Pixelated Cityscapes of the Future

Paul Runaghan
Associate Director
CallisonRTKL, London

Cities, buildings and the spaces in between affect our mood, life experience, well-being and enjoyment. This is down to the cognitive hippocampal region of our brains, which are attuned to the geometry and arrangement of the spaces that we inhabit. Studies by cognitive scientists confirm architects have instinctively, historically and consciously designed our cities to assimilate this to shape the sense of place and create interesting architecture, celebrating the voids and spaces in between by animating the ground plane. The foundation for design is not solely visual. We also explore location, context, spectral qualities of light, color, shape, texture, scale, rhythm, sound, sight, taste, feel, hear, smell and thermoception. We grapple with nociception, equilibrioception and proprioception. However, our cities are evolving vertically. Densification, sector clustering, living patterns and improvements to the ground plane by tall, slender towers are raising the urban topography. We are now living, working, playing and spending more time hovering above the ground plane. Although this may be exciting, the application of the typical stratification of tall building uses can alienate people, environments and communities; the ground plane becomes merely a device of period movement and horizontal communication. Currently, tall buildings do not allow for a multi-level urban bitmap of volumetric spaces for the city to evolve.

This presentation explores and illustrates ideas to navigate through the city of the future; to test and to propose a more pixelated way of living. To demonstrate future urban islands that must enable nebulous spatial communication patterns, multi-level exchanges through connectors and buildings should be more adaptive and reflective of their environments at varying levels, with greater integration of the ground plane.