London-based innovation consultancy New Territory have boldly re-imagined city centres with 7 innovative concepts, unveiled today.
The future-focused provocations are a response to the major economic and strategic challenges facing the real estate sector, city governments and businesses, which have been accelerated by the aftershock of COVID-19. Among the seven ideas New Territory have unveiled are ways to make city-centre buildings as porous, agile and flexible as possible, and how to better connect buildings to each other, to the street, and to the networks of people around them.
“Huge challenges and opportunities are facing central district real-estate providers and town planners as traditionally business-heavy zones have been hollowed out. Bold and innovative thinking is needed about what physical office buildings are now best used for, and how they need to evolve to become more adaptable, flexible and agile to meet the changing needs of all stakeholders, from citizens and business-owners, to city governments and the real estate sector,” said Luke Miles, founder of New Territory.
New Territory’s 7 future city centres concepts are:
Conduits of mobility – Questioning the idea of the skyscraper as a ‘capped’, stand-alone monolith, this idea suggests how buildings could function as vertical conduits from one level of mobility to another: from street-level to sky; from building to building; from underground transport to street to air travel; for both people and goods. This would better integrate the building into local services and infrastructure, as well as increase footfall.
Agile floor plates – Instead of a stack of fixed open-plan offices, agile and modular spaces could flex to cater for a richer variety of activity, such as mini-factories, urban farms, pop-ups and workshops. More flexible spaces within buildings via the adoption of agile programming of floor plates could see increased potential for entrepreneurs and start-ups to access city centre environments – and diversify the revenue stream for real estate landlords.
Blended streetscapes – A building can be much more than a private facility located on the side of the street. Structures could be made to work harder to create and serve surrounding street-life. By opening the building to activities on the street, and by taking responsibility for how the streetscape is used for new services and experiences, these once closed locations could become open hubs for the community.
Porous facades – Providing greater transparency into what happens on the inside – through new architectural interventions or digital displays – structures can better connect to the surrounding community. Making a building more accessible to the outside world and allowing people to explore its purpose in real time, its personality and what it offers, can boost potential footfall, extend the streetscape upwards and attract new commercial opportunities.
Day & night mode – The majority of city-centre office buildings have daily rhythms that revolve around the 5-day week, 9-5pm. Greater flexibility in layouts, modular spatial design and new applications of technology could create fresh opportunities for engagement with a building on a 24/7 basis. This would optimise a building’s night-time function and personality to increase potential revenue streams and diversify the building’s functionality.
Horizontal networks – No two buildings are the same, but nor are they islands. We must consider the power of creating closer relationships between buildings. If neighbouring structures were better connected – both physically and experientially – a horizontal network could emerge that gives people and services more seamless and fluid ways of navigating the city, and opening up new opportunities for how brands and businesses might occupy these new, liminal urban spaces.
Positive contributors – While many buildings incorporate solar panels and other technology to make them more self-sufficient, much more can be done to make every building a positive contributor to the local infrastructure and community it is a part of. Whether it is the generation and recycling of energy or the creation of cleaner air, buildings can do more to give back to the cities that host them and provide greater environmental benefits for all who move within and around them.
By undertaking this work, New Territory hope to inspire and ignite fresh debate about how our buildings and city centres can better work to suit the emerging needs of businesses, governments and people as we start to look ahead to a post-COVID world.