Naturalization of Polycentric Cities

Luke Leung
Director
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Chicago

The naturalization of polycentric cities is key to our healthy future. Contemporary research points to the disruption of the human-nature relationship and how that can lead to chronic diseases. The naturalization of Polycentric Cities can involve understanding of the urban micro-environment, restoring nature, and healing our lands beyond cities. Understanding of the microenvironment is fundamental to naturalization. Design professionals, especially in the vertical dimension, have little to no real measured urban environmental data. The CTBUH 2016 International Research Seed Funding addressed this need by awarding a research grant on the vertical atmospheric environment of a 300-meter-tall tower in Chicago. Initial findings are reported in this presentation, including the decrease in contaminants, e.g. PM 2.5 particles, along the increasing elevation, and the formation of a “Street Bubble” through anthropogenic activities at the ground level.

Restoring nature is of utmost importance to polycentric cities. This involves bringing back the circadian rhythm of humans to accommodate deep rest and high productivities; seeing nature, both plants and animals, as a soft fascination to improve cognitive abilities; hearing running water and bird songs, rather than the hectic honking of impatient drivers. It means probiotic living and touching healthy microbes, rather than bacteria that emanate solely from humans. In Japan, selected apartments are now constructed by “organic” material only, with no human additives. Healing our land needs to go beyond cities. Topsoil erosion is one of the most serious issues of our time. Some suggest there are only about 60 years of productive farming left. Polycentric city planning must encompass a systematic solution to minimize anthropogenic impact, both inside and outside city boundaries.