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Review of The Great Megastructures Debate

Reaching for the Sky
by Laura-Jay Turnbull
Review of a debate held as part of Newcastle Science Festival 2007

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Ian Abley, architect, project manager audacity
John Thackara, design producer, Director of Doors of Perception
Dr Sean Wilkinson, Senior Lecturer in Structural Engineering, Newcastle University

The great megastructures debate - well it was certainly thought provoking! The debate commenced with the three speakers who all had something profound and intellectual to say about megastructures. The first debate that caught my attention was Sean Wilkinson's "What you can buy for £50 pounds?" - Erm nothing as far as land is concerned, or nothing worthwile anyway, would be my answer to that. Maybe people build upwards because land is expensive and it is seen as more economically viable to do this. I liked the point that larger height is more about egos than economies. I can certainly picture footballers and other rich people living in those buildings just to be pretentious and show off their wealth and status. The most wealthy will pay a premium for these places, but it is questionable how long the trend will last and the market may collapse.

Another point which caught my attention was the argument over horizontal versus vertical sprawls. Are we to build "upwards or outwards?" Personally I am no great fan of skyscrapers; I think I would feel claustraphobic if I lived in one. They cost too much money anyway. I mm more in the "let's build outwards" camp. My favourite part of the evening was when the audience were asked their opinion of the debate. I felt that the most interesting point made throughout the whole thing was when someone said "Noone ever asks the slugs and the snails if they want to move." The participant may not have articulated his point well (making it sound as if the slugs could answer the question), but the point made was a serious one considering the environment. When destroying animal's habitats and wildlife in general mankind never really thinks about the consequences of such actions. We are dependent on other organisms too such as trees for oxygen. It is arrogant to imply that we don't need nature or such habitats because we do. The point that "We never ask the monkeys" was equally poorly expressed, but you can understand the sentiments behind the rhetoric in so far as we do need to consider how man made structures effect the natural environment. All in all the megastructures debate is something that needs to be looked at and thought about carefully as building such megastructures has consequences and a real effect on our planet.

Reported By Laura-Jay Turnbull

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Useful Links

Manmade Modular Megastructures Newcastle Science Festival
Discovery Museum
Ian Abley
John Thackara
Amazon.co.uk: books by Ian Abley
Amazon.co.uk: books by John Thackara
Letís Build! Ė Why we need five million new homes in the next 10 years
Doors of Perception

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