According to the “Population Division” report from the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world’s urban population is expected to grow to more than 6 billion by 2045. In the UK, forecasts indicate that 92% of the population will live in cities by 2030. The number of megacities globally is also projected to increase significantly: from today’s 33 urban centres with populations of more than 10 million people to 41 in the next ten years.
Smarter, more sustainable density
Because in many locations, expanding along the ground may not be practical, cities are often growing vertically. However, simply redistributing functions vertically in the sky isn’t enough to ensure that the urban centres of the future provide an optimum way of life for the expanding population.
Throughout history, creative thinkers have played with the idea of a vertical city. Just as Le Corbusier proposed new principles for urban planning with The Radiant City, as architects and designers we have the opportunity to create new building typologies for modern urban life in a vertical context. Designed well, cities can be not only good for us but the desirable living option for every stage of life. There is also a view that this move to urban living offers the potential to be better for the environment with more energy efficient new buildings, a reduced footprint and the greater use of public transportation.
The future of sustainable tall buildings should focus on people by connecting people to the many desirable attributes of city life such as parks and gardens — and especially to each other — within liveable neighbourhoods elevated in taller developments. Weaving and stacking public amenities and civic space would change the way we navigate through the city in a more up and down way, whilst providing new vertical mixed-use building forms.
Providing pockets of green space to break up the journey through the vertical community is an important design feature in these structures as we demonstrate with our mixed-use masterplan and mixed use tower, ‘Mixed Use Media Development’. Adding elevated parks and vertical greening, will connect, soften and enrich human experiences above the street, whilst also softening the skyline in increasingly dense and hard wearing cities.
The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050.
A connected human journey
Clear wayfinding and new methods of efficient, inclusive vertical transportation are also important for encouraging and facilitating movement. New ultra lift-hoisting technology, for example, which would make it possible to travel longer vertical distances without the need for intermediate transfer lobbies associated with traditional lifts, could be part of the buildings’ services.
Another key component to making such a vertical community a success is having excellent connections. The vision would be to be well connected to major transportation, to have micromobility hubs at the base, and potentially in future, a way to travel from the top of tall buildings (if drone and micro flying technologies advance and become more common.
Social and community benefits
Investment in good-quality public space has been shown to add economic value and the same principle would hold true here with this vertical urban setting by inviting a public engagement in spaces that may normally be deemed as private. Residents can have more interaction with their community through neighbourhood events in a shared community garden or square. In office towers where teams are commonly separated by floors, introducing vertical hubs promotes interaction and collaboration. As in our Mixed Use Tower, this design allows for the spaces to be constantly active and in use. The building then becomes a revolving stage throughout the day as workers leave their offices and residents return to their homes or locals arrive to watch a film in the evenings. The result of the mixed-use programs invites social diversity and a sense of community.
In the long-term, the most promising and viable models for urban living will be about creating spaces which make us healthier, happier and are adaptable and sustainable. The future of sustainable tall buildings should support all the functions of people’s daily lives, mixing leisure & recreation around the more routine daily activities of live, work and learn.