Don’t forget the drainage

Congratulations to Wilkinson Eyre, whose Guangzhou International Finance Centre is one of the projects to make it onto the shortlist for the Lubetkin Prize, the RIBA’s award for buildings outside the EU.

Not only is the tower the tallest building by a British architect, but it is also a proper, decent piece of architecture – otherwise it would never have been shortlisted. It is however representative of much of the architecture in China’s biggest cities, in that it reflects a desire to be bigger, newer, taller and smarter than its neighbours.

This attitude may have implications for the overall urban design of cities, but today journalist and China specialist Isabel Hilton spoke on the Today programme about a much more immediate concern. This interest in bling, she said, may be at the expense of vital infrastructure. She was talking about the recent dreadful floods in Beijing, to which official figures attribute more than 60 deaths. While most of her report was about the way that social media are allowing citizens to contradict the official line, she mentioned that a contributing cause is believed to be a simple lack of drainage. Much of Beijing has been paved over to accommodate the rush to develop, and no new flood drains have been built to compensate.

Victorian London, famously, became livable through the attention to water supply, drainage and sewage. Beijing’s experience is a timely reminder that we neglect infrastructure at our peril, especially in our increasingly volatile climate.







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