The Future of Urban Living

How can we redesign cities to sustain our increasingly urban population?

Architects and town planners are focusing on the development of multi-purpose spaces that enable urban dwellers to experience both the functional and cultural benefits of their city's public environments.

Danish & New York based architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has two fundamental beliefs – that all buildings should have hybrid functions and that for sustainable design to succeed it must be more desirable than the status quo. BIG focus on analysing the evolution of contemporary lifestyles and developing architectural solutions that reflect these shifts.

Their human-centred philosophy is abundantly evident in the Amager Bakke waste-to-energy plant. BIG have flipped the notion of a typical waste management plant on its head by building a 440m ski slope on top of it, turning what would have been a public eyesore into a usable community space.

The final element BIG are developing in collaboration with rocket scientists and combustion engineers is a steam-ring generator that will blow a (clean) smoke ring from the top of the building for every tonne of  CO2 burned. The ring serves as a reminder to Copenhagen residents of their country’s commitment to becoming the world’s first zero-carbon city within the next ten years.

City and local councils are getting on board with hybrid urbanism in the hopes of creating cities that can sustain the increasing number of residents moving to urban areas.

Reflective of trends across the world, the Melbourne Council has just released plans to replace a Chapel Street carpark with a multi-functional community park. With predictions that car ownership will decrease by up to 31% in the next 15 years, replacement initiatives are becoming an increasingly important focus in driving cities.

Vancouver is another city emphasising the importance of re-defining public spaces. Local planners have made walking a vital element of their public health and green city goals; redesigning roads to favour pedestrians by introducing pedestrian controlled traffic lights and increasing street-level amenities. Walking now accounts for 26% of all trips made in Vancouver and they are the ranked the 5th most walkable city in the world.


So what?

Hybrid urbanism is appealing to a generation of conscious consumers who are increasingly aware of the role their built environments play in their lives.

As housing affordability and the rise of apartment living continues to grow, urban dwellers are turning to public spaces more frequently. The United Nations projects that two thirds of the world’s population will be urban by 2050, so we can expect to see more hybrid replacement schemes gaining traction in our cities.