressure on land skyscrapers will continue to be built but sooner or later something will happen which will change people’s opinions of them” Jonte - Redditch

“I like living in an old style house, skyscrapers make you feel like your living on top of other people everyone is too close together. Plus if it was quite a famous skyscraper i.e the shard, I would worry that your living in a target for a terrorist attack, silly worry but still! “ Anon, London

“I would be scared I was a terrorist target Rob, Middlesbrough

  • Many participants said they were too scared of heights to live in a skyscraper.

“Don't like heights Anon

“Fear of heights Anon

“I'm scared of heightsAnon

Fear of heights and lack of garden” Anon

“I am not good with heights and you are also dependant on lifts etc., which are not used in a fire. You could therefore be trapped quite easilyAnon

“I'm scared of heights, so would be uncomfortable more than a couple of stories up. Also I like to have my own garden and entrance door - not something communal” Anon

“I don't like heights and when in high rise buildings I find myself what would happen if the structure collapsed. Irrational I know but I couldn't sleep at night for worrying about it” John M, Cornwall

  • Some participants said that they would feel isolated from the rest of the world, and would lack the community spirit if they lived in a skyscraper.

“It might feel like living apart from the rest of the world, not actually living with people - I think I would feel isolatedJackie K - Mold

“Generally there is no community spirit. Most Tower Blocks have security grills in front of the front door and on the GF, windows have similar grills. When I was a young man I lived in a terraced house. We all knew each other in the road and surrounding roads. I can still 60 years on tell you who lived where. Contrast this with today’s living in a tower block or skyscraper block - very few people know you lives on the same floor let alone who lives above or below them. It is an appalling existence!” Albert, Herts

“They are far too high with too many people living close to each other, but no real community sense. Isolation and loneliness are worse in these situations, I feel” Anon

  • Some people would not live in a skyscraper as they were strongly against them in general.

“Skyscrapers are among the most idiotic modern concepts. They obstruct aviation, are vulnerable to mechanical failure and sabotage, rely on over-engineered solutions to the delivery of utilities, are anathema to fire safety and evacuation, rely on strong foundations, do not provide satisfactory sound-proofings, etc... Only a businessman would want to build one” Anon

“It's inhuman and out of touch with the world. And it would make me feel dizzy. Skyscrapers, in general, are out of scale with humans, anyway” Anon

Participants who would like to live in a skyscraper

  • Many said they would love to live in a skyscraper, because it had many advantages such as the view, being away from the sound of the traffic and in a central location, as well as strong security.

What a view for a start, also away from the noise of the street. The only downer is if the elevators don't work, it's a long walk up the stairs”

Linda Glos

Good views of the city, less noise from traffic/city life when so high above the ground” Gappy, Scotland

“Because it would be a great fun place to live which would be in a great location and have a brilliant view; it would also be above all the noise & pollution of the modern day city” Guy B, Hampshire

Better security, cheaper to heat, less maintenance, more central locationMark, Lambury

“The views would be amazing (assuming I was living on a high floor). It’s easy to feel like everything is on top of you, feeling claustrophobic in cities and even in some towns nowadays. If you can’t be away from the noise then perhaps living above it would be an alternativeAnon

“The view would be amazing, and if it was something along the lines of the Shard I'm assuming the general design would be pretty fabulous too. As well as that, we're running out of house-building space so when in doubt, do as the Tudors did - build up, not out!” Isabella G, Leicester

“I don't mind heights, and it means you're far more central in the city than living in the suburbs and having to commute for hours every day. Noise is often not an issue either, and the views...” Anon

Great views, security, desirable, city centre location” Anon

Remote from the traffic noise, sirens and general hubbub from the urban streets yet good proximity to amenities, lots of space and light and fantastic views. Only downside is the reliance on lifts” Paul S, London

  • Some participants believed that building more skyscrapers for people to live in is inevitable as the population is growing rapidly.

“I cannot see that with the increase of the population in the future that it is possible not to build skyscrapers to house people”


Participants who were not sure whether they would like to live in a skyscraper

“It depends on the skyscraper and the location. If it were a modern and architecturally exciting building with high rents in a smart part of a wonderful city, then I might be happy to (if I could afford it). But if it were little more than a big block of flats, then no” Chris T, Suffolk

“I like the idea of city centre living and would be happy to live in a high rise block for the view, but I'm not sure about a skyscraper - a bit vertigo inducingAnon

“The views will be spectacular and living there could be can be prestigious. If the lift breaks down you are in trouble. If there is a fire you will not be able to lower yourself out of a window in a knotted sheet, and the fire brigade will not be able to get a ladder to you. If the building is especially tall

Whould YOU live in a skyscraper? Add your voice to the debate below