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Urbanization

Norman Foster Stresses the Importance of Interdisciplinary Architecture in Creating Future Cities

16:00 - 8 July, 2017

Architecture, as both a profession and the built environment, currently finds itself at a crossroads in trying to adapt to a world in constant flux. Cities and its people face continuous socio-economic, political and environmental change on a daily basis, prompting a necessary rethink in the evolution of sustainable urbanization. With a focus on housing, society and cultural heritage, RIBA’s International Conference, Change in the City, aims to offer insight into the “New Urban Agenda” and how architects can play an interdisciplinary role in future urban development.

Speaking in an interview ahead of the conference, Norman Foster is a strong advocate for a careful consideration of what aspects of urban life need to be prioritized when designing cities of the future. For an increasingly global society, Foster stresses the need for architecture to surpass buildings and tackle its greatest obstacle – global warming, honing in on its roots and factors involved to create viable urban solutions.

Is India's Plan to Build 100 Smart Cities Inherently Flawed?

09:30 - 29 June, 2017
Is India's Plan to Build 100 Smart Cities Inherently Flawed?, Mumbai Skyline. Image <a href='https://pixabay.com/en/mumbai-bombay-cityscape-skyline-390543/'>via Pixabay</a> by user PDPics (public domain)
Mumbai Skyline. Image via Pixabay by user PDPics (public domain)

The Indian Government’s Smart City Mission, launched in 2015, envisions the development of one hundred “smart cities” by 2020 to address the country’s rapid urbanization; thirty cities were added to the official list last week, taking the current total of planned initiatives to ninety. The $7.5-billion mission entails the comprehensive development of core infrastructure—water and electricity supply, urban mobility, affordable housing, sanitation, health, and safety—while infusing technology-based “smart solutions” to drive economic growth and improve the citizens’ quality of life in cities.

In a country bogged down by bureaucratic corruption, the mission has been commended for its transparent and innovative use of a nation-wide “City Challenge” to award funding to the best proposals from local municipal bodies. Its utopian manifesto and on-ground implementation, however, are a cause of serious concern among urban planners and policy-makers today, who question if the very idea of the Indian smart city is inherently flawed.

Forget Treehouses - Cliffhouses are the Future

06:00 - 17 May, 2017
Forget Treehouses - Cliffhouses are the Future, Nestinbox takes inspiration from birdhouses to provide an innovative solution to tackle housing crises. Image Courtesy of Manofactory
Nestinbox takes inspiration from birdhouses to provide an innovative solution to tackle housing crises. Image Courtesy of Manofactory

In major cities around the world, buildable land is at a premium. At the same time, a continued trend of urban migration has led to a shortage of houses, inspiring a wealth of innovative solutions from architects and designers. Swedish firm Manofactory have literally taken housing solutions to a new level, questioning why we need to build at ground level at all.

Many animals, including birds, build their nests in trees, under roof tiles or in rock crevices above the ground. Humans already build simple nesting boxes for birds to live in, causing Manofactory to question why we can’t build nesting boxes for ourselves – a simple house with several rooms, windows, and climate protection. Pointing to the numerous cliff walls in cities across northern Scandinavia and elsewhere, Manofactory have designed the Nestinbox – a small wooden house with a steel structure to be mounted on sheer cliff faces.

Nestinbox takes inspiration from birdhouses to provide an innovative solution to tackle housing crises. Image Courtesy of Manofactory An interior arranged around three floors provides compact yet functional living. Image Courtesy of Manofactory The facade is clad in horizontal timber to reduce perceived building height. Image Courtesy of Manofactory One elevation of the Nestinbox can be free of windows, allowing for combinations of several units. Image Courtesy of Manofactory + 6

2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture

04:30 - 14 October, 2015
 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, Main entrance and Silo, Dacheng Flour Factory, Shekou, Shenzhen; Image Courtesy of 2015 UABB
Main entrance and Silo, Dacheng Flour Factory, Shekou, Shenzhen; Image Courtesy of 2015 UABB

The 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (2015 UABB), the world’s only biennale dedicated to the themes of urbanism and architecture, announced its highlight exhibits. Based in Shenzhen, one of China’s first Special Economic Zones, 2015 UABB will feature presentations from over 72 exhibitors from six continents who will all explore the theme “Re-Living The City”. Opening to the public on 4 December this year, 2015 UABB will take over the former Dacheng Flour Factory in Shekou, a declining factory complex built in 1980s that will be transformed into a multifaceted exhibition venue especially for the biennale.

In the Shadow of the Megacity: Urbanization and Beyond

19:30 - 17 September, 2015
In the Shadow of the Megacity: Urbanization and Beyond , In the Shadow of the Megacity
In the Shadow of the Megacity

Urbanization is more than the growth and physical expansion of cities. It is a process that transforms territories, changes existing reciprocities and establishes new relationships between different places. In the Shadow of the Megacity will address the wider impact of urbanization, both within and beyond the city, in an attempt to trace the present contours of the urban and imagine its future.

Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India's Ancient River

09:30 - 14 April, 2015
Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India's Ancient River, © Anthony Acciavatti
© Anthony Acciavatti

Few geographies in the world nurture such a rich and complex imaginary as the Ganges River Valley. The heart of Indian Culture, and home to over one quarter of India’s population, the Ganges is one of the most fertile and infrastructure-heavy river valleys in the planet. Its many physical, historical and spiritual natures defy a single interpretation: always in flux, source of life and destruction, and venerated as a Hindu Deity, the Ganges fully embodies the complexities and excesses of the Indian Civilization.

In “Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River,” Anthony Acciavatti orchestrates a magnificent portrait of the Ganges River Basin, and its continuous reinvention as a test-bed for infrastructural innovation. Through the hybrid genre of the Atlas-Almanac-Travelogue, the book unfolds the many nested spatial and temporal scales that characterize this highly contested territory. Those captivated with the planetary urbanization of water will find in this book a timely and relevant volume of encyclopedic ambition and exquisite design.

© Anthony Acciavatti © Anthony Acciavatti © Anthony Acciavatti © Anthony Acciavatti + 12

Tim Franco Captures the Overscaled Urbanization of Chongqing

10:30 - 24 March, 2015
Tim Franco Captures the Overscaled Urbanization of Chongqing, © Tim Franco
© Tim Franco

These days, many of China's largest urban areas are easily recognizable to people from all over the world, with the skylines of coastal mega-cities such as Shanghai and Beijing taking their place in the global consciousness. Far less known though is the inland city of Chongqing - another of China's five top-tier "National Central Cities" - where in 2010 the Chinese government embarked on a plan to urbanize a further 10 million of the region's rural population, with around 1,300 people now moving into the city every day.

Since his first visit to the city in 2009 photographer Tim Franco has been on a mission to document the rapid change in what he believes is "maybe the most widely unknown megacity in the world." The result is Metamorpolis, a forthcoming photographic book by Franco with text by British journalist Richard Macauley, which documents the colossal scale of development juxtaposed against the people of Chongqing - many of whom still live an incongruous rural lifestyle among the concrete sprawl. Read on after the break for more images from the book and an interview with Franco about the experience of documenting one of the world's fastest-growing cities.

© Tim Franco © Tim Franco © Tim Franco © Tim Franco + 10

AD Interviews: Uma Adusumilli

01:00 - 6 January, 2015

With more than half of the world’s population living in cities today, a process that will only accelerate in the near future, the dynamics of large metropolitan areas --especially in the emerging world have-- have become an object of study and urban experimentation. India is one of the regions where this process is happening at a fast pace. With a current urbanization rate of 32%, it is expected to grow up to 40% in the next 15 years.

Video: Mini-Documentary Profiles Artists Who Are Shunning China's Urban Explosion

00:00 - 23 December, 2014

In 2011, China had more people living in urban areas than rural areas for the first time in its history, and recent government statistics show that around 300 villages disappear per day in China. Yet in the face of rapid urbanization, a “back to land movement” is now also emerging. A new mini-documentary by Sun Yunfan and Leah Thompson, Down to the Countryside, looks at urban residents who, fed up with city life, are looking to revitalize the countryside, while preserving local tradition. The documentary follows Ou Ning, an artist and curator, who moved from Beijing to the village of Bishan, in Anhui province, in 2013. Ning considers himself part of China’s “new rural reconstruction movement,” and the documentary shows his quest to develop the rural economy and bring arts and culture to the countryside.

Learn more about the film on China File and check out an interview with the directors on CityLab.

Architects to Relocate Entire City Two Miles Over

00:00 - 6 March, 2014
 Architects to Relocate Entire City Two Miles Over, 'Kiruna 4-Ever' plan. Image Courtesy of White
'Kiruna 4-Ever' plan. Image Courtesy of White

UPDATE: The BBC reports that construction on the Kiruna re-location is scheduled to begin next month. For more on this extraordinary project, read the article below. 

Everyone is familiar with the stresses of moving to a new house, but the residents of Kiruna, a small town of 18,000 in Sweden, face a more daunting task: moving their entire city.

For more than 100 years, residents of Kiruna have developed their city center around the world's largest iron mine, operated by the state-controlled company, Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB). In 2004, LKAB determined that to continue extracting iron would mean digging deeper, unsettling the ground beneath 3,000 homes as well as the city hall, train station, and century-old church.

AD Interviews: David Gianotten / OMA

01:00 - 12 February, 2014

During the Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, we had the opportunity to speak with David Gianotten, partner-in-charge of OMA’s Hong Kong office. Gianotten launched the Dutch firm’s Asian headquarters in 2009, where he supervises major projects such as the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and the Taipei Performing Arts Centre.  

Standing outside of the recently completed Stock Exchange headquarters, he answered our questions about urbanization, innovation and the intricacies of running an office in an environment with such rapid urban growth. Shenzhen has proven an experiment of economic openness and is a vivid example of China’s recent growth. The city’s skyline is practically a physical graph of an upward-trending economy, with buildings designed by nearly every internationally renowned architecture firm. But OMA’s Shenzhen Stock Exchange building stands apart from the rest not only because of its impeccable construction (a rarity in the fast-paced building booms of Chinese cities), but also because it houses the institution that lists China’s biggest companies.

The 254 meter tower is an elegant structure that combines pure volumes with an exoskeleton grid clad in translucent glass. It represents a characteristic OMA-approach to innovative architectural solutions, made possible by extensive programmatic and technical research.

Read the full interview (which includes Gianotten’s insights on the study of architecture, the role of architects, and the importance of simplicity when communicating complex innovation) after the break. 

AD Interviews: David Gianotten / OMA AD Interviews: David Gianotten / OMA AD Interviews: David Gianotten / OMA AD Interviews: David Gianotten / OMA + 5

How Car-Dependent Towns are Adapting Compact Living Strategies

00:00 - 30 November, 2013
How Car-Dependent Towns are Adapting Compact Living Strategies, Courtesy of Mithūn
Courtesy of Mithūn

The challenge of converting a sea of parking lots, that so often riddles auto-dependent suburbs, is in densification. Architects are introducing compact urban living models to small towns all across the country, retrofitting single-use zoning into more walkable, diverse and connected communities. Perhaps nowhere is this evolution more evident than Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood, home to the country’s oldest shopping malls. Learn how the town became denser and greener, transitioning to a transit-oriented development, “Gray, Green, and Blue: Seattle’s Northgate.”

Australia Plans for Greener Cities by 2020

00:00 - 17 November, 2013
Australia Plans for Greener Cities by 2020, The Goods Line proposal. Image Courtesy of ASPECT Studios
The Goods Line proposal. Image Courtesy of ASPECT Studios

As cities continue to attract more people, naturally vegetated areas slowly wither, leaving little to no green spaces for city dwellers to escape to, no trees to purify the air and enhance the environment. Australia plans to change this. The 202020 Vision is a concerted effort from the government, academic and private sectors to create twenty percent green areas in Australia's urban centers by 2020. “Urban heat islands, poor air quality, lack of enjoyable urban community areas are all poor outcomes when green spaces aren't incorporated into new developments and large scale building projects.” Read about the 202020 initiative here, "More green spaces in urban areas, says new national initiative."

Puzzle-Piece Homes, A Solution for Rapidly Growing Populations

00:00 - 4 November, 2013
Puzzle-Piece Homes, A Solution for Rapidly Growing Populations, Courtesy of ECOnnect
Courtesy of ECOnnect

By now, we have all heard the mantra. In twenty years time, the world's cities will have grown from three to five billion people, forty percent of these urban dwellers will be living at or below the poverty line facing the constant threat of homelessness - scary statistics and even scarier implications. 

ECOnnect, a Holland-based design firm, envisions a solution for these future housing shortages, one that could build a one-million-inhabitant city per week for the next twenty years for $10,000 per family. Peter Stoutjesdijk, architect at ECOnnect, created the concept after widespread devastation in Haiti caused by a massive earthquake left of hundreds of thousands of people homeless depending on tents for temporary relief.

Mountains of Construction Debris Accumulate Outside Chinese Cities

00:00 - 29 October, 2013
Mountains of Construction Debris Accumulate Outside Chinese Cities, © Aly Song / Reuters
© Aly Song / Reuters

Chinese city-dwellers are waking to find eight stories of construction debris outside of their homes. Over two billion tons of waste, outside Beijing and other major cities, is a result of a booming construction industry. "There's no systematic way to deal with [the garbage]," says Wilson W.S. Lu, architecture professor at the University of Hong Kong, "The illegal dumping is everywhere." Recycling efforts have just begun, but local activists believe it will require a radical paradigm shift in the way Chinese residents reclaim material. Read the full New York Times article, "China's Mountains of Construction Rubble."

SHoP Architects' Super Tall Tower Approved, Sets Precedent for NYC

00:00 - 17 October, 2013
SHoP Architects' Super Tall Tower Approved, Sets Precedent for NYC, © SHoP Architects
© SHoP Architects

UPDATE: SHoP Architects' ultra-thin, 100-unit apartment tower has now won approval from the New York City Landmarks Commission. Once complete in 2016, the 1,350-foot structure will offer luxury apartments that peer down at the Empire State Building and rise just above the One World Trade Center’s roofline.

When Vishaan Chakrabarti, principal at ShoP Architects, spoke recently of building high-density cities, he meant it.

Renderings from the architecture firm show Manhattan's skyline will soon welcome its newest "super tall" building, a strikingly skinny residential tower rising 411 meters (1,350 feet) on a puny 13 meter (43 feet) wide site just two blocks south of Central Park.

© SHoP Architects © SHoP Architects © SHoP Architects © SHoP Architects + 5

Janette Sadik-Khan: NYC's Streets Are Not So Mean Anymore

00:00 - 15 October, 2013

Janette Sadik-Khan demonstrates how paint, lawn chairs and a bit of imagination can quickly transform city streets, creating immediate public and commercial vitality. Sadik-Khan, listed as one of Business Insider's "50 Women Who Are Changing the World," is responsible for re-purposing 26 acres of dense New York City car lanes into pedestrian-friendly space. "More people on foot is better for business," she says. Despite commanding a two billion dollar budget, her economical approach as commissioner of NYC's Department of Transportation are testaments to her design sensitivity, relying on rapid-testing and regular iteration to expand the city's public domain.


Reviving Beijing's Hutongs with Micro Installations

00:00 - 9 October, 2013
Reviving Beijing's Hutongs with Micro Installations, Above Beijing's historic hutongs. Image © Ivan Walsh
Above Beijing's historic hutongs. Image © Ivan Walsh

The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright documents the current trend of micro-scale installations spurring new life into the historic hutongs of Beijing and gaining support from the local communities, eager to reject the economic pressures of destroying/rebuilding. The local government’s endorsement, however, comes as a surprise - especially considering its fervent impetus to raze these areas just a few years ago. Read the full article here: Designers Use 'Urban Acupuncture' to Revive Beijing's Historic Hutongs.