Urban Human Habitats: 13 Compact Concepts for Growing Cities


How will various cities around the world adapt to rapid population growth while maintaining quality of life and responding to their unique environments and cultural context? In some cases, new ideas for maximizing urban density require building new cities from the ground up, while others reclaim industrial areas and depressed suburbs or simply keep building higher and higher into the sky. These proposals – some fanciful, others currently under construction or completed – represent a diverse variety of urban growth solutions, each with its own pros and cons.

Lush Pedestrian-Oriented Vision for Singapore





The ‘PARKROYAL on Pickering’ is a pedestrian-oriented elevated neighborhood for Singapore with lush greenery planted on nearly every level and a porous layout encouraging daylight, cross-breezes and free circulation between the various elements of the structure. The 2015 winner of the Urban Habitat Award by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the Parkroyal was praised for being “intelligently influenced by both its environmental and cultural context.” A contoured podium draws inspiration from terraced landscapes like rice paddies, and a series of columns resembling trees makes the entire building seem to hover above the street, establishing a shaded pedestrian thoroughfare on the ground level. By stretching upward, the building design with all of its integrated greenery adds 215% new green space to the plot area, proving that increasing density in cities doesn’t have to mean losing parks and gardens.

Cities Carved Into Coastal Cliffs

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The ‘Living on the Edge’ project imagines building new cities right into coastal cliffs around the world, forming new urban environments. While it would seem like expanding human developments into areas that are currently in their natural state isn’t exactly desirable (not to mention the threat of rising seas), the designers contend that making use of these spaces high above the water level would be better than allowing currently-existing cities to keep sprawling outside their urban boundaries into surrounding forests and agricultural land.

Shop-Top Neighborhood in Beverly Hills

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As multiple functions compete for space in crowded cities, the answer is often to build tall structures full of apartments that sacrifice the classic suburban neighborhood feel for density and walkability. But what if we could have both? 8600 Wilshire by MAD Architects places a relatively traditional neighborhood complete with green spaces and trees right on top of a retail block in Beverly Hills. The clustered white glass villas offer 18 residential units in the form of a ‘hillside village,’ with the houses appearing opaque from the street but facing the inner courtyard with transparent facades.

High-Density Urban Development Inspired by Chinese Mountains

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Another MAD project “treats architecture as a landscape,” integrating waterfalls, trees and gardens into a high-density urban development with curvaceous structures mimicking traditional Chinese paintings of mountain ranges. ‘Shan-shui City’ is a concept that can be applied to all sorts of building projects, and MAD aims to make use of it in both all-new construction projects in China and as supplements to existing cities. They will apply it to a mixed-use urban development that’s half a million square meters in size, and new plaza development in Beijing’s central business district.