The Advent of the Skyscraper in the City That Did Not Plan for It

Manuela Belova
Founding Partner
VA Architects, Sofia

This presentation reflects on the issues related to Eastern European cities that have been built with mostly smaller-scale buildings in mind, and that are now seeing unexpected growth. Such cities are facing challenges regarding the integration of skyscrapers. Conflicts arise between citizens unwilling to accept taller buildings in their cities and investors who are pushing for ever-higher towers. Despite what both sides think, the need for taller buildings in those growing urban areas is present, and it’s on the rise. Making room for skyscrapers and integrating them in the best possible way within the existing city is essential. But keeping vistas open while also preserving local heritage and green areas are just some of the concerns that need to be addressed. The advent of tall buildings places further unanticipated pressure on transport networks.

Considering such problems among others, it seems harder to build taller in similar cities, but at the same time, there is an opportunity to adopt novel ideas for urban design at an earlier stage, such as innovative master planning adapted to the local context. Learning from already-developed cities seems like the right thing to do, but might not this be a missed opportunity for re-inventing existing practices and bringing new ideas to life? Could developing cities become pioneers in urban design in their own right? The presentation discusses key topics in integrating new towers into established low-rise urban areas, including scale discrepancies and human perception, using Sofia and other Eastern European capitals as examples.