Category Archives: Future

Don’t take a pop at POPS

 

 

 

By Ken Shuttleworth

 

There is a growing debate on the rise of privately owned public spaces (POPS) that I’ve been watching with interest.

It was once the sole concern of local authorities to design and maintain our public spaces, to consider how best to zone and shape them for the various needs of different users. But now, of course, the world is a very different place, and the lines between who owns and who creates what are increasingly blurred.

We can no longer rely solely on our acutely cash-strapped councils to give our towns and cities the spaces and places they need to encourage people to visit, to dwell. So, for some time developers have been the protagonists behind the majority of the new squares and parks and public areas in our towns and cities, harnessing the area next to their buildings as an extension of the scheme itself. It has become the norm to introduce art, high-quality paving and lighting to draw people in and provide a distinction between that area and another – essentially creating a doorstep that is as superb as the building itself.

Granary Square (c) Roger Marks

Developers naturally have deeper pockets, and if they choose to dip into those pockets to help create new spaces for the public to enjoy, then I’d suggest that is to be welcomed. An exemplar here is Argent’s King’s Cross scheme, which includes more than four acres of public realm that knit the scheme together – a crucial part of what makes it so successful. Argent deserves a lot of credit as a protagonist in this trend. Its work at Brindleyplace in Birmingham delivered a variety of public spaces that incorporated art and landscaping in a manner unseen in the city before – a crucial driver for regeneration that has stood the test of time. It’s this fruitful formula that has transformed King’s Cross.

It is a fresh look at the way we breathe life into spaces and draw people in. People want to work, live and stay in vibrant places that offer more than just a desk or a bed – hence the cultural shift that favours mixed-use developments and creates what the Future Spaces Foundation calls ‘vital cities’. Coupled with this is a step change in the spaces around the buildings too, spaces that – like King’s Cross – knit buildings and uses together and give a place personality.

Many view POPS with suspicion, typically due to concerns over access, freedom of movement and wider use of the space, which are all valid. POPS aren’t bound by ordinary bylaws, and as their number increases it’s important we establish a set of rules for their government rather than relying on each development team to set its own.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to look at guidelines that will “maximise access and minimise restrictions,” which, in London at least, should help to eliminate some of the worries around how these spaces are managed.

London Wall Place

London Wall Place

Overall, though, I believe we as an industry have an opportunity to create spaces that, while privately owned, can contribute socially and economically to the city, whether the plot is sized in hectares or acres. Make’s Rathbone Square development for Great Portland Estates has a publicly accessible, privately maintained garden at its heart that will provide an oasis away from the hustle of Oxford Street. And at London Wall Place for Brookfield, more than half of the scheme is devoted to privately owned public space, giving people a chance to enjoy a part of town previously blocked by a dual carriageway.

Rathbone Square

These schemes may be significantly smaller than King’s Cross, but much like this exemplar, their public realm aspects are a vital component to their commercial and public success. If local authorities can no longer deliver these spaces, then the gauntlet is thrown for us to provide them. The precedent set at King’s Cross should be inspiration enough.

Originally posted on EG 30.10.17

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City-making and Sadiq

 

 

Writing for Make, New London Architecture chairman Peter Murray gives us his view on how London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, might deliver the “good growth” he has promised.

 

Make partner Jason Parker recently gave a talk in the City of London’s Guildhall about development in the Square Mile and why its cluster of tall buildings is the way it is. He talked about the protected view corridors of St Paul’s Cathedral, the restrictions on building heights, the conservation areas and the composition of the towers – the maximum height of which is defined by the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority and flight paths rather than urban planners.

How will Sadiq Khan set about shaping the capital as he sits down to write new his plan?

The London Jason described is one shaped by pragmatism – a system of creating pieces of city that come about as a result of argument, enquiry, and a response to geographical, commercial and electoral pressures, rather than from a grand vision of a desirable city. In light of the growing debate about tall buildings and density in London, how will Sadiq Khan set about shaping the capital as he sits down to write new his plan?

The mayor has said that he supports the idea of London accommodating as much of its economic growth as possible, and at the same time he wants to do that without impinging on the Green Belt. Thus he will need to intensify development across the city, particularly in locations with good transport capacity. This means higher-density development and, in some cases, additional taller buildings.

In the current London Plan, large-scale development is proposed to take place in Opportunity Areas. Some of these come under a single development entity, like King’s Cross and Earls Court. Others have multiple ownership, like Nine Elms and South Quay on the Isle of Dogs. The two mayoral development corporations, for the Olympic Legacy and Old Oak Common, create masterplans with developers delivering individual sites.

As of March 2015. Opportunity Areas are London’s major source of brownfield land with development potential (eg commercial or residential) and varying levels of public transport access. Typically they can accommodate at least 5,000 jobs and 2,500 new homes, along with other supporting facilities and infrastructure. Image courtesy Mayor of London website.

King’s Cross is a good example of how masterplanning can work. The developers and their consultants produced a clear layout for the site, retaining areas of key heritage and providing locations and size of buildings with a mix of uses around the site. The plan was flexible enough to change as the economic situation changed; based on a series of sound rules, it retained a level of coherence in scale and detail. The architects of individual buildings were given freedom in developing their own palette of materials in order to create variety and interest.

By contrast, South Quay, not far from Canary Wharf on the DLR, is in multiple ownership. Each landowner jockeys for taller and taller buildings, with guidance arriving late in the day from the authorities when it seemed that the density of the area could exceed even that of Central Hong Kong. Although a masterplan has now been developed, it gives no hint as to the overall form, the townscape, of this key part of the capital.

Next door at Canary Wharf, today’s development is still recognisable in drawings made as far back as 1984. The architecture has changed over time, but the shape of the development is pretty much as planned.

In addition to Opportunity Areas, the mayor will look to develop more public land, particularly some of the 5,700 acres owned by Transport for London. Since many of the sites will be around and above stations, one can expect to see denser developments taking place in town centres across the capital. One can expect plenty of debate about whether this means more clusters of towers or lower-rise but denser developments.

How do other cities do it? Vancouver’s towers are more consistent in height and less clustered than London’s, although the location of tall buildings is similarly determined by views, in this instance of the natural landscape and geography that surround the coastal city. The strategy of creating “intense, dense neighbourhoods with short commutes” was developed by city planner Larry Beasley and dubbed Vancouverism – a key element of which is the podium block, providing an animated street scene with mixed use, green space and family homes at the base and smaller apartments in the towers.

In 1977 Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, then president of France, upset by the impact of the 210m-high Montparnasse Tower, introduced a law that banned any buildings over 10 storeys high in the centre of Paris, which has over the years become increasingly museum-like, with low economic growth. In response, mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has adopted a policy of permitting taller buildings in select locations within the central area, the first being the 180m Tour Triangle by Herzog & de Meuron. The Central Sydney Planning Strategy, meanwhile, has come up with an envelope of maximum heights created to protect the views and light of parks and places.

With the extreme pressures that London is facing to accommodate growth within a limited footprint, Khan needs to shift away from the current reactive and regulatory planning system to one that is more proactive, positive and creative if he is to provide the “good growth” he is promising in his planning consultation document A City for All Londoners. A proactive plan will give a better idea of the 3D shape of the future city than the current 2D local plans, which leave it to developers to fill in the gaps.

London’s population has grown every year since 1988, and in the last five years has grown much faster than anticipated in the 2011 London Plan. The population projections of the 2016 plan show London growing from 8.2 million in 2011 to 10.1 million in 2036. Image courtesy Mayor of London website.

Providing a clearer idea of the shape of the future city will give greater certainty to developers and communities alike; it will reassure local people about what is going up in their backyard, reduce land speculation and make development less of a gamble. The London Plan sets out where development happens and what density it might be, but gives little thought to what it is going to look like or what form it might take.

As the mayor writes his own version of the London Plan, he has the opportunity to not just say what the London of the future will contain, how many people it can accommodate and what sort of jobs they will do, but also give us an idea of what it is actually going to be like.

 

Peter Murray is the chairman of New London Architecture and The London Society, and president of the creative agency Wordsearch. A trained architect, he founded Blueprint Magazine and the London Festival of Architecture.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13.

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Digital Danube

 

Juraj Porubský, editor of Forbes Slovakia, banishes old stereotypes for good with his account of today’s dynamic world of tech in the Danube Valley.

 

 

You pass the Vienna Opera House, go up the stairs to the Albertina gallery, then past the Imperial Butterfly House, and there it is. The Hofburg Palace, heart of the once-mighty Habsburg Monarchy. You enter the majestic building with thoughts of Empress Elisabeth but instead find a completely 21st-century spectacle. The great halls of the palace are lit up by young entrepreneurs, start-ups and chats about the next big business ideas. It is the Pioneers Festival, the biggest start-up summit in the region.

You close your eyes and listen to the mixture of different languages: German, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, but mostly English. If it weren’t for all the English, you could easily imagine going back in time, enjoying the Viennese Café Central, maybe meeting Sigmund Freud. You might take the Pressburger Train from Vienna and jump out in the heart of Pressburg, as Bratislava used to be called. You could stroll the boulevards of Budapest, the most dynamic city of the empire at the beginning of the 20th century, or admire the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the famous Villa Tugendhat from the 1930s, which sits nicely above Brno.

But when you open your eyes again, you’re still at the Hofburg Palace and see that the present is much different from the traditional, romantic view of the Danube Valley. Today it is young, high-tech, open and full of energy. It has a vibrant start-up environment and attracts innovators such as Hyperloop, creators of a mode of transportation with the potential to move passengers faster than aeroplane speed, connecting Vienna and Bratislava with less than ten minutes of travel time.

The Pioneers Festival, now in its sixth year, hosts 2,500 tech innovators from over 100 countries at the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna. Image copyright Michael Holmes.

Tech change

In a world where computers can be as dangerous as arms, where major elections are won or lost on the battlefields of social media networks, it is the heart of Central Europe that holds the three major cybersecurity companies: Eset, Avast and AVG. Just recently Eset detected the source of the attack on Tesco Bank that took away money from the accounts of 9,000 customers. These companies are global, but with owners and headquarters located in the region, they support the business environment and invest a lot in local real estate projects – like the famous Savoy-Carlton Hotel, in the heart of Bratislava, which was bought by the owners of Eset this year.

If you want to understand the transition this region is going through, just think about other companies – for instance Prezi, a Hungarian software firm that offers a world-class way of making presentations, or Pixel Federation, a Slovak gaming studio whose TrainStation game has over 20 million players worldwide. These businesses have grown from local backgrounds but enjoy the opportunities of the global digital market. They are part of the driving force behind the new development of the local environment.

Starting out in the mid-90s, there was no state aid, no push from universities. Just a bunch of local entrepreneurs with global know-how and some money they earned thanks to the business opportunities presented by the marvellous new world wide web. They understood the power of sharing knowledge, contacts and money, and supporting others to develop interesting new ideas.

After a couple of years, supporting a start-up became a sexy hobby for local businessmen, big corporations and even governments. The EU’s Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) programme supported the biggest venture fund in Slovakia, pledging €16 million, while Vienna and the Austrian government offer incentives to the Pioneers Festival, which also gets backing from Red Bull’s Austrian cofounder, billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz. South Moravia in the Czech Republic has a great municipality programme for start-ups called JIC. But the core of this movement is entrepreneurs. Nowadays, it’s not just about money but also the talent to execute an idea.

Business engine for development

So how do the region’s cities cope with this fresh wave of economic activity? Of course Vienna regularly enjoys the top spots in many rankings of standard of living, but what about Budapest, Bratislava, Brno? They’ve been all going through massive development, and though the old hearts of these towns will keep their spirit, some of the newer parts will completely change.

As towns attract more and more millennials, some of the old parts will get a much-needed revival. Just think about the famous ‘ruin pubs’ in Budapest’s District VII (the old Jewish Quarter), very close to Andrássy Avenue, a main high street of the Hungarian capital. These formerly empty buildings have been turned into bars (often doubling as cultural venues) that are now an important part of the city’s nightlife and have helped to revitalise the district.

As businesses grow and towns need more offices, some of the brownfields in the region are being completely redeveloped. The best example is the Mlynské Nivy quarter in Bratislava, which used to be occupied by old industrial halls but now will host major blue-chip brands, including Swiss Re, Microsoft, Accenture and PwC. Many of them are bringing their ‘shared services centres’ to Slovakia, employing tens of thousands of people in the country.

The mixed use Sky Park development in Bratislava, by Zaha Hadid Architects. The scheme will deliver three residential towers and two office buildings. Image courtesy Penta Investments.

Danube Valley vision

In case you get lost in this fast-moving new world of Central Europe, you still have the leading navigation company Sygic, based in Bratislava, sitting in the new heart of the town. However, not even the best navigation can solve the problems of infrastructure and transportation. These will continue to be main issues for all the countries coming out of the old socialist era. It will take a lot of public investment and skills to find smart solutions.

Bratislava’s EU funds are mostly limited to infrastructure projects outside of the most developed towns, and after 2020 they will shrink anyway. Money will then have to come from public funds, or private developers will need to calculate extra costs into their projects, a trend you can already see in Bratislava.

Of course you can still be a dreamer, because at the outskirts of Bratislava AeroMobil is building a plant for its flying car. Who knows, maybe we’ll have self-flying cars in the near future that will bring these four countries of the Danube Valley even closer. (A more likely scenario is that they might help people in places like China, Africa or Australia, where infrastructure is often lacking.)

Until then, with distances here easily accessible by car, a common history and a young generation with no borders in their minds, this place offers unique potential for the future. Some people say that the Habsburg Empire was the most prosperous period for this region. I say the coming one can offer much more.

 

Juraj Porubský is the editor-in-chief of Forbes Slovakia and former editor-in-chief of Pravda, one of Slovakia’s major daily newspapers.

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The green tiger

 

 

Environmental design consultant Henry Woon of Atelier Ten speaks to architecture writer Sylvia Chan about what makes Singapore one of the world’s most sustainable cities.

 

Tell us about the concept of sustainability in the context of Singapore.

In Singapore’s building industry, there is a term called ESD, or Environmental Sustainability Design. Very often the industry assumes that ESD is the same as the environmental benchmarking practice, which is called Green Mark in Singapore. Green Mark is very much similar to BREEAM in the UK. It covers issues on building design such as energy, water, waste, material, biodiversity, construction process and wellbeing. It is a widely practised system in Singapore.

However, at Atelier Ten, we understand sustainability as a much wider concept that goes beyond benchmarking. A bespoke approach is often required for each project to achieve a truly sustainable design. In a way, benchmarking should only be a baseline requirement. We are pushing for a broader concept of sustainability that encompasses more aspects, and the Singapore market is also going towards this direction.

When did the concept of sustainable design start to prevail in Singapore?

I would say around 10 to 15 years ago, when there was a global push for sustainability in the built environment in response to global warming.

Typically, the built environment accounts for 50% of a city’s energy consumption. Singapore is a country well informed of the situation, and the industry has already started to respond to it. Green Mark was set up in 2005. Recently, Singapore also signed up to COP21 and the C40 initiatives dedicated to addressing climate change.

What triggered Singapore to promote sustainable design?

Singapore has very limited land for development. Most of the energy, materials and other resources for consumption are imports. This drove Singapore to focus on developing high-quality and high-performance projects which are less reliant on imported resources. This can increase the resilience of the city-state.

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. CREDIT: Jonathan Reid – Arch.Photos

What are some of the signature sustainable projects in Singapore?

I would say the first significant sustainable project is Gardens by the Bay, which was designed by Atelier Ten. The project won a number of awards, including World Building of the Year in 2012. It was designed to be zero-carbon, and sustainability was always at the heart of the project. The gardens feature an educational section at the end of the indoor greenhouse tour. This section highlights global warming issues, and showcases how the built environment and human lifestyle changes can help reduce carbon emissions. It raises environmental awareness at a domestic level.

Another project I would like to mention is the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Campus. The campus is set within the wild nature of Singapore and was designed to blend into nature as much as possible. The cycling network within the campus is very well utilised. The university also has relentless commitment to ensure the sustainable operation on campus. It launched an EcoCampus initiative and developed a campus-wide sustainability framework, aiming to reduce energy, water use and waste intensity by 35% by 2020.

Inside the Learning Hub at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), designed by Heatherwick Studio. CREDIT: Hufton + Crow

Who drives the sustainable design initiatives in Singapore?

The Singapore government has a significant role. A lot of the major developments in Singapore are funded by government agencies. The government is thus both the policymaker and the client. A lot of sustainability policies and their implementation are government-driven. The industry and the government are very much aligned, and sustainability policy implementation is very efficient here.

How does the Singapore government encourage and support sustainable design in the city?

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is the main agency in Singapore that sets up environmental and sustainability standards. It also drives their implementation. BCA’s strategies in promoting sustainability design are quite multifaceted. They include policy and regulation-making, initiatives to improve baseline performances, publicity of the Green Mark best practices, and provision of incentives to encourage developers to embrace sustainability measures. One extremely effective measure in incentivising developers to design projects with high environmental performance is additional GFA allowances.

The School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University, designed by CPG Consultants.

Singapore has a very high population density. What are some of the unique aspects in sustainable design in the country?

I think the density of the city gives designers and developers the opportunity to establish infrastructure and utilise resources in a more centralised way. An economy and lifestyle that emphasise sharing can facilitate Singapore’s sustainable development. The city-state is moving towards this direction by embracing a smart city economy.

The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 outlines Singapore’s vision to become more sustainable. What new measures will the city take to achieve this goal?

The blueprint covers a wide range of areas, including sustainable resources, environmental quality and community sustainability. The ‘car-lite’ campaign, transportation infrastructure upgrade, waste recycling (particularly food waste) and drainage treatment are some of the key new measures to enhance sustainability.

The Henderson Waves bridge, designed by RSP, connects Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park, and is a prime example of Singapore’s green infrastructure.

What are the latest smart technologies used for sustainable design in Singapore?

Singapore has the vision to become a Smart Nation and is believed to be in the midst of its fourth industrial revolution. The next phase of Singapore’s growth will be driven by IoT (Internet of Things, or the infrastructure of the information society), data and services, as well as sustainable design principles that will improve work efficiency and quality of life.

I think the key contribution of smart technologies is allowing extensive data collection and monitoring at the right time and the right place. This makes timely action possible. Intelligent and interconnected systems also allow environmental design and operational objectives to be met. This is very powerful, and will change industries, businesses and people’s lives.

What are Singapore’s latest goals in sustainable design?

I think Singapore’s commitment to COP21 has a monumental effect on the nation’s sustainability development. The nation will need to reduce carbon emission intensity by 36% based on the 2005 benchmark, and this is a very ambitious target. The government has also set a goal to retrofit 80% of its buildings by 2030 and rolled out measures to encourage energy efficiency, which will reduce the city-state’s dependence on foreign energy import. All these will help Singapore to maintain its competitiveness in global business.

What sorts of investments or resources are needed to meet these goals?

Resources can go in the form of business initiatives, policies, or education and community projects. Investments in smart technologies and infrastructure are also important. As Singapore is very much a government-led society, policies are usually very well coordinated and can be implemented efficiently to promote sustainability design.

Different cities face different challenges. How can other cities best learn from Singapore’s sustainable design initiatives?

One thing that Singapore has successfully established is a simple, straightforward and standardised set of green building regulations. The Green Mark is a single document that covers all the principles of sustainable design, and it delineates regulations for both residential and commercial buildings. The simplicity of the benchmarking system eliminates conflicting and overlapping regulations that could lead to inefficiency or confusion in the industry. This is very important to a successful approach to sustainable development. If a city simplifies and strengthens its sustainability regulations and clarifies it goals, developers, architects and contractors will be able to understand and comply with them more easily. Singapore is a successful example that illustrates how effective this approach can be.

 

Sylvia Chan specialises in research, writing and public relations in architecture. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Hong Kong, and her research interests include architectural representations, translations in architecture and the concept of Chineseness.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13.

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The Human Office

As wellness continues to move up the design agenda, Make considers the future of the office and the kind of workplace it could become.

The future office will be a human office, created with people at its heart. Designed for humans to flourish, it will respond to people’s diverse social, biological and intellectual needs. In the future, workplaces will provide a stimulating environment which encourages the innovation, wellbeing and productivity essential to sustainable, thriving businesses.

Workspace will be designed holistically to allow people to interact in a more natural way than what’s allowed by the rigid, desk-bound model prevalent today. By acknowledging the richness of human life and behaviour, we can replicate it to form an exciting ecosystem which recognises the countless physical and organic connections which form a vital environment.

“By acknowledging the richness of human life and behaviour, we can replicate it to form an exciting ecosystem.”

Central to this is designing space which provides flexibility for different types of businesses, whether financial services or tech, whose staff will use the space in different ways. Multiple modes of working – such as quiet concentration in an isolated spot, collaborative working in an informal meeting space, admin work standing at a table with a device, or making phone calls from a booth – will be tailored for. Technology will play a fundamental and discreet part in enabling people to work as flexibly as they like.

It’s equally important to have spaces where people can relax, socialise, eat and play. Whether it’s yoga on a green roof, sleep pods in a designated ‘quiet corner’, or a canteen offering locally grown fruit and veg, these spaces are vital, as people are ever more focused on health and wellbeing. Providing spaces for these activities will look after people’s social and emotional needs, allow them to physically recharge, and provide rich territory for new ideas.

Conceptual illustration of the human office.

Spontaneous, natural interactions which create community and inspiration will occur as people move between activities and spaces. Analysis of behavioural patterns and business structures will allow designers to evolve and adapt space and routes accordingly. This could result in more flexible lease arrangements, allowing tenants to shrink, grow and restructure more efficiently.

“Spontaneous, natural interactions which create community and inspiration will occur as people move between activities and spaces.”

In the future there will be less physical division between indoors and out, allowing the outdoors to come into the building, bringing people closer to nature. Based on humans’ innate attraction to nature, spaces will harness biophilic design creating extensive visual connections, greenery, natural materials, circadian lighting and pleasant acoustics. Building facades will clean and filter natural air while also enhancing and maximising natural light. Together, these elements will create a less stressful and therefore more productive environment.

Workplaces will achieve zero-carbon wherever possible and start to learn how to generate positive energy back to the environment. Reuse will be paramount, and developments will maximise the use of historic fabric. This will contribute to lowering carbon, as well as providing a unique sense of identity for the workplace and staff. Companies that express their brand values within their overall design will also benefit from greater staff engagement. At ground floor, offices will nurture connections to the public realm, with fully customisable space which invites people in, allowing businesses and users to fully engage with the wider community.

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London Refocused

 

 

 

By Ken Shuttleworth, BCO Vice President

 

London is hosting the British Council for Offices (BCO) conference for the first time in seven years, and as part of my Vice Presidency Make has taken on a central role in organising it. It’s a tough call hosting an event like this in a city everyone thinks they know, so the real challenge has been putting together a calendar of tours and plenary sessions that show a new side to one of the most famous cities in the world.

So we’ve taken a different approach. As one of the global centres of commerce, London has some of the best new office stock in the world; with buildings at the forefront of design and technology, and attracts and retains some of the world’s leading companies. We have secured unprecedented access to over 50 new commercial buildings, many available exclusively to BCO delegates. The idea is to give a behind-the-scenes view of how London is catering for a wide range of occupiers who combine to make this city an unrivalled mixing pot of creativity, entrepreneurialism, trade and finance.

We’ve divided London into 14 bite-size clusters, each of which has a selection of incredible buildings that offer something interesting to learn, see or experience. From the regeneration hotspots of Battersea and King’s Cross to the Square Mile, the finance capital of the world, each tour will hopefully provoke, inspire and influence us to think about the future of office design, pushing the agenda beyond occupation densities and air con and into the real challenges of creating commercial stock that caters for the future as much as for today (keeping in mind that many of the buildings being planned, designed and built now will house a generation of workers who haven’t even been born yet).

We want to explore what an excellent commercial office will look like two decades on. What will occupiers want? What legislation is likely to be in place to protect the environment, the health of employees and the safety of contractors? How can we design now for the needs of future generations and predict what may or may not be top of their workplace requirements?

Someone who has been at the top of this game for decades is Norman Foster, Founder and Chairman of Foster + Partners, who is opening this year’s conference. Lord Foster has done more for office development than any other architect and is perfectly placed to bring the debate about the future of office space into a design sphere. He will offer his own unique perspective on London and share lessons he has learned while working on some of the most important buildings of our time.

Norman Foster

Our other keynote speaker is Ole Scheeren, Principal of Buro Ole Scheeren. He brings to the panel a completely new way of thinking about buildings, having earned his stripes working with Rem Koolhaas in Asia. He has built some of the most thought-provoking buildings of our age and now has his sights set on London. Delegates will have the chance to hear both his and Lord Foster’s perspectives on the role of office design in London’s future.

Ole Scheeren

Other speakers include Despina Katsikakis, who will be exploring the role of the workplace, how we will work in the future and how workplaces can reflect the direction of a business; and Sir Stuart Lipton, who will bring together a group of speakers to debate the changing rules over traditional locations and the impact this is having on the map of London. We’ll also be exploring the role workplaces play in the wellness agenda, and how buildings can contribute to our physical and mental health.

Despina Katsikakis

Sir Stuart Lipton

We’ve called it London Refocused, because we want people to look at London with fresh eyes and have the chance to see it like never before. We also want people to refocus their understanding of the role of offices and their impact on their surroundings, their wider cities and their occupants. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to break away from the day job and look at the bigger picture, including how we can influence the direction of our ‘unique corner of the working world’.

 

The BCO Conference runs 9-11 May in London, UK. Waiting list places available.

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Cycle design for the workplace

Matt Bugg

 

 

Make’s Matt Bugg on the rising popularity of cycling in the UK and how designers are responding to the growing demands of a cycling workforce.

 

Cycling on the rise

Kuala Lumpur has its crowd-sourced cycle maps, Jakarta its car-free Sundays, Copenhagen its Cycle Snake bridge. In the Netherlands, Groningen is home to heated cycle paths and traffic signals with rain sensors, while Krommenie boasts the world’s first solar cycle lane.

And London? The Mayor is investing £770 million in cycling infrastructure across the capital to improve cycle safety and encourage more Londoners to travel by bike, as well as accommodate those who already do. Two new Cycle Superhighways have been announced, London’s first full-time Walking and Cycling Commissioner has been appointed, and a network of backstreet routes known as Quietways are due to open later this year. Another £90 million is going to the Mini-Holland programme, which is giving three outer London boroughs funding to improve streets and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

Visualisation of the new road layout at Blackfriars Junction

It’s not just the capital that’s racing to update its cycle infrastructure. Leeds and Cambridge are each now home to a CyclePoint – a Dutch-style, rail station-adjacent facility that offers secure bike parking plus a repairs service, info centre, rental bike concession and retail shop. With space for nearly 3,000 bikes, the Cambridge CyclePoint is Britain’s largest dedicated cycle parking facility.

All these developments are part of a wave of bike-related infrastructure transforming cities around the world – a collective effort to make cycling an integral form of transport and a normal part of everyday life, something people feel safe and comfortable doing. Popularity for cycling is certainly rising here in the UK. Running and cycling app Strava data shows that riders nationwide logged an unprecedented 803 million kilometres in 2016, while TfL expects there to be more Londoners commuting by bike than by car in 2018.

Given that many of these journeys are work commutes, it’s worth asking: how can architects use their office designs to encourage this upward trend?

The workplace response

With the rising popularity of cycling in the UK comes a growing demand from commercial occupiers for better cycling provision. In the fierce battle to attract and retain the best talent, businesses are under pressure to provide cutting-edge cycling facilities – a trend that’s transforming cycle provision in workplaces across the country. Ample bike-parking, showers and changing rooms are fast becoming obligatory features of new-build and refurbished office schemes. What does the modern office worker want from their physical workspace? Increasingly, the answer is a place to secure their bike.

At Make we have a team of specialists in building and property-related cycle design. We take a progressive attitude towards the integration and delivery of cyclist and pedestrian-friendly spaces, particularly in our office designs. In doing so, we encourage low-carbon transport and help make cycling a safe and convenient option for commuters, including those with disabilities.

Take our work on 5 Broadgate, a new world-class office building in the City of London for UBS. Exceeding best-practice cycling facilities formed a key strand of the transport plan. In pursuit of British Land’s ‘Places People Prefer’ sustainability strategy, we provided an exemplary cycling facility with a dedicated cycle ramp and separate mezzanine level containing 523 cycle spaces, 500-plus lockers, and 50 showers and dressing areas.

Substantial cycle provision also proved integral to our designs for 80 Charlotte Street and Rathbone Square, both mixed use office and residential developments. The former includes 226 secure and covered cycle parking spaces, plus shower/changing facilities; the latter, meanwhile, has nearly 500 cycle parking spaces – including dedicated office, retail and residential provision – and heated lockers and showers.

And then there’s Make’s own studio at 32 Cleveland Street, a converted car park completed in 2015. Intent on giving our employees cycle provision, we repurposed a redundant lightwell to maximise our limited space and open up access to wall rack storage for 30 bikes, plus showers and lockers.

The next steps

As designers, we’re faced with the challenge of producing efficient, innovative designs for workplace cycle provision – ones that not only address cyclists’ individual needs but also integrate into the wider infrastructure. This means considering the population at large and allowing for a far greater cycle provision in our public realm projects. There’s even scope to embrace automation. Just look at ECO Cycle in Japan, which provides large-scale automated underground cycle parking facilities – a boon for densely populated cities.

Ultimately, we share the view of architecture writer and friend Peter Murray, who is adamant that “cities which have fewer cars and more active transportation are better cities to live in.” As noted in TfL’s London Cycling Design Standards, which Murray provides training and guidance on, cycling is fast becoming a mass transportation mode, and new developments must reflect this shift and allow for future growth too. We support the guidance these standards provide, and we strive to produce workplace designs that further this vision.

This post has been adapted from Make Annual 12.

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Are you VReady?

Peter Greaves

 

 

Peter Greaves on the great potential of virtual reality in architecture, the best products on the market, and how we’re using VR at Make.

 

The ‘Virtual Renaissance’
Virtual reality (VR) has had a few false starts over the years, but it’s matured into a technology ready for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications. 2016 was heralded as the year of the ‘Virtual Renaissance’, with VR moving beyond its traditional gaming and entertainment sphere into front rooms and business fields as diverse as retail, charity, education and medicine, among others.

With architects now able to use VR software to easily create and interact with computer-generated 3D environments, it’s not hard to envisage virtual reality joining CAD, physical models and the pen as an essential design tool of the future, with architects and clients able to ‘step into’ their designs at the flick of a switch.

Still from the virtual reality setup of a building Still from the virtual reality setup of a building

Exploring buildings with VR
VR is already beginning to influence real estate sales, especially in the United States. Property developers there are using it to sell off-plan homes, with customers responding positively to the opportunity to stand inside an apartment before it’s been built. This illustrates the huge advantage VR has over a CGI on a flatscreen: a realistic sense of scale.

Architects who’ve spent their lives looking at 2D plans and 3D computer models have become experts at interpreting them and imagining the space they’re trying to show. But it’s always tricky to convey this to clients. The most successful method to date has been the physical model, which is much easier to understand than flat approximations of space. But even with the speed and ease afforded by 3D printing, models still have their limitations, namely, that they’re built at a greatly reduced scale, meaning a good amount of imagination is still needed to understand the building. Architects rarely have the freedom to build a 1:1 model of even a single room of a building, and if we do manage to mock up a space, it’s usually late in the design process or even during construction. VR could potentially solve this problem, allowing architects to present fully 3D, 1:1 scale ‘models’ of buildings for clients to explore.

The best VR for architects
The four main products currently on the market for architects that Make is exploring are:

  1. Oculus Rift – kick-starting the current VR renaissance, this headset lets users look around a 3D space. Movement is limited and primarily a seated experience, with the avatar controlled with a standard gaming console controller.
  2. HTC Vive – what we use at Make, the Vive introduces ‘room scale’, with two small tracking lasers that locate the user’s head and the visuals respond as the user walks, jumps or even lies down, creating the sensation of being in a different place – a phenomenon known as ‘presence’. It also uses two wand controllers, similar to the Nintendo Wii’s remote, that let users see their hands and interact with objects within the virtual world. People can use these tracked controllers to paint with a virtual brush, or pan and rotate a model or image, simply by moving their hands.
  3. Google Cardboard – a simpler solution in which users put their smartphone inside a special cardboard box with two lenses and look inside. Here, the smartphone forms the screen and brains of the machine and can produce a visually similar 3D environment to other methods. Apart from that it’s quite limited, but it does have one major advantage: it’s extremely cheap and portable, making it easy to take to meetings or send to clients, who can download an app or model and view it in 360-degree, 3D video.
  4. PlayStation VR – promises some of the more impressive VR features at an affordable price point, which many predict will be what brings this product to living rooms across the globe. Clients, once they’ve tried on their children’s VR goggles and look around the fantastical worlds developers are creating, might rightly ask, “Why can’t I walk around in my BIM model?”

Woman using HTC Vive    Man using HTC Vive

VR at Make
At Make, we’ve used our HTC Vive on several projects so far, allowing clients to view and even ‘stand inside’ their building at full scale as we design it. The response has been overwhelmingly positive: we can more easily explain our design decisions, and they can more easily understand the building. Take ceiling height, for example: you can try to explain how certain dimensions will feel, but it’s far more effective to put a client inside the room and let them see for themselves. It’s also far less time consuming and expensive than mocking up a false ceiling somewhere. BIM modelling has such a high level of detail that a good VR tour of the model can offer a full-scale mock-up of the whole building before a single spade has broken ground.

We’ve also started printing our own version of Google Cardboard viewers to send out to clients. These can be posted flat and sent alongside project documents, drawings and renders to offer an additional description of the building, either as an immersive environment or a 3D video and flyby. The ability to convey a true sense of scale, even in this simple form, is a powerful addition to our current forms of media.

VR and the future of architecture
VR is certain to have a tremendous impact on how we communicate our designs to clients and make design decisions. Simulating the way light enters a room, the way sound insulation reacts to ambient noise, even evoking a sense of place – this and more is on the horizon once VR is combined with existing and emerging technologies.

Integrating this level of immersion into the design process will undoubtedly lead to better-realised visions and more successful designs in the future, not just at Make but across the industry at large.

Woman using VR headset

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Property’s rising stars on the future of the industry

Laura-Le-Gal
By Laura Le Gal


The events of the past few months suggest there is a sharp divide between the way the young and old think in the UK. However, at the recent Estates Gazette roundtable entitled “Property’s next generation: the change agents”, the consensus among younger professionals in the industry was that the older generation is listening to them more than ever.

With the tide turning against some of the “old, traditional ways”, according to British Land attendee James Rolton, we are bound to see the ideas of the next generation playing more and more of a central role in the way we do things.

Held as part of the London Real Estate Forum 2016, it was an honour to be invited to take part in the event, which gathered 20 millenials across firms such as British Land, Knight Frank, The Collective, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Leadlease.

Mr Fogg's_7
The roundtable at Mr. Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair © Garry Castel, Modo Publishing

Emily Wright, features and global editor at the Estates Gazette chaired the discussion, which centred on who the next generation is and how they can help shape the future of the built environment.

So what do the next generation think?

Below are five of the most salient points I took from the conversation:

  • What’s the definition of “next generation”?
    It’s not just a matter of age – the term encapsulates individuals who were also “wanting to set the world on fire”, as well as having reached a certain professional maturity (around 10-15 years’ experience) and the influence that comes with it.
  • What are the new challenges of the modern workplace?
    The fact that the next generation needs to be adaptable, flexible, and open to change if they want to be successful. Stability, lifelong employment in a single company, or even doing the same job one’s whole life are not something this group is likely to experience. The world is rapidly changing and technology will increasingly affect the way we live and work.
  • What is the next generation known for?
    While tech was seen as being synonymous with millennial-led innovation, there was some debate over whether there is more to the story than CRE tech (commercial real estate technology). Design also has the power to “address real social problems” and change people’s lives.
  • What are the biggest challenges or opportunities the next generation faces?
    The public sector is not as innovative as some of the private sector, often putting up barriers to unconventional new ideas, because they don’t fit in the boxes and regulations already in place. Governments and councils need to attract young people with dynamic ideas, and give them the power to change things.
  • How are the next generation changing the industry?
    Alternative development projects led by ambitious young entrepreneurs – eg Boxpark and The Collective – reduce the red tape and project timelines from start to completion. The Collective CEO Reza Merchant described his company as providing an alternative form of living and working, purposefully designed for young people.

It’s worth making one final point, that the majority of the participants of the roundtable were male and Caucasian. If we are to design for an increasingly diverse society, then increasing diversity within the sector is a challenge we must all meet head-on.

However if the energy, expertise and passion of this particular group of individuals is anything to go by and the fresh and exciting ideas that they brought to the debate, it feels like there won’t be much that we can’t achieve and change if we put our minds to it.

 

For more information on anything covered in this post please contact comms@makearchitects.com or your usual contact at Make.

 

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Relevant Cities

By John Prevc

Cities need to keep pace with societal changes in order to ensure that they remain relevant for their inhabitants. This means designing flexible and adaptable cities where streets, spaces and buildings are able to slowly metamorphosize into places that resonate in their own time. Cities need to mature carefully, keeping the best and most significant markers of their culture and identity and hence preserving their individuality and essence.

We are unable to accurately guess where we will be even in the not-too-distant future. Keeping our cities relevant for the communities that inhabit them requires an understanding of the human condition and in particular our social and economic interdependence and our need to exchange information with each other. The human condition is consistent and universal, adapting to the context of place and time. Relevant cities are therefore a product of time and how we as humans interface with it.

Today’s relevant cities

Successful cities are cities that offer people opportunities to improve their lives. Whether it’s through an increase in employment opportunities, better housing, a well-established social infrastructure, a connected and well-maintained transport system or simply a cool place to be and hang out, it’s choice that’s the differentiator.

So how do successful cities optimise choice? We believe that one of the most significant factors is greater density. The exchange of information is at the heart of both economic and social success in the community. Through increased density connections are improved. Dense cities encourage social inclusion, foster business development, improve connections between members of the community and help to reinforce identity and a sense of place through design excellence.

High density life

High density brings life to the city

How do we deliver design excellence within a high-density city location? Our starting point would be to ask the community what it is that they feel they need. Consulting with the community and broader stakeholders will make cities more relevant. The specifics of place and the maintenance of uniqueness is something that lives in those who experience the area on a day-to-day basis. It is when a community is asked to adopt a commercial or political vision imposed from those on the outside that relevance is lost.

We can no longer consider the family unit in the traditional way. We are a more mobile society, more often than not living away from our families as we follow work opportunities. We live on our own for much longer at both ends of our lives and the fear of isolation brings us closer to those living and working around us. Our city communities are an extended family and often bring more relevance to our lives than our own blood line.

These social changes, together with an escalation in property prices especially in London, suggest that homes need to become more affordable either through a policy of subsidy or/and the consideration of smaller homes for single person habitation. Smaller homes will not however help families with children. Families with children are finding it increasingly difficult to afford three and four bedroom homes. If we are to encourage whole life city living and a more balanced community we will need to build variety of size and tenure.

Cities with greater densities encourage people to walk and cycle as distances between destinations are reduced and more accessible. Improvements in health and wellbeing are tangible results of this, with all of the social, environmental and economic benefits that this brings. The reduction in the pace of movement increases opportunities for people to meet informally and exchange information. This improves social cohesion and has economic benefit. It also makes for a more vibrant and active public realm which is safer.

Lower car use

Dense cities have lower car use than small suburban towns

Dense cities are green cities in both the physical and figurative sense. They offer visual and functional amenity at all scales, from the balcony to the private garden through to the public square and park. Density is a balance between building and open space giving people an environment where there are clear and well-defined boundaries between their public and private lives.

Density improves choice not only in terms of jobs and housing but also in terms of the types of goods and services available on the high street. Competition increases choice, reduces costs and improves quality. A significant population within the local community allows the market to offer a bespoke service which is adaptive and flexible following the societal needs which it will reflect if it is to be successful. For cities to remain relevant they need to be nimble and responsive adapting to the community they serve.

Flexible buildings

Flexible cities enable buildings to evolve with time

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

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