"Ghost Buildings" Help Stakeholders See the Shape of Things to Come

An Oxford city councillor would like to bring a Swiss system of erecting "ghost building" profiles to the UK for the first time to help residents and officials understand the scale of proposed projects before granting permits.
January 27, 2014, 12pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In many communities, public officials are content to let architectural drawings and renderings depict the scale and impact of proposed projects. But in Switzerland, "planning policy requires the erection of the profile of a building before it is granted permission to be built," explains Oliver Wainwright. "Constructed from metal rods or wooden poles, fixed in place by wire guy ropes, the Swiss baugespanne or bauprofile are usually erected for a month, outlining the full height of the proposed development, with protruding markers to indicate the angle of the roof and direction of the walls." 

In Oxford, where a recent student housing project blocked "long-cherished views of the city's dreaming spires," city councillor James Fry would like to introduce a similar system. "Whether it's house extensions or tower blocks, many residents are shocked when they see the actual scale of developments that have been approved on the basis of drawings," says Fry. "Anything that makes it easier to understand the reality of the proposal should only be encouraged."

If you're interested in more technologically advanced systems for achieving a similar result, look to Finland, where Wainwright says a smartphone app uses augmented reality software "to give the public a better idea of proposed developments."

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Published on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 in The Guardian
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