Designs for three of the Organic Skyscraper’s stages. No, it’s not just the Shard painted green. Credit: Chartier-Corbasson
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Skyscraper made of its occupants’ waste planned for London

A load of old rubbish. 

Everything’s going organic these days. First food, then clothes, then wine – so it was probably only a matter of time before architecture hopped on the bandwagon too.

So it is that Paris-based firm Chartier-Corbasson has unveiled its designs for an “organic skyscraper” to add to the decidedly non-organic ones currently populating London’s skyline. Its facade would be made from recycled paper and plastic bottles, along with glass and other, more traditional, building materials.

There’s a twist: the building would start off at only around half of its planned height, then grow over time, using plastic and paper thrown away by the building’s occupants as building materials. The waste would be processed on site and used to construct plastic and paper panels to add to the structure.

The whole thing would be anchored by a criss-cross of metal pipes, modelled on the bamboo scaffolding used on building projects in Asia. This scaffolding, however, would be permanent; some pipes would even have tiny wind turbines inside to generate electricity for the building.

The Organic Skyscraper’s designers deny it would feel like an eternal building site. The scaffolding would make cranes for further construction unnecessary, they say; new elements would be prefabricated and then quietly slotted into place. The architects claim the design was intended to be the “most realistic approach possible” to building a skyscraper, since it allows more levels to be added when they’re needed, cutting down on the investment required before construction can begin.

The intended location is on Shoreditch’s high street, where the skyscraper would feel right at home among organic coffee vendors and vegan restaurants. Its potential uses are laid out in a remarkably opaque press release from the building’s architects:

The pyramidal organisation of lifts generates spaces landings [sic], lobbies that can receive activities, spaces for common services, like fitness-rooms, conference-rooms, restaurants or bars, and, of course, on the summit, an observation platform.”

Right.  

If the Organic Skyscraper is realised, its owners will have to pray that the building’s occupants aren’t wholly sold on being eco-friendly themselves – they’ll be relying on them to chuck away plastic bottles and long, single-sided printouts so they can keep building skywards. 

This is a preview of our new sister publication, CityMetric. We'll be launching its website soon - in the meantime, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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