Towards a Volumetric Urbanism: Governing Underground & Vertical Space

Donald McNeill
University of Western Sydney, Sydney

The current age of tall building design is increasingly being defined by the growing need to strategically plan the volumetric conditions of centrally located urban spaces. The objective is to examine three challenges to the established theorization of contemporary urban space that constitute "volumetric urbanism": (1) an on-going series of experimental design and engineering practices in skyscraper design, eco-city design (such as domes and capsules), and the conscious governmental organization of underground space, which requires a different language of appraisal than conventional aesthetic or formal architectural critiques; (2) the growth of "virtual" rights to space, including air, subterranean, transferable, and distributed space ownership rights, which are re-configuring conventional property development valuation and practice, and which require enhanced skills in interpreting unorthodox valuations and metrics.; (3) there has been an expansion of the role of consultants and global service firms that provide the intermediate technological practices and products that make these volumetric spaces function safely, comfortably, and profitably.

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