Friday, April 7, 2017


Houses never stand still – I have lived in our family home all my life, and I have seen every room change, with new ideas coming and going, furniture moving around, and how the home has grown with the size of our family. Years ago, we had looked at moving, but it was either that the housing market was too poor, or the taxes involved in moving were too great. Therefore, we extended our home sideways, as the size of our family grew, and out back, to take advantage of the view in our back garden.
What we never even contemplated, however, was our going underground. Our back garden, while being home to birds, bats, foxes, and the occasional badger, is also where some of our drainage system lies – playing with that will either wreak havoc on ourselves, or on the houses next door. Even more of a concern would be the total lack of direct sunlight – a basement room would be a fine place to tuck away the washing machine and tumble dryer, and anything that might otherwise be stashed away in the loft, but little else than that.
This is why the idea of “super-basements,” or “iceberg houses,” is an idea I cannot get past in my mind. Sure, you can have your cinema, or gym, or swimming pool, or wine cellar, but does the want for these status symbols mean you have to discount having fresh air as well? OK, perhaps for the wine cellar…

These types of developments are stereotypically found in Central London, where people have enough money to have them built, but a recent rise in stamp tax for more expensive properties makes it less desirable to move. The most famous of these is the extension to BBC Broadcasting House, where the BBC’s basement newsroom is seen on their news channel every half-hour – four studios lie below that, nestled between two Underground lines. Back at home, while still requiring permission, building a basement often can be a “permitted development,” an easier proposition than building above ground – therefore, everyone grab a spade!
I have stopped myself from experiencing the schadenfreude I get from seeing rich peoples’ houses collapse into their metaphorical, and all too real, holes – you can guarantee everyone will be reported in the news, given the same prominence as that old, pre-YouTube film of a water-skiing squirrel - but there is a sadness to why you would need to build a suburban, air-conditioned lair.
Everyone can go to a cinema, or a gym, or swimming pool, or a wine shop – you can do whatever you like. Once you have your own one, you can cut yourself off so easily. I can dream of the big house I would buy if I ever won the lottery, but what would I do with it? All of a sudden, there would be a lot of space for me to feel lonely. Why not go outside, in the open, find like-minded people? Contemplating my own super-basement will, thankfully, not be a possibility any time soon.

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