This is part 4 of a 6-part series covering “Cities in the Year 2000”, a kids’ book on cities published in 1985. Here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. I suggest reading on a desktop, as the screenshots of the pages should be large enough to read (hopefully).
The first page talks about skyscrapers: their origins in mid-20th-century New York, and how they are built. “At first, [Americans] did not like living one on top of the other in these new apartments. New Yorkers finally accepted life in apartments when they realized they were not very different from hotels”. Probably some oversimplification there, I’m sure Patrick could tell us more!
Overseas (and to a small extent in New Zealand), high-rise apartments have been built as social housing, and they haven’t always lived up to expectation:
The skyscrapers would be a good distance from each other and would be set in gardens for people to look down on or stroll in… [but] tenants felt cut off from the world outside… the sense of living in a community of neighbours was destroyed.
This led to crime, greater social isolation, and damage to buildings. Many of them have now been demolished and redeveloped, using the learnings from the first time around.
“The lowrise housing estate… has been much more successful. Apartments are in buildings a few storeys high at most. These are arranged around an open space… [where] parents can keep an eye on children playing”. Importantly, “the surroundings are more friendly and personal. This solution fits the same number of people into the same area as the old highrise did”.
It’s not mentioned here, but it’s also considered better to mix social housing in with private/ market housing: “pepper potting” to give better social integration. John Key wasn’t a big fan of it, calling the idea of social housing in Hobsonville Point “economic vandalism”, but it’s widely established elsewhere.
As for other low-rise buildings, houses and the like, the book notes that they can look very different depending on where in the world you are. In New Zealand, our houses are usually good ol’ wood, but elsewhere you’d be talking brick, stone, or mud in poorer countries.
Much of what is shown here is equally applicable today. The key point is that “existing houses can be made more efficient and new houses can be specially designed to hold heat in and re-use it time and again”.
Interventions include: insulating hot water tanks; insulating roofs, ceilings and floors; double or triple glazing windows; heat pumps; solar panels or hot water pipes; and so on.
Another sobering fact is that New Zealand homes, even the new ones, tend to have much worse energy efficiency than those overseas. Really, we’re building yesterday’s homes, and many other countries, especially European ones, have already moved on.
This one’s for the kids. A bit of imagining around what robots, smart tech etc could be inside homes. We have indeed developed robot vacuum cleaners, often ridden by cats in shark costumes, although I’m not sure how much use they really are in two-storey homes (they can’t really do stairs). Most of the other things in this picture are either available or on the horizon, and of course we now have new fantasies about what the home of the future will look like.