The other night I saw a storm like no other. Javelins of rain pierced the sky, while an astonishing display of lightening flashed between shower curtains of water.
Newbuilds (and Nice Heights is one) all have flat roofs. From what I’ve seen all flat roofs leak, and this one was no exception. It was as if the world was ending; the lights went out, the water was shut off and the lifts stopped working (presumably war, famine, pestilence and disease headed straight for Dovecot Towers.) The penthouses above me were deluged, as apart from being huge and expensive, they are directly under any leak (more of a Niagara, actually.)
The management company and concierge do their jobs properly, so cleaning and repairs began immediately - carpets were sorted with massive hair-driers. In Dovecot Towers, there was also a leak (the only disaster in that doom-laden block which didn’t affect me) but the management company’s impassioned response, was basically: “…tough.”
A friend lived in another jerry-built newbuild so bad he’s earned time off from purgatory. It had a sieve for a roof, but repairs were botched and piecemeal. There were constant leaks - well, more of a water feature, actually, but an evil one. He came home to find water bubbling through light-fittings, rotting the carpet and drenching his belongings. The people in the flat below had some much loved possessions destroyed.
Tired of spending his days wearing one of those zany umbrella hats, he consulted the letting agency (how sweet; I wonder if he also believes in fairies?) and asked for help. They did nothing. Exasperated and damp, he was forced to evacuate (in one of those inflatable emergency boats, I believe) ending up homeless and - ironically it must be said - sofa-surfing. The agency sternly insisted he was obliged to pay full rent, and unbelievably tried to keep his deposit.
Now, if I was building a structure with an eye its long-term future, I’d make sure the roof had an incline. Architecture follows fashion, and oddly enough, the current vogue is for a wedge-shaped outline, which looks odd (as if a giant has lopped off the top, like a boiled egg) but at least the torrents can flow safely away.
Could any architects reading (and I know you do) explain this affection for flatness? No matter how grand or humble the development, sooner or later, flat roofs leak - that’s just how it is, so why do we have them? Or perhaps we should ask builders about the porous roof thing. (Now there’s a lively can of worms – would you please be so kind as to pass the tin-opener?)
One fine clear night, from a vantage point high above the city, I could see the moon reflected in countless muddy puddles shimmering on a multitude of rooftops. It was beautiful, unexpected and eerie, but does it count as a plus side?
(NB: Another thing I like about Nice Heights. The response to the recent burglaries was to start a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. It just feels so grown-up.)