A study conducted by Urban Affairs Review shows the correlation between an aesthetically appealing city and happier citizens. The results clearly state the importance of good city architecture and the impact it can have on the well-being of the inhabitants. The planning of a Mega City requires a lot of innovation in making it both pleasing and eco-friendly. Traditional urban surroundings do not include a lot of vegetation, but architects continuously come up with new ideas to increase the amount of flora in their designs. Another trend in the Mega City structures is the so-called concept of micro cities emerging within big cities providing housing, work and public services, all in one space. Is it possible to access the benefits of a small town whilst living in a big city?
Architecture of Mega City as a strategical tool for happier population
Bringing nature closer
In a world where climate change is a constant threat, it is understandable why eco-friendly sustainable architecture is a real trend for the development of new buildings. Nature and green surroundings are a big part of the sustainability thinking. For instance, in Vietnam, the FPT university in Ho Chi Minh City is designed in a way that allows nature to play the main role. The complex is designed by Vo Trong Nghia Architects and has an area of 22,500 m2. The buildings are embellished with trees, on the rooftops, on the ground level, and balconies. This amount of greenery is expected to promote the well-being and emotional stability of both students and professors. The College of the Environment in the University of Washington reports that nature relieves the mind from stress and improves performance. In addition, vegetation collects the carbon emission from the buildings, purifying air on the campus area. Green parks are also vital in the planning Mega Cities with a million citizens in desperate need of stress relief.
Image source: Design Boom / Vo Trong Nghia Architects
Sustainability is also an important element in Paris-based Vincent Callebaut Architectures’ new project “Tour & Taxis”. The company plans to turn a custom clearance and storage area in Brussels into a space fit for the modern urban life. The strategy consists of an Energy-Plus Masterplan, a Metamorphosis of the Gare Maritime and the construction of 3 Vertical Forests. The firm's project is very ambitious with 85 000 mÇ of housing (Zone B) and 50 000 mÇ of offices, retail, and leisure (Gare Maritime). Vincent Callebaut Architectures describe the goal of Gare Maritime, also called BIOCAMPUS, as being “aimed towards co-working and the circular economy of this early 21st century, based on the "Triple R" theory: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. The buildings five naves will each have their own specific industry-inspired architecture. The project will contain a large amount of green plants on the roofs as well as three vertical forests with a total area of 85,000 m2. European cities do not have the same condition as, for example, Asian cities. The cities are historical and full of, sometimes, hundred years old architecture, making it next to impossible to start over from scratch. This is where the renovation of buildings comes in handy. Outdated buildings like the Tour & Taxi area in Brussels can be designed to better fit green urban living. For example, architecture can provide a better protection against natural catastrophes and other problems related to climate change. Inevitably, huge investments will have to be collected to realize projects like these. The question is whether European societies will be prepared to pay the price. That will be the real challenge for the planning of Mega Cities.
A focus on the citizens
The sustainability trends can also be seen from a health perspective since vegetation and green surroundings improve the well-being of citizens. The College of the Environment in the University of Washington states that green areas in urban surroundings also inspire physical activities, something well needed in a time when most people do not exercise nearly enough. Besides, green areas can benefit the city in an economical sense. Peter Harnik and Ben Welle from the Trust for Public Land state that citizens visiting parks for exercising are healthier and have lower medical costs than non-exercising citizens. They give the example of Sacramento, California, a city that has managed to save almost $20 million in medical costs in 2007 through its parks.
Hazel Borys, Managing Principal of PlaceMakers, adds that green public spaces help inhabitants to become more sociable. However, there are social challenges of the urban public space. Citizens in large cities rarely interact with strangers in public spaces. How can a city’s public areas be reinvented to make them more adapted to socialization? One solution to the problem could be a more concentrated architecture of city blocks. The climate expert of Allianz Climate Solutions, Thomas Liesch, says that “the ideal city is one that consists of multiple self-contained centers”. He is talking about micro cities, which are small cities inside a big city. The idea of this kind of structure is that housing, enterprises, and relaxation all can be found in the geographical realms of the micro-city. A complex like this will save the inhabitants time and energy since long commuting routes can be avoided. It is also probable that the structure will allow the citizens to get to know their neighbors and lower the bar for socializing. There are already plenty of fully functional microcites and Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York is one of them. It used to be an industrial area but has now been transformed into a flourishing neighborhood providing 7,000 jobs and a commercial center to its inhabitants. There are also plans for building a food hall and a park.
Harbin Opera House, designed by MAD Architects and accomplished in December 2016, is yet another attempt to change the public places as we know them. The building is a curvy mountain-like wonder situated close to the Songhua River in China. Founder, Ma Yansong, explains that the goal was to combine the construction with its surrounding nature, making it possible for visitors to enjoy the view from the rooftop without the need to buy opera tickets. A new inspiring way to keep public spaces open for people wanting to enjoy both opera and nature. Harbin Opera House is a good example of multipurpose buildings that are being beneficial for increased interaction and environmental value.
A new trend in city planning is allowing inhabitants to have a say in how their surroundings will be designed. Nowadays, listening to the opinions of the public on urban planning is becoming a common practice. For example, Santa Monica, California, has launched a Tinder for city architecture. The citizens can swipe right or left to show support or show dissatisfaction on possible plans for new buildings in their city.
A 3D printed Mega City
According to Allianz Risk Pulse, the mega-cities will be faced with challenges of an increasing number of small-sized households. The fast and cost-efficient 3D printing technology could provide a solution to this problem. A professor at the University of Southern California named Behrokh Khoshnevis was the first to achieve 3D printed structure of a building in 2009. Since then, a lot has happened in the field. Jack Cheng, the professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, thinks that it is entirely possible to print whole cities.
There are already companies like Cazza, specializing in designs and the construction of entire buildings with new 3D printing technology. The advantages Cazza claims to provide are to “make construction faster, more cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.” As for the speed, they have a crane, the "Minitank", that can fill up to 200 m2 of concrete a day. This technology is 50 % quicker than regular construction procedures. Besides, Cazza states that printing, compared to traditional construction, lowers the costs of material and labor by up to 90%. As the printing can be done onsite, it lowers transportation costs and the amount of trash produced in the construction. Concrete is currently the preferred material in printing buildings, but in the future, there might be other choices as well.
Dubai is a good example of how the 3D printing of cities will work. The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, declares that the city’s goal for 2030 is to have 25% of its buildings printed. 3D printed Mega Cities are not so far away after all.
A Mega City with many green urban areas equals a sustainable city with healthier citizens, which lowers the city’s medical costs. For greener European cities, renovations of old and historical buildings are crucial. Mega Cities will have a new structure of a combination of micro cities. Brooklyn Navy Yard is an example of functional structures of urban planning that has been reimbursed from the industrial area. The structure encourages its inhabitants to live and work in the same area, saving time, costs and energy. The planning of Mega Cities needs huge investments, especially with the increasing need for housing. The 3D printing of buildings and cities can solve this because they are both cost-efficient and environmentally friendly.