Hong Kong at Night

Photo by Michael Wolf

Urban Compaction


Large cities thrive on density and diversity - an environment where opportunity and choice are always proximate. But beyond the clear energy and pollution advantages of the elevator over the automobile, there are complex issues at play in concentrating population and built infrastructure in contemporary high-rise cities. The wicked complexity of urban systems notoriously escapes modelling, understanding and prediction in ways that lead to good design and high quality urban environments.

Photo by Michael Wolf

Photo by Michael Wolf

Around the world, the twentieth century city of the American Dream constructed at low density around the opportunities of the automobile is giving way to realities of soaring migration to cities set against the urgent need to address congestion, peak oil, the impact of carbon on the environment. In many, the clearly defined high-rise central business district, surrounded by kilometres of low suburban development is not the model – there is a much more extensive high-density urban condition. Each city presents its own particular set of conditions and pressures, but in many the pressure on limited available land in relation to demand, poor quality of land for development requiring expensive engineering solutions, and the drive to collocate for increased economic, social and cultural  opportunity, is leading to very high rise development and increasing urban density.

Hong Kong Infrastructure

Cities Without Ground
Adam Frampton, Jonathan D Solomon and Clara Wong

What are the implications and opportunities of density for sustainable flows of people, food, energy and waste within building projects and at the planning scale for high rise, high density cities? Tall buildings thrive on rich infrastructure. What are the new ecological models for living, working, travel and transport, communication, production (vertical farming, innovative manufacturing) and disposal/conversion (waste to energy) in dense concentrations? Global competition between cities works to support investment in parks, art, intellectual capital and the rule of law - but how are the quality of environment and the intellectual and aesthetic qualities of the city maintained under the economic forces at play in the ultra high density city where the investment stakes are high? Does the city’s provided infrastructure suffice to support urbanity, or are additional layers in parasitic symbiosis emerging to enable the full richness of the 21st century megalopolis?

Neon Signs

Within research there are many post digital examples of urban modelling based on biological metaphor, agents systems and other models that would be hard to pursue outside a computational environment. How can and should the most advanced and adaptive models migrate to influence and prototype the built projects and city precincts of the future? In a post digital age with some increased, albeit limited, opportunity for generative and complex modelling, how do the relevant contemporary models draw on or contradict the futuristic modernist visions that have been put forward since the early twentieth century?

Kowloon

Shenzhen, China, had the fifth highest density in the world at 17,150 per square kilometre for an estimated population of sixteen million. Neighbouring Hong Kong with its famously hyper-dense, high rise development has a comparable urban population to fast-growing Shenzhen but with its tracts of un-developed land, its large city lungs, does not appear in the top hundred cities for urban density.


Hong Kong, the world leader in ultra compact, high-rise development and challenging infrastructure provides the theatre for Smartgeometry to pursue the exploration of ways to research and prototype all aspects of design leading to innovations to support high quality

Urban Compaction.


 

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