chapter  1
12 Pages

W hat Are We Doing Here?

At Manchester University, England, the University authorities built a new block of student residences known as Whitworth Park, which amongst resident students, members of the University and local people, rapidly became known as 4The Toblerones’. This nickname comes from their peculiar shape; they are triangular in profile, and the roof extends from the apex almost to the ground. The windows of the flats jut out from this roof as if the whole'building were a planners’ nightmare of loft extensions. Yet the main reasons for this design were allegedly not aesthetic but financial. According to University folklore, the design stems from an agreement between the University and the City Council over funding of the residences, for which the Council had agreed to pay roofing costs. The result: buildings with little wall area, and large roofs. It makes an amusing story, but also defies our intuitive grasp of logic and good design. Cost is undoubtedly a factor, but whose cost; the University’s, the Council’s? And surely allowing cost to literally shape all other factors shouldn’t be encouraged. Yet 4The Toblerones’ are symptomatic of the way we treat our built environment.