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Alternative Worlds

Blue-Sky Thinking since 1900


Edited By Ricarda Vidal and Ingo Cornils

In an attempt to counteract the doom and gloom of the economic crisis and the politicians’ overused dictum that ‘there is no alternative’, this interdisciplinary collection presents a number of alternative worlds that were conceived over the course of the last century. While change at the macro level was the focus of most of the ideological struggles of the twentieth century, the real impetus for change came from the blue-sky thinking of scientists, engineers, architects, sociologists, planners and writers, all of whom imagined alternatives to the status quo.
Following a roughly chronological order from the turn of the nineteenth century to the present, this book explores the dreams, plans and hopes as well as the nightmares and fears that are an integral part of alternative thinking in the Western hemisphere. The alternative worlds at the centre of the individual essays can each be seen as crucial to the history of the past one hundred years. While these alternative worlds reflect their particular cultural context, they also inform historical developments in a wider sense and continue to resonate in the present.
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5 The Post-War High-Rise: Promise of an Alternative World


The high-rise residential block has offered a form of living in Britain since the end of the nineteenth century. In its lifetime the high-rise has undergone many transformations and the perception of the mode of living it provides has varied wildly, from being the saviour of mankind to the cause of violence and misery. This chapter aims to examine the high-rise as a typ­ology and in what ways it provides an alternative world. The focus will be on post-Second World War constructions in Britain, looking at the social and technological ambitions that this architecture held and how views of the buildings have altered.

The high-rise first arose as a typology out of a need to cater for the increased number of people flowing into urban areas, with around 90 per cent of the population now living in cities.1 Britain was one of the first countries in the world to industrialise, which not only generated a need to build new homes for workers in the cities, but also for the production of specific structures and technology, initially designed for the manufacturing industry but which came to be implemented in the domestic setting. The first part of this chapter will look at the impact of this increase in technology and structure on the creation of the high-rise, both aesthetically and socially.

The second part of the chapter will look at the social desires that the high-rise embodied, examining projects such as the Golden Lane housing...

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