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From BusinessInsider, overhead photos of what they say are large, new developments in China that lay empty. If they are satellite photos, though, don’t know when they were taken. Some of them may have filled up by now. What I noticed was the bad urban design among them. Overly wide boulevards with extra large curb radii. The university campus strikes me as automobile oriented, even though a university campus is one of the last places you want to be automobile oriented.

CHENGGONG has two new universities. Both of them look empty

The spaces between buildings are quite large, roads wide, and there is no sense of enclosed outdoor space. All the buildings are smack dab in the middle of each block. The Central Green space is designed like many new CBDs in China (usually the government center at the end of a symmetrical green axis), too large to be perceived as a space by someone walking it.

The Zhengzhou New Districts Civic Center is almost hilariously auto-centric–built for speed in fact.

Like Ordos, Zhengzhou New District has glamorous public buildings

The circular off ramps to the center mean you won’t even have to slow your car down. Look how much space is wasted, though, for the ramps. This is all ‘paper architecture’. Paper architecture is when people design buildings on paper so that is makes a design that looks nice from above, from the plan. However there is no conception of how the space will be perceived at ground level and no definition of space. The buildings are meant to impress, not meant to accommodate. (The most egregious example is the Wuxi government building. It is absolutely huge and well detailed with expensive materials. You need a car to walk from one end of the 700 meter long building to the other. It is government away from the people, not for the people.)

Another photo essay by the same website: this time on the British inspired Thames Town near Shanghai that was completed quite a while ago. The urban design is actually quite a bit better than a lot of what passes for urban design here.


Xinyang masterplan by Word with SWA Group

Masterplan for a district of Doha, Qatar by mossessian and partners.

This is the centerpiece of Phase 1B of developer Dohaland’s $5.5 billion  ‘Musheireb’ development. mossessian & partners is one of four practices working on Phase 1B of the Musheireb scheme, a 35 hectare project that aims to revive, regenerate and conserve the historical downtown of ’s capital city. Due for completion in 2016, the mixed-use scheme will offer residential, commercial, retail and leisure facilities through creation of over 100 buildings. The judges of the MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Awards applauded the scheme for the significant attempt to create “a contemporary vernacular architecture in the Gulf. Public space is combined with extensive shading and its scale relates to everyday life”.

and their design for Al Barahat Square in within that masterplan

As shade is the first priority in comfort cooling, the design incorporates sheer density with tall narrow streets.  The street scape is very much part of the mossessian scheme: sculpting the void – carving the space between buildings – is as important as designing the buildings themselves.  Deep roof overhangs and decorative screens layer the buildings and create shade throughout the year.  The thermal mass of the building envelope is used as a heat sink to balance the region’s severe temperature fluctuations. This combination of strategies works together to create an ecosystem that offers a high level of thermal comfort in an energy efficient and therefore sustainable way.

It is a fairly nice design and human scaled. Although the chandeliers in the shaded arcades are a little odd.

Central Toronto Waterfront by West 8 and DTAH


The Toronto waterfront did not have consistent elements linking the various parts of the waterfront together, so the objective of the project is to address that fact by creating a consistent and legible image for the Central Waterfront, in both architectural and functional terms.

Also from Arch Daily that I liked

Lantern Pavilion by AWP/Atelier Oslo

An interesting public space in Norway. A god sense of enclosure and openness at the same time.

Lantern Pavilion / AWP/Atelier Oslo © Jonas Adolfsen

Built to showcase innovative wood architecture.

intent was to design a new square and a sculptural object in  in pedestrian districtaiming at revitalizing the area, and creating a place where many different activities could take place: a meeting point, markets, informal music concerts and other happenings. Since the site is visible from afar, and from the railway separating two distinct areas of the city it was essential to create an object that could be experienced from distance and reveal the square.

“Living Landscape” d3 Housing Tomorrow Competition by STUDIOMARCOVERMEULEN

This design did not win the competition.

Living Landscape 1.0 is the first design in a series. Its roots lay within traditional Dutch housing which has a back-to-back orientation with a density of approximately 36 dwellings per hectare. What sets Living Landscape 1.0 apart is the that the dwelling are situated front to back. The density of the Dutch housing is maintained. The orientation was shifted to provide optimal orientation towards the sun for all of the dwellings in the proposal.

"Living Landscape" d3 Housing Tomorrow Competition / STUDIOMARCOVERMEULEN diagram 01

A new Tower in Shenzhen

Guosen Securities Tower / Massimiliano + Doriana Fuksas

From Italian architects, Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, who designed Shenzhen’s new airport terminal under construction.

The proposal was awarded first prized for the competition to design’s  , and, typical of the  pair, the schematic design carries a strong presence with the shear mass of the volume broken down into a more manageable scale thanks to the three-dimensional voids.  The  tower will be the first ecological tall building to be built in .

2011 Skyscraper Competition Winners

The winning design

The award seeks to discover young talent, whose ideas will change the way we understand architecture and its relationship with the natural and built environments. The first place was awarded to Atelier CMJN (Julien Combes, Gaël Brulé) from France for their ‘LO2P Recycling Skyscraper’ in New Delhi, India. The project is designed as a large-scale wind turbine that filters polluted air with a series of particle collector membranes, elevated greenhouses, and mineralization baths. More images and descriptions of winning entries after the break

Among the honorable mentions there are “waterscrapers” that clean oil spills and desalinate sea water, inverted skyscrapers for a floating Olympic villa, recycling towers, research skyscrapers that harvest lightning power, vertical cemeteries and amusement parks, sports skyscrapers, fish farms, and “living mountains” for desert climates. Other proposals use the latest building technologies and parametric design to configure environmentally conscious self-sufficient buildings.

A Birds eye view of teh Yongsan International Business District masterplan

A Bird's eye view of the Yongsan International Business District masterplan

A few weeks ago it was announced that Daniel Libeskind (the architect who won the masterplan competition for the 9/11 site in New York City) won the masterplan competition for a 57 hectare riverside site in Seoul, South Korea. It is aiming to be a center of international business is Seoul, and so is called the ‘dream hub’ The developers will start US$20  billion project  in 2011 and  complete the 3+ million m2 of space by 2024. The developers wanted one landmark skyscraper (640m) and 11 other commercial buildings (between 20-70  floors) and a further 7 residential/commercial buildings  (20-50 stories).

The main concept is:  The site is broken into “islands” – distinct forms that together create a landscape. Outside the islands, the site is developed into a generous natural landscape which acts as the “sea” connecting the islands together. The islands become distinct neighborhoods with their own unique program area, character, community and atmosphere. Although they are distinct and human scaled, together the islands create a wonderfully diverse, active city life.  These island neighborhoods break down the overall density and mass of the large urban development to create a pedestrian scale….The creation of many islands maximizes the “coastline” to nature, increasing the quality and value of the property. The conceptual idea of the island arrangement allows for maximum freedom of development in the future…Once a barrier between neighborhoods, Yongsan IBD will create a new community that links adjacent communities into a cohesive whole and offer new opportunities to access the waterfront…Constructed wetlands, green roofs, fields of solar panels, and other strategies for sustainable living are an integral part of the landscape experience for the community.

More on the winning design can be seen at Libeskind’s website the website of the developer. Four other architecture firms were in the short list, but did not win: Asymptote (with Hargreaves Associates), Foster + Partners, Jerde Partnership, and  Skidmore Owings and Merrill. You can see their designs at the  Dreamhub website. World Architecture News says the five architects were given US$ 1 million to refine their first designs.


An Italian architecture firm’s project for a park also in Italy will be completed later this month.  Other websites say that the theme of the park is based on the five senses that the human has (sight, hearing, touch etc.). And for each theme, the materials and plants/trees are related to it. I don’t have any other details.

The design seems OK, but the diagrams used to explain it do not seem to have much to do with the human senses and seem unnecessary.

This opinion piece in a local Dubai newspaper says that Dubai needs moer than towers to be pedestrian friendly.

The biggest problem with rows of towers is the absence of life where buildings meet the street, the only part of these structures that exists on a human scale.Without cafes, small shops and restaurants, streets lined only with tall towers can be foreboding, ugly, even dangerous. Many cities have at least one central area made up primarily of towers, and the dynamics are always the same. The offices in these towers bring people to the streets during the day, but almost all of them disappear in the evenings. Without any pedestrians at night, these streets can become places for illicit activity – vandalism, harassment or, in some cases, drug use.

People need reasons to be in the city, whether it’s to shop, eat or sit. The presence of small businesses at the ground level of tall towers has a humanising effect on the streetscape. It extends the hours of activity: an otherwise underused pavement can become lively, a destination even, if executed well.

The absence of street life in large parts of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is a result of the rush to build….It could be argued that both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have developed too quickly, and according to how planners thought cities ought to look, not how they ought to function….The excessive heat is often cited as an argument against creating more exciting outdoor businesses and other spaces, but it doesn’t hold water: for more than half the year we have the kind of weather that most cold-climate people envy.

Shenzhen is often compared to Dubai, and here, setting skyscrapers back from the street and pushing retail into  shopping malls also creates lifeless spaces. The beautiful plazas for those skyscrapers set back from the street often end up as ugly parking lots.

A different commentary on Dubai’s shaky economic and urban planning and what has happened since the financial crisis:

Between the malls, there is nothing but the connecting tissue of asphalt. Every road has at least four lanes; Dubai feels like a motorway punctuated by shopping centres. You only walk anywhere if you are suicidal. The residents of Dubai flit from mall to mall by car or taxis.

Dubai is not just a city living beyond its financial means; it is living beyond its ecological means.

Results were announced a few weeks ago and no one won, only third prize given. Some of the commentors do not seem to like the designs either.

A full gallery can be found here (although in the Croatian language) at the architects’ association of Split.