Why Europe Doesn't Build Skyscrapers | The B1M

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00:00   |   Aug 14, 2019


Why Europe Doesn't Build Skyscrapers | The B1M
Why Europe Doesn't Build Skyscrapers | The B1M thumb Why Europe Doesn't Build Skyscrapers | The B1M thumb Why Europe Doesn't Build Skyscrapers | The B1M thumb


  • Why aren’t there many skyscrapers in Europe?
  • Despite being one of the most developed, densely populated and economically prosperous continents,
  • Europe has surprisingly few skyscrapers, particularly when compared to Asia and North America.
  • Of the 218 skyscrapers constructed on the continent to date, 66% of them are located
  • in just five cities – London, Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow and Istanbul.
  • So why have other major European cities not embraced the skyscraper? How do they thrive
  • without the significant inner-urban space and floor areas that these clever structures provide?
  • And is everything about to change in our increasingly urbanised world?
  • When skyscrapers first rose to prominence in the 19th Century – first in Chicago and
  • later in New York – many European cities were already firmly established with grand
  • historic buildings and public spaces that left little room for large new structures.
  • Most of Europe’s cities around that time were also more evenly zoned and were not facing
  • the high demand for floor space in key districts that typically drives high rise development.
  • Additionally, as the power and influence of North America began to grow, a cultural rivalry
  • emerged between Americans who saw Europe’s class system as outdated and Europeans who
  • saw some American ideals as eroding traditions and the European way of life.
  • As a result each continent became wary of adopting the others’ concepts.
  • While North America aimed to become the model for a new age, Europe sought to preserve its heritage.
  • While this explains why skyscraper construction didn't initially catch on in Europe, it doesn't
  • explain what has held the continent back since.
  • In the wake of the Second World War, many thought European cities would modernise and
  • replicate the skyscrapers that were rising across North America.
  • However, in western Europe – where many cities lost landmark and historic structures
  • – an overwhelming desire to restore what had been destroyed took hold.
  • In addition, the lower population of Europe at that time meant that the demand for floor
  • the area that principally drives skyscraper construction wasn’t there.
  • As a result, modest structures replaced buildings that could not be saved or restored.
  • Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, the expanding Soviet Union’s re-build effort consisted
  • largely of mid-rise, repetitive structures that sought to rehouse much of the population.
  • It was during this time that Europe saw its first skyscrapers begin to rise, not in response
  • to growth and prosperity, but in an effort by the Soviets to indicate their power and influence.
  • While Brussels has never constructed a true skyscraper, it is partly responsible for the
  • lack of skyscrapers across the continent.
  • Without any significant zoning regulations in place, the 1960s saw many buildings in
  • the city demolished to make way for large, modern structures that had little regard for
  • architectural or cultural value.
  • Recognising the damage this indiscriminate redevelopment was doing to the city, many
  • prominent figures and architects coined the term “Brusselization” and lobbied to introduce
  • new planning rules.
  • These regulations significantly limited the scale of new buildings and required historic
  • facades to be restored and incorporated into new developments, preserving the cultural
  • fabric of the city.
  • The row in Brussels led to a general dislike for modern buildings across Europe with many
  • seeing them as bland or soulless.
  • In response, numerous cities adopted similar regulations and set aside controlled districts
  • – like Paris’ La Defence – to keep high-rise development away from historic centres.
  • By the start of the 21st Century, attitudes around tall buildings were softening across
  • the continent as architectural trends moved away from box-like structures toward more
  • unique designs and as the world became increasingly globalised.
  • Since the early 2000s, major financial centres like London, Paris, Moscow, Istanbul and Frankfurt
  • have seen several skyscrapers rise as demand for commercial space in their centres has increased.
  • By contrast, smaller European cities that have experienced more modest growth have turned
  • their focus to the environment and improving living standards for citizens.
  • In recent years, urban areas in Scandinavia and Central Europe have consistently ranked
  • among the highest in the world for sustainability, happiness and well-being while maintaining
  • importance within their national economies.
  • However, skyscraper construction in the cities of today is no longer driven purely by economic
  • growth or the need for commercial office space.
  • With 60% of the global human population set to be living in urban areas by 2030, residential
  • skyscrapers are now rising in prominence – particularly across Asia and North America.
  • As many traditional rural-based industries become automated, millions are migrating into
  • cities and major urban areas, driving significant demand for residential space that is often
  • met with high-rise structures.
  • Europe is not immune to this phenomenon – particularly in such a heavily globalised world and with
  • the continent’s desire to keep up with the progress and economic growth of China and the US.
  • As such, Europe could witness a skyscraper boom in the decades ahead.
  • However, with entire urban centres now being declared historically significant and with
  • the desire to retain as much culture and architecture as possible rightly holding strong up to the
  • present day, the unique challenge facing future skyscraper construction in Europe is all to
  • do with the past.
  • If you enjoyed this video and would like to get more from the definitive video channel
  • for construction, subscribe to The B1M.

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Why have many major European cities not embraced the skyscraper? We explain. For more by The B1M subscribe now: http://ow.ly/GxW7y

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Additional images courtesy of IIP Photo Archive, John Charlton, Ullstein Bild, Frank Rust, and David Skinner. Narrated by Fred Mills.

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