As the city continues to evolve and transform, dead edges in the cityscape begin to emerge, subsequently reducing the level of activity in our built environment. These 'dead edges' refer to the areas that lack active engagement, they remain empty and deprived of people, since they no longer present themselves as useful or appealing. As the Covid-19 pandemic draws to an ultimate close, the first issue we may face post-pandemic is to revive our urban environment. A kiss of life into a tired and outdated cityscape...
The focal element in creating an active and healthy urban environment is by increasing vitality through placemaking. Creating diverse and interesting places to reside, thrive, and work. Here are five regenerative strategies that animate the cityscape and ultimately produce resilient, attractive, and flexible environments.
1. Mixed-Use Development
It is important to ensure our streets are of mixed-use composition, ensuring activity even in the most vacant of times. The mixed-use development is clarified by the following conditions: a range of residential spaces, services, and amenities, utilization of green spaces, and the regeneration of historic buildings and places. It presents diverse architectural styles and historical periods to provide choice and variety for its users and residents. The range of facilities and proximity to them will offer activity here at various times of the day and week. This is crucial in enforcing quality in terms of place.
The streets of the city must be active and full of vigor. Yet time has struck the city’s most vital organs and left many areas a derelict shell. Mixed-use planning is one way we can revitalize and promote an active environment, even incorporating elements of biophilia to reinforce an attractive urban metropolis.
The polycentric model ties into the ideas of mixed-use development, a form of urban planning that encourages the establishment of self-sufficient districts, dotted across the city. The 15-minute city, where every convenience can be accessed within this time frame. The model breaks down a central space into lots of varied city centers, dispersing activity and areas of convergence across the cityscape. As a result, areas lacking activity and vitality can be regenerated and effectively become useful. The presence of numerous architecturally diverse subcenters creates more consistent activity and activates disused regions, encouraging the growth of flourishing ‘urban villages’.
The interactive and varied conditions implemented by mixed-use zoning will offer the participation of optional, recreational, and social activities for users, which only thrive under very particular conditions. The presence of these conditions can better improve the overall activity in our cities post-pandemic and the economic infrastructure.
2. Adaptive Reuse
The dissolution of the city due to the Covid-19 pandemic and various economic effects it has produced has dramatically increased the number of disused buildings which no longer serve a purpose or provide functionality. These sit like empty shells in the cityscape, often with desirable site connections to public transport and appealing views. These sites are key in the future development of the city, they act like blockades, blocking important circulation routes.
Adaptive reuse seeks to develop the existing space to open these blockades and prevent dead spaces in the urban environment. The process of using an existing structure and re-purposing it in a way that is different to its original design intention. As a result, it activates these dead edges in the cityscape. These sites were chosen upon original construction because of their desirability, why not make use of these spaces and repair existing damage to city vitality.
Rather than efforts of repair and sustainability by just building anew, we can use adaptive reuse to enforce both sustainability through retrofit and urban regeneration through the reuse of disused buildings. Adaptive reuse does not necessarily just value historic architecture, it enforces the idea of reuse for any form of building no matter its age or significance. Its flexibility and easy application is what makes it such a significant method of regeneration
The adaptive reuse strategy offers a viable alternative for many recently developed sites that simply no longer provide a vision of future city living. The pandemic has made many re-evaluate current developments and many investors have abandoned previously profitable projects. These remain abandoned until they can be reinvented and re-initiated, post-pandemic.
The pedestrianized city is very much a classical approach to urban planning used in pre-automobile society. Yet its re-emergence and the implementation of the urban village has given rise to a reflection of this approach for city regeneration. The pedestrian as the primary priority rather than the car, creating walkable neighborhoods and abolishing the car-dominated territory.
Mixed-use zoning in our cities reinforces the viability of walkability. The concentration of local amenities encourages inhabitants to walk or bike, rendering cars unnecessary. These pedestrianized areas will present excellent connectivity, with attractive/safe paths and convenient direct walking routes and crossings. They will be comfortable, well-lit, and easy to follow.
The compact city presents a convivial vision with pedestrian traffic in mind. An urban model associated with a more densified cityscape, it is characterized by sustained mixed-use development. The presence of pedestrian traffic using mixed-use developments offers activity at every hour of the day. Schools and workplaces during working hours, restaurants and bars during the evening, and recreational spaces during the weekend, ensure consistent activity throughout the week.
4. Hybrid Working & Pop-Up Offices
The Covid catastrophe has completely changed the way in which we work and where. Many occupational developments have fallen empty and even with the easing of restrictions, many continue working from home. However, was the transition into hybrid working inevitably in the age of digitalization? Are rigid offices a thing of the past?
WeWork, a young enterprising company with the future in mind, reimagines spaces into flexible work destinations. Perhaps this is the future of our workspaces in our built environment and the most sustainable means of putting this into practice. It is beneficial in relation to methods of improvement and regeneration, including adaptive reuse and retrofitting projects. It revives areas of disuse into active working hubs, with excellent pedestrian and public transport routes.
As WeWork’s 28th London location, James Stirling’s Grade II listed landmark, No. 1 Poultry has been transformed into large mixed-use development, with a WeWork space suitable for 2800 members. Preserving the structure from a major facelift, the original postmodern façade has been carefully renovated and complemented with the carefully selected color, furnishings, and artwork heavily inspired by the surrounding location. Preserving local culture and identity, the transformation enforces London’s heritage whilst creating an exciting new social hub, offering flexible working solutions and an injection of activity in a previously stagnant space.
Decentralized offices enforce the creation of numerous urban villages within the cityscape, due to their location near residential areas. This will activate the dead edges rampant in our built environment and fulfill empty buildings, lacking purpose and functionality. The WeWork phenomenon supports the idea of ensuring flexibility via adaptive reuse, to ensure buildings that would otherwise remain empty and disused, are given a new function, a purpose that contributes to the continued activity of the built environment.
5. Biophilic Design
The integration of nature in our cities has been proven to have positive effects in terms of human health and the wider environment. Reducing stress levels, pollution and ultimately improving the sense of place, biophilic design creates an oasis within the urban sprawl and can be applied in regenerative efforts to replenish neglected buildings/areas and improve working environments.
Creating a human-centric environment and greening the urban realm, it creates attractive pedestrian routes and encourages recreational activities, further activating dead segments that would otherwise remain desolate. It can be applied to both the historic and contemporary fabric, intertwining and enclosing buildings in a green blanket.
The most prevalent approach to biophilic design is the incorporation of vegetation, natural elements, and organic shapes to mimic nature itself. Integration of biophilic elements within regeneration strategies can further its effectiveness, with the application within adaptive reuse projects, mixed-use development, and the transformation from car-dominated to pedestrian orientated cities.