Chief Executive Officer
Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Chicago
As city populations grow and the planet as a whole becomes more urban, tall buildings have a responsibility that extends far beyond themselves. A “kinder, gentler” model of skyscraper must be developed, one which can support a wide range of human activity, while also reinforcing the natural context. Although still the exception, in recent years we have seen the development of tall buildings suggestive of this positive future, which complement their environment aesthetically, socially and ecologically, and provide the basis for locally-specific skyscraper vernaculars that can return a “sense of place” to increasingly global cities.
But we must do more. It is not enough to simply enable density. Tall buildings need to form vital connections between layers of the city. Today, the world of urban planning and infrastructure is mostly a two-dimensional, ground-plane-restricted, horizontal proposition, and mostly in the public domain. But it needs to become a three-dimensional world with urban infrastructure that is fully integrated with vertical development. This will enable the multi-dimensional, multilevel vertical cities that are so omnipresent in the popular imagination, and so tantalizingly close to reality today.
In addition to demonstrating examples of existing built work and the concept of integrated vertical urbanism, this presentation also showed the work of the recent academic studio convened at the Illinois Institute of Technology, entitled “Sustainable Vertical Urbanism: Towards 2050.” Set in the near future, the studio explored the sustainability and resiliency in urban environments within the context of accelerating urbanism and climate change, proposing new city locations and urban design for a world in which humanity has come to accept a simple truth: that the continued viability of our cities is now governed by the inherent sustainability of their location.