• Blueprint for the future

    4 April 2017

    The rapid pace of technological innovation, continued urbanisation and the growth of global trade are fuelling development on a scale never before seen in human history. In 2017 the challenges faced by society are many and require innovation in architectural design which is fundamentally changing the very fabric of our buildings and infrastructure.

    3XN Architects_Quay Quarter Tower

    Future architecture is already present in our towns and cities. New buildings are taking on forms barely imaginable even quite recently.

    Some of the challenges requiring new building forms are universal, some are local. The consumption of natural resources that contributed to the rise of the megacities of the twentieth century is no longer sustainable. Our patterns of consumption are being urgently rethought. Emerging economies are looking to establish unique presences on the global scene but must now address issues of scarcity and environmental impact. Newly developing economies are also the beneficiaries of brand new technologies which offer designers new materials and processes with which to tackle the challenges of a modern world and the complex performance objectives sought by developers.

    Many urban populations are ageing and need residential and health care facilities which provide sensitive support for vulnerable members of the community. Some communities are small and remote and require architectural design to improve livelihoods in areas with limited resources. In densely populated centres space is a premium and requires visionary design excellence to ensure that civic and commercial buildings can be reimagined to provide for the rapidly changing needs of populations racing into the future, a future of fantastic architectural design.

    Society’s issues are not objects of contemplation but contemporary challenges for which innovative and creative design solutions must be sought. Showcased here is a selection of projects that offer a glimpse of things to come.

    Main Building of Guangdong-Macau Traditional Chinese Medicine Technology Industrial Park

    Making a statement

    Landmark buildings are key to establishing a city’s identity. As emerging economies across the Asia-Pacific seek to establish themselves on the global stage, creating iconic buildings that stand out against a skyline can be bold statements of intent and ambition.

    The Quay Quarter Tower in Sydney, Australia comprises a series of stacked, angled glass volumes to create a striking spectacle in the city’s Circular Quay precinct. The massing of each rotated slice divides the building into five distinct volumes, atop which are exterior green terraces that provide scenic areas for socialising not typically found in commercial high rises. These spaces dissolve the verticality of the structure whilst the podium levels greatly increase the area’s spaces for social interaction.

    Embracing a sense of place and culture is significant. The tubular form of the Vincom Landmark 81 in Ho Chi Minh City, evokes a common Vietnamese adage that resonates worldwide; that a single stick may be weak, but a bundle of sticks is strong. In this way corporate identity and ethos is reflected in design; in the case of Vingroup and their tower, it is values of collaboration and synergy that drive their success.

    East Perth Power Station

    Local responses

    Intelligent designs are often made-to-measure responses to their local environment. The Trousdale residence and retail development in Seri Kembangan, Malaysia responds to the sub-tropical conditions of its environment through its reliance on wooden timber screens to facilitate natural ventilation. Expressive of the local vernacular and architectural palette of the region, the accumulation of these wooden screens create deep overhangs that in turn provide shade for outdoor pocket spaces.

    Engaging with your surroundings is even more salient in rural areas. The redesign of the Lichen Country Club in Singapore comprises a low-lying spread of six small open pavilions or pods sat harmoniously amongst the natural topography and ecosystem of the area. A biophilic design approach integrates nature into the lived environment through a constant visual and tactile connection with the area’s fauna, to minimal impact.


    Emotionally intelligent projects that improve the wellbeing of their community are invaluable assets. The Hualien Wellness Residences in Hualien, Taiwan cater for the area’s ageing population by encouraging an active and health-conscious lifestyle. A medical facility within the complex offers residents ready access to healthcare services, whilst a complex-wide public path and shared public amenities provide ample opportunity for social interaction. Gardens found at every level of the residences foster an amenable living environment and foster physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

    When resources are limited, ingenuity in design can be key. Tree House is the latest international housing project to provide solutions in low-cost housing. Assembly requires only simple tools and is adaptable to varied sites as required. The modular design comprises a series of 75m2 timber-framed units stacked up to over ten stories around a central lift and stair core. Straightforward solutions like Tree House offer an elegantly simple vision for providing for the housing needs of the future.

    Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners_Tree House

    A whole new workplace

    Offices of tomorrow must keep pace with the ever-evolving ‘world of work’. The central podium at the Guangdong-Macau Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Industrial Park in Zhuhai, China incorporates a mix of communal breakout spaces and areas for quiet concentration. Equally, the internal configuration of the higher floors is a flexible blend of collaborative space and individual privacy that best suits the needs of the team-centric technology firms that populate the building. These measures and others should be embraced by workplace designers worldwide to engage employees and maximise productivity by creating healthy internal environments.

    Sustainability in the future is paramount

    Sustainability should be at the forefront of every design philosophy in 2017. The Shanghai K2 Xinhua Lu Project in Changning, Shanghai incorporates photovoltaic panels into its facade, tower skylight and pavilion roof to create a sustainable energy resource. Treated sewage and rainwater is reused to irrigate the structure’s landscaped areas. F&B terraces are fitted with mist sprinklers to reduce solar heat gain and thus lower external temperatures by up to 8C.

    A renewed emphasis on renewable sources of energy is required. Solar and geothermal energy sources are used to power the Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning in Shenzhen, China. Ample natural daylight floods the interior space, leading to substantial savings in electricity consumption. Moreover, a functional exterior facade comprises natural stone louvers and an insulated glass climate envelope to form a truly innovative and low-impact design.

    The adaptive reuse of older, ageing buildings into new projects can be key to land conservation and reducing waste. The East Perth Power Station in Perth, Australia reimagines a disused power station into a contemporary art gallery. Conceived as a series of rotating and shifting planks creating a horizontal and terraced urban plateau, elements of the original power station are preserved to protect the building’s heritage whilst integrating the new development.

    These strategies are some of the many ways in which designers are imagining the future. It is clear that, from commission to completion, architects must consider their role as social scientists and foster relationships between their projects and the world beyond, designing forward-focused and innovative projects assisting humanity to flourish along the path ahead.

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