Disrupting Density: Hacking the Tall Building

David Malott
CTBUH Chairman; Founder & CEO
AI., New York City

Technological disruption of cities has manifested in the “sharing city” model where platforms such as Uber and AirBnB pair latent demand with underperforming assets. These disruptors have exposed a gap in the density equation: that a city’s capacity can be increased by unlocking unrealized potential without the construction of a single building. Now, with the advent of autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things, the “smart city” will further advance space and resource optimization. Which leads to the existential question, what place do tall buildings have in this near-future scenario?

Tall buildings are the traditional drivers of density, yet the inherently stand-alone and repetitive nature of tall buildings is at odds with a generation which increasingly values mobility, social engagement, and individual expression. To remain socially and technologically relevant, the tall building needs to evolve and engage the full range of spatial and human experience. It is time to hack the tall building.

This presentation explores the coupling of tall buildings and smart city technologies to create new urban systems which are open and responsive. Case studies include a new smart skyscraper for Ping An Technologies, an innovation ecosystem for China’s Optical Valley, and a tech-forward regional plan for America’s polycentric city: the San Francisco Bay Area. These explorations further the drive towards “humanizing density” with a new tall building typology.