Tower Twinning is an experiment in citizen-centred interurban exchange proposed by tenants of the Islington Estate in Salford and supported by civic partners in housing, local services, the University of Salford and Goldsmiths, University of London through the core FIRM project Storycircle. The idea takes its inspiration from the formal partnership arrangements and civic exchange activities prevalent in Western Europe during the postwar period but now in decline: town twinning. Its ambition is to reinvent these practices by exploring the potential for self-organised citizen groups to initiate and sustain reciprocal links with counterparts in other cities for their mutual interest and benefit. It refers to participant communities in the exchange process as tower block neighbourhoods rather than cities or towns.
Tower Twinning aims to be an effective driver of social innovation generating new ideas and strategies for making residential high-rise tower block a socially and environmentally sustainable solution to modern living. The economic downturn provides us with a powerful imperative to identify new strategies to support and promote the renewal of high rise living. Investments focussed on architectural refurbishment, retrofit and physical infrastructure improvements are, in many cases, replacing high value capital projects that previously delivered urban renewal through demolition and redevelopment. This is less likely to disrupt communities and neighbourhoods and there is an opportunity to grow social capacity and promote stability. High-rise multi-storey tower blocks have a positive potential as a distinctive neighbourhood structures. Within established communities, social investments; both economic and cultural, can be concentrated on improving citizen networks and social cohesion. Tower Twinning starts out from the belief that tower block residents can make a vital contribution to the future sustainability and viability of high-rise living; it aspires to be a model of digitally enabled connectivity and citizen led networking in the UK and Europe.
The longer-term intended outcomes from Tower Twinning are:
- To create an outward facing cultural exchange process between neighbourhood communities that can include all tenants and residents.
- To contribute to a growing sense of neighbourhood pride and belonging social housing estates and in tower block communities linked through twinning.
- To exchange knowledge and experience on how to make high rise living successful and build the capacities of citizens to take responsibility for decisions that improve their housing and their neighbourhoods.
- To build strong ties with twinned tenant groups that will in time support live conversation and face to face meetings.