^ ‘Iceberg Houses’ in London. Illustration by Ben Hasler/The Guardian.
Trapped by architectural heritage policies and restrictions, some of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods have started to grow downwards. The only space available for further construction is nothing but the underground. Georgian and Victorian mansions have started to create several-storey basements in order to accommodate new delirious architectures. According to The Guardian, the planning authority in Kensington-Chelsea, the most densely inhabited borough in England, has granted 800 basement extensions within the past four years, to dig cinemas, gyms, tennis courts, playrooms, bowling alleys, spas, ballrooms, vintage cars garages, wine cellars, gun rooms…
The house expands at the same pace as the owner’s fortune and his need to show his upgrading social status, but also to state that there is no limit to one’s will. If skyscrapers fight for a height world record, where linear verticality measures success, these sorts of ‘investment bunkers’ use 3D volumetric expansions as a reference parameter. The question of whether hidden infrastructures below ground actually affect land use on the surface has aroused. Following this contemporary trend of Beatriz Preciado’s Pornotopias, the first Planning Document on Subterranean Development was commissioned to Arup in 2009.
Several cases have reported appearance of cracks, sunk façades and shifted doorframes in neighbouring houses, where people have even been trapped within their own home after greedy subterranean extensions to the city occurred next door.