27 (122) 2016
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Real Estate & Construction

Next great urban design challenge: Creating truly public spaces in vertical cities

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As cities become denser and buildings much taller, high-rise developments will need to offer more collective spaces, for the good of society and our own sanity.

“When we see increased density, we immediately think of the need for something more than occupied space, sold space, work space, living space – something more public or collective that could animate such a mass of habitation or work,” says James von Klemperer, president and design principal of international architecture practice Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

Creating Vertical Cities

The ideal is to infuse large structures with places where people could wander or congregate, just as they would in a traditional city streetscape, “to create a complex, inviting and interesting set of experiences”. In mega-projects, architects can create ‘vertical cities’ by taking advantage of the gaps between different uses to create gathering places. KPF’s JR Central Towers project in Nagoya put almost 420,000 m2 of retail, office, hotel and public space stacked on top of a bullet-train station – it holds a Guinness World Record as the largest station building in the world. There is a range of public and outdoor spaces throughout the building, as well as Sky Street – a huge concourse on the 15th floor of the podium joining the two towers, which offers panoramic views to anyone who takes the elevator from the station.

A mix of facilities is important for keeping highly skilled workers in cities as they grow older,” adds Steve Burrows, executive vice president at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in San Francisco. “We need to consider all the things that make a living city,” he says. “Sport for example – are stadiums civic buildings? Should they be downtown? And how do hospitals and schools fit into vertical cities? In order to capture families, something’s got to change. How are our cities going to become liveable for people throughout their entire lifecycle?”


The ambition of Lipton Rogers - the developer of 22 Bishopsgate – is to create London’s first ‘vertical village’, by providing a wide range of occupant facilities and amenity spaces throughout the height of the building.

The novel approach will include learning and education spaces, welfare and health centres and restaurant and leisure spaces, as well as the highest public viewing gallery in London. This landmark development, the structural design of which has involved a collaborative approach between WSP in Poland and the UK, will be the second tallest in London (278m) after the Shard, and will accommodate around 12,000 people at any one time.


The Polish perspective: still high-rise buildings or already vertical cities?

Meanwhile, on the Polish market, developers are increasingly active in carrying out daring high rise projects, especially in Warsaw. The benchmark has been set by Warsaw Spire, which is a complex investment, encompassing not only office space for tenants, but also public spaces, an open gallery and variety of interior facilities.

“By commissioning Warsaw Spire and Plac Europejski, we breathed a new life into the post-industrial part of Warsaw’s Wola; it’s now considered the ultimate address for the tenants and also an attractive place for the local community” says Jeroen van der Toolen, Managing Director CEE, Ghelamco.

The building is located in one of the most heavily developed areas in the city, with few more towers to come. The space around Rondo Daszyńskiego should become a coherent urban space for working and living, which would set standards for the future. “I think that in the future we’ll design more hybrid projects, comprising various uses such as residential, hotel, office and leisure,” says Krzysztof Bielazik, structural designer of Warsaw Spire, now leading the structural team at WSP in Poland and designing many high rise buildings. “Space in city centres is shrinking and we need solutions for those who wish to live there. A residential tower with amenities for collective use, such as cinema, sport facilities, dining and meeting areas, is one of them. Buildings facilitating community living are becoming a strong trend.”

Building Community

One of the phrases Mr von Klemperer uses is ‘building community’ – a concept that will become more and more relevant as the life of towers extends throughout the day and night and people spend increasing amounts of time in high-rise developments. This is something that architectural company Woods Bagot has also been considering in the context of the vertical campus. “You have to think about what makes a strong community,” says global workplace leader Steve Hargis. “It’s not just an office – you have to supplement that with all the services and experiences that people need.”

In the design of these buildings, he thinks that the role of architecture crosses over into urban planning. “We are in the middle of an unprecedented migration to urban centres, so it’s up to us as a profession to build something that is sustainable, where people want to be, that supports the kind of community life that we’re all looking for.”

About WSP

WSP in Poland provides integrated design and consulting engineering services in four key market segments: buildings (structural, mechanical, electrical and public heath engineering); bridges; environment and sustainability. 100 engineers and consultants in the Warsaw office work with major investors, architects and public institutions, operating on a local market and internationally. WSP in Poland is part of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the world's leading engineering professional services consulting firms, employing over 36,500 people, across 40 countries, on every continent.

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