Cities demand design that thinks 'outside the box'
Intelligent design is sometimes about new ideas or development. It’s also often about giving cities’ existing assets – buildings, infrastructure and beyond – a new lease of life through well-planned updates.
It’s certainly about adapting so cities live within the resources that are available to them. These are some of the intelligent approaches to city design and planning that are revealed in our Design Book: 50 city stories explored.
What we are really talking about is finding new ways to propel the growth of cities, to build in a new way, to live differently, in just the next ten, 20, 30 years. ” Edgar Pieterse Director of the African Center for Cities
Rethinking transport systems can improve the quality of city life, prompting regeneration.
In New York, the Fulton Center unites six existing subway stations and 12 subway lines; 300,000 people pass through daily. This new hub incorporates retail space, natural light and the refurbishment of one of New York’s earliest skyscrapers. The design simplifies the transport system for passengers and creates a new focal point for Lower Manhattan.
Our plans for the new Cityringen network of stations in Copenhagen also needed to work in harmony with the existing city footprint. In contrast, these small-scale, economical stations squeeze into the existing urban space. The light, bright, modular design of their interiors is efficient and functional, with colour cues helping to guide passengers to their destinations.
Bringing the new to the old
Cities are rejuvenated by revitalising and preserving historic icons. It’s like charging the city’s battery. Stations, galleries and industrial buildings given a modern functionality with a beautifully-restored, theatrical backdrop. ” Nigel Tonks Director
We have been involved in the sensitive upgrade of many historic buildings worldwide. The 130-year-old Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is home to priceless works by artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Vermeer. To bring the museum into the 21st century, we embarked upon a ten-year renovation. We overhauled generations of adaptations and uncovered beautiful internal frescoes and ceilings. The space is now flooded with light, both natural and state-of-the-art artificial. This enhances the space for visitors by illuminating the building’s 19th-century detailing and, most importantly, the art.
Simple ideas in action
Often smart design is just simple. In Limerick, Ireland, the transport network runs more smoothly since we linked up traffic lights. They now respond to fluctuations in traffic and quickly produce fault alerts if one set of lights isn’t working. Sensors mean buses are given priority at traffic lights. Congestion has been reduced and public transport is more widely used.
Simple solutions aren't necessarily new. Wood is one of the oldest building materials, but it is back at the heart of innovation. We co-funded research at the LifeCycle Tower to determine whether wood can be used for a 40-storey building. It seems counter-intuitive in a world where tall buildings are more often steel structures, but we’re disproving concerns about acoustics and fire safety. We are now designing a 20-storey timber building in Austria.
Design Book: 50 city stories explored
Read an electronic version of the Design Book