Arguably one of Ballard’s most iconic novels, High-Rise is centered around the occurrences in a newly built London tower block. It explores the gradual transgression of the building’s residents, encouraging readers to consider how influential works of architecture can be on our psychological and emotional wellbeing. The 40-storey tower itself is seemingly what gives rise to violent social chaos amongst the building’s residents. The text, which was published in 1975, also acts as a poignant commentary upon issues that are prevalent today, such as the presence of social divides and intense violence.

High-Rise: An Overview

JG Ballard’s High-Rise is predominantly a work of deep satire: an abstract reflection of the contemporary fears of overpopulation, overcrowded spaces, and skyscrapers. The novel follows Dr. Robert Laing as he experiences the downfall of the tower’s residents. With those of upper classes living at the top of the building and those of lower classes residing in the bottom floors, the book hints at the theme of class friction. There are multiple incidences in which members of different classes, and in this case, floors, clash with one another, indicating the magnitude of the problems of wealth divides and possibly even gentrification. 

Book in Focus: High-Rise by JG Ballard - Sheet1
Cover of the first edition of High-Rise _©Jonathan Cape (Publisher)

Slowly, we see the building grow to become so influential upon the minds of those who occupy it that the residents begin to experience psychosis due to the nature of the environment they are living in. Since the building contains such a comprehensive range of facilities, including a supermarket and a swimming pool, none of the occupants need to leave, which leads to widespread unhealthy reliance on the tower. Each resident gradually detaches themself from the outside world, letting their entire identity be based on the dark happenings in the building as they descend into deadly conflict.

Architecture’s Role in the Novel

It is undeniable that the built environment is central to Ballard’s prescient text, High-Rise. The tower block is commonly envisioned as an example of Brutalism, partially due to the style of the building shown in the 2015 movie adaptation of the novel, directed by Ben Wheatley. At the time of writing the novel, Ballard would have been surrounded by the controversy surrounding Brutalist architecture. As such, the novel acts as a manifestation of the stereotype that struck fear in some living in the late 20th-Century: that the harshness of Brutalist buildings would foster a parallel emotional condition. 

Book in Focus: High-Rise by JG Ballard - Sheet2
Architecture of Wheatley’s 2015 adaptation _© StudioCanal

Not only does the novel encourage us to ask questions about how architecture can shape our feelings, but it also facilitates consideration of the ways in which architecture determines how we interact with one another. For example, the tower block itself represents social division- an issue that is of great significance in society today. The author calls on us to consider how we, as architects, can play a role in either intensifying or easing these divides. In this story, the architect of the tower, Anthony Royal, chooses to use his privilege of being able to craft the built environment in an unethical way, which sees him serve as an agent of social disruption, intensifying the social divide that exists within the community. He lives at the top of the building: a position that tacitly highlights the power he has over the lives of the residents below him.

Social Commentary

Just as the architect’s position at the top of the tower reflects the control that he has over the residents who live in the floors beneath him, the positioning of residents from higher social classes above the apartments of people from lower social classes is Ballard’s way of subtly drawing attention to the social hierarchies that persist within the architectural realm today. With the built environment having such an inevitably significant impact on the dynamics within our communities, architects have great power to bring people closer together or further apart. 

Tower in Wheatley’s 2015 adaptation _©StudioCanal

Whilst this book shows an extreme instance of the latter, we can’t help but think when reading the novel that if architecture can have such a strong negative impact on a community, how great of a positive influence can beneficial design be on our society? If we were to replace the extremely dystopian modernism that makes the high-rise building so damaging with an essence of health, a well-informed design could be achieved which, if it were to carry as momentous of an impact on humanity as the building in Ballard’s work, could actively improve the psychological wellbeing of residents. 

What Can We Learn from the Text? 

You may still be wondering what an architect can learn from a work of dystopian fiction. Why look at fictional examples of the designs we want to avoid replicating when we can read about existing examples of positive works of architecture? The fact is that when we immerse ourselves in the exaggerated, shocking world of Ballard’s high-rise tower, we can develop an understanding of what we don’t want to design. We can learn to steer away from designing buildings that damage human relationships and instead work to design the built environment in a way that uplifts people and strengthens communities. And slowly, we can begin to deconstruct the damaging multi-storey hierarchy within the built environment until we realize that we are all united by one common goal of designing buildings that improve the lives of their users. 


Ballard, J.G. (1975). High-Rise. United Kingdom: Jonathan Cape.

High-Rise. 2015. United Kingdom: StudioCanal. (Directed by Ben Wheatley).

Focus Keyword for Storytelling topics: 

The focus keyword for these topics depends on the context of the article. As this is a personal experience/personal point of view, the keyword depends on the author.

Once the topics are about certain products/firms/material then the keyword will be given in the mail itself. 

For example:

Topic: Alternative Materials: Polymer-bamboo Reinforced Concrete

Focus Keyword: Bamboo Reinforced Concrete.

Harvard Citation Style Guidelines

Harvard citation style is a parenthetical referencing system consisting two main components:

  • In-text citations are an author-date system that includes the author’s surname and the year of publication—both should be shown in brackets wherever another source has contributed to your work/ idea. And, if necessary, the page numbers are included in the parenthetical citations. 

For example: (Joyce, 2008).

  • reference list outlining all of the sources directly cited in your work. 

For adding the references in Harvard Style at the end of your article, paste the URL in any of the following sites:;

And then you can copy-paste the citation generated here in your REFERENCES LIST at the end of your article.

For better understanding, follow through with the points mentioned below:

  1. Books

Citations for books with one author:

Last name, first initial. (Year). Title. Edition (if not the first edition of the book). City of publication: Publisher.

For example:

Davis, B. (2013). A History of Chocolate. Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Davis, B. (2013). A History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Citations for books with two or three authors:

Last name, first initial., Last name, first initial., and Last name, first initial. (Year). Title. City of publication: Publisher.

For example:

Jones, F. and Hughes, S. (2006). Eating Out: A Definitive Restaurant Handbook. Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Citations for books with four or more authors:

Last name, first initial., Last name, first initial., Last name, first initial., and Last name, first initial. (Year). Title. City of publication: Publisher.

For example:

James, P., Croft, D., Levin, S. and Doe, A. (1998). How to Succeed in the Restaurant Industry. Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

  1. Articles

Citations for Print Journals:

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article Title. Journal name, Volume (Issue), Page/s.

For example:

Jenkins, O. (1996). Unusual Recipes and Cantonese Cuisine. Culinary Research, Volume 5 (8), pp. 47-59.

Citations for Journal Articles accessed on a website or database:

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article Title. Journal name, Volume (Issue), Page/s. Available from: URL. [Accessed: date].

For example:

Jenkins, O. (1996). Unusual Recipes and Cantonese Cuisine. Culinary Research, Volume 5 (8), pp. 47-59. Available at: [Accessed: 5 June 2016].

Citations for Newspaper Articles – Print or Online: 

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article title. Newspaper name, Page/s.

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article Title. Newspaper name, Page/s. Retrieved from: Journal name/ URL if freely available.

For example:

Bell, Y. (2016). Man with unusual tastes eats chalk for breakfast. The Weekly Herald, p. 4.

Lees, P. (2015). Freaky eaters. The Weekly Herald, p.21. Available at: [Accessed 21 June 2016].

Citations for Magazine Articles – Print or Online:

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article title. Magazine name, volume number, Page/s.

Last name, First initial. (Year, Month Day). Article Title. Magazine name, [online] Page/s. Retrieved from: URL

For example:

Ilkes, J. (2006). Five Ways to Eat More Fruit and Vegetables. Healthy Lifestyles, (12), pp. 34-36.

Ilkes, J. (2009, September 20). Why Dried Fruit is a Diet Staple. Healthy Lifestyles. Retrieved from:

  1. Online sources

Citations for websites:

Author/Source if no specific author (Year). Title of web document/page. [online]. (Last updated: if this information is available). Available at: URL [Accessed date: Day/Month/Year].

For example:

HealthTips (2015). Superfoods and where to find them. [online]. (Last updated 20 May 2015). Available at: [Accessed 20 June 2016].

Citations for emails:

Sender’s last name, First initial. (Year). Subject Line of Email. [email].

For example:

James, D. (2016). New business plan for McDowells. [email].

Citations for Social Media:

Last name of author, First initial. (Year). Title of page [Social media format]. Day/month/year written. Available from: URL. [Accessed: Day/Month/Year].

For example:

Proud, F. (2014). Food lovers group [Facebook]. Written 5 June 2014. Available from: [Accessed 25 September 2016].

  1. Images/visual mediums

Citations for films/videos/DVDs:

Full Title of Film/Video/DVD. Year of release. [Type of medium]. Director. Country of Origin: Film studio or maker. (Any other relevant details).

For example:

The World’s Best Curries. (2011). [Film]. Directed by J. Hertz. U.K: Foodie Studios.

Citations for YouTube videos:

Username of contributor. (Year). Video Title, Series Title (if relevant). [type of medium]. Available at: URL. [Accessed: Day/ Month/ Year].

For example:

Yummydishes. (2012). Egg custard – simple recipe!, Baking 101. [YouTube video]. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 2016].

Citations for broadcasts:

Series title and episode name/number. (Year). [Year of broadcast]. Broadcasting organisation and channel, date and time of transmission.

For example:

World Kitchen: Nigeria, episode 5. (2011). [Broadcast 2011]. BBC 1, first transmitted 30 July 2011, 20:00.

Citations for images/photographs – Print or Online:

Last name of artist/photographer, first initial (if known). (Year of production). Title of image. [type of medium] (Collection Details if available – Document number, Geographical place: Name of library/archive/repository).

For example:

Hewer, D. (1995). Women enjoying a cup of tea. [Photograph]. (Document number 345, London: Food Photography Library).

Citations for maps:

Map maker’s name. (Year of issue). Title of map. Map series, sheet number, scale. Place of publication: publisher.

For example:

SpeedyQuest maps. (2003). Map of Biddiford. Local Maps, sheet 5, scale 1:50000. Nottingham: Local Publications.

Citations for podcasts:

Broadcaster/author’s name. (Year). Programme title, series title (if relevant). [type of medium] date of transmission. Available at: URL [Accessed date: Day/Month/Year].

For example:

Yummydishes. (2015). Innovative Baking, Innovative Food. [Podcast]. Transmitted 16 October 2015. Available at: [Accessed: 17 April 2016].

  1. Other source types

Citations for reports:

Organisation/author. (Year). Full title of report. Place of publication: Publisher.

For example:

Marks and Spencers. (2014). A report on the sales of ‘2 Dine for £10’. London: M&S Publications.

Citations for dissertations:

Last name of author, first initial. (Year). Title of dissertation. Level. Official name of university.

For example:

Neath, G. (1998). An examination of Mexican food in popular culture. Masters level. Oxford Brookes University.

Citations for interviews:

Last name of interviewer, first initial, and last name of interviewee, first initial. (Year). Title/description of interview.

For example:

Ferman, H. and Bill, O. (2004). Discussing cooking.

Citations for presentations/lectures:

Last name of author, first initial. (Year). Presentation/lecture title.

For example:

Yates, R. (2008). The benefits of herbs.

Citations for music:

Performer/writer’s last name, first initial. (Year). Recording title. [Medium]. City published: music label.

For example:

Luce, F. (1996). Delicious. [CD Recording]. Nottingham: Delectable Music.

Citations for computer programs/software:

Name of software/program. (Year). Place/city where software was written: Company/publisher.

For example:

RecipeGen. (2008). Nottingham: Delectable Software.


Katie is an architecture student, writer, and lover of words. She envisions a future in which the positive impacts that buildings can have on humans and our planet are prioritised, and hopes to harness the power of language to amplify the stories being whispered through the world of design.

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