New skyscrapers in the city are all but an inevitability. In crowded areas, the only way to grow is usually up, and new buildings are almost always many stories high. While this creates interesting skylines from a distance, up close and on the ground, these tall buildings plunge pedestrians into nearly-perpetual shade as the long shadows stretch across the sidewalks.
In London, about 250 new skyscrapers are slated to start casting their shadows on the streets below in the near future. To shed some light on the situation, London-based architecture firm NBBJ set out to design a shadow-less building—or, a pair of buildings, as it turned out.
The architects used a software program called Rhinoceros, which allows them to enter different data requirements and see a design for a pair of buildings that would maximize the light reflected onto the ground. After adjusting the input to make sure building was workable in real life, they settled on a hypothetical design that reduced the shadows by 60 percent.
The finished concept—designed for a potential pair of towers in Greenwich, England, right on the Prime Meridian—works by having the northern building act as a giant curved mirror, with a glass exterior that reflects sunlight onto the shadow of the southern building. Throughout the day, the curvature of the building causes the reflected light to move, following the shadow’s path. The reflected light is diffuse, so pedestrians don't need to worry about getting fried by a focused beam like ants under a magnifying glass.
It's not a perfect design—after all, the northern building still casts a shadow—but it's an innovative solution that focuses on how new development effects the lives of people who live in the vicinity, and that is great news.
"It’s definitely high time for this type of design to be baked into the building so it can play well with the environment," Daniel Safarik, a spokesperson at the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, says. "It should be standard practice."