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The architecture trend dividing London’s elites

Underground lairs have hollowed out London.

Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

One of London’s most unusual and extravagant luxury trends might be its gigantic basements.

Newcastle University professor Roger Burrows and his co-authors collected data on every London basement construction project from 2008 to 2019 and mapped it. They found that more than 7,000 basement additions had been built in an 11-year span. These basements were classified in the research as standard, large, and mega-basements — the latter containing multiple levels and extending beyond the footprint of the house. A combination of historic preservation laws, rapidly ballooning property values, and changing tastes has led to a boom in basement construction for the city’s wealthiest homeowners.

This construction hasn’t been without complications. Many London residents see the constant construction as a “plague” that has hollowed out the city, contributed to air pollution, and even changed the acoustics of their homes. Prof. Burrows sees it as a symbol of increasing wealth inequality in the global city.

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