As 2013 comes to a close, we are taking the opportunity to look back on the memorable trends that have influenced the larger dialogue of architecture and urban design. From the beach-side city of Miami slowly transforming into the USA's next design center, to a mushrooming of super-tall skyscrapers competing for the distinction of "world's tallest building," to proposals for entire cities that function on renewable energy and sustainable building practices, 2013 may be remembered best for the proposals by big-named architects seeking to claim attention-grabbing titles over the next couple of years.
The upcoming year presents numerous challenges to architects, especially in solving issues of sustainability and climate change, an ever increasing income gap in our largest cities, and planning for the smart growth of cities, especially as the world's population becomes increasingly urbanized. Looking forward to the next year, here are the architecture and planning trends that we hope to see more of in 2014.
1. Adapting coastal cities to climate change through resilient design
The profound devastation experienced throughout the New York Metropolitan area in the wake of Hurricane Sandy made us come face-to-face with a dismal reality: as worldwide carbon levels in the atmosphere continue to exacerbate the effects of climate change, our coastal cities are likely to face similar disasters in the future. Perhaps the most crucial trend that we hope to see more of in 2014: preparing our cities and citizens to adapt to these impending threats through design solutions.
OMA's Urban Catalyst, photo via
As New York started to rebuild after the storm, the President's Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force unveiled Rebuild by Design, an initiative that called on architects and planners to submit proposals to make New York more resilient against rising sea-levels and catastrophic storms. Among the proposals is OMA's "Urban Catalyst," a project that would build a hard wall along the airport terminals of JFK to prevent choking flights during a storm, and give the residents of Queens a safe, dry urban refuge. Also of note, SCAPE/LANDSCAPE Architecture's "Living, Growing Breakwaters," which seeks to reduce wave energy by 32%, clean coastal waters, and offer broader ecological education by reinstating natural oyster habitats.
SCAPE/LANDSCAPE Architecture's "Living, Growing Breakwaters," photo via
2. Bringing off-the-grid architecture to the city
This past year, we saw numerous projects that made an outstanding effort at sustainability by going "off the grid." These buildings make a negligible impact on their environments, and are often far removed from large urban centers—which makes sense, given the significant space that is necessary for generating renewable energy. However, while staying outside the city seems like an inherent trait of going off the grid, it leaves the residents of these structures disconnected from public transit and the vital economic resources of urban areas. That means, to access jobs and commodities, one must travel long distances via automobile, which accrues a significant carbon footprint removed from that of the physical structure.
Studio 804, Inc.'s 3716 Springfield, photo via
In a downtrodden neighborhood of Kansas City, Studio 804, Inc. designed the 3716 Springfield residence, an off-the-grid home that received the first LEED Platinum status in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. The home is located just south of the downtown core—minimizing the physical residence's impact on its environment while decreasing the occupants' carbon footprint. Bringing off-the-grid to larger urban areas, especially in blighted neighborhoods, presents the opportunity to foster more sustainable and connected communities.
Exterior view of 3716 Springfield, photo via
3. Greater public oversight for new skyscrapers and development projects
In 2013, New York City watched its downtown skyline be transformed as the new World Trade Center topped out back in May. But, 2013 will perhaps be remembered more for a trend that we hope to see less of (or at least greater oversight over) in 2014: super-tall residential skyscrapers catered to the elite and super-rich. Each month, another proposal for a residential tower in Manhattan's Midtown designed by a big-name firm made headlines, from SHoP's slender 107 West 57th Street, to the contentious One57 condominiums that shut down its surrounding neighborhood on 57th street due to a malfunctioning crane, to Rafael Viñoly's 432 Park Avenue already under construction—supremely opulent and pricey buildings offering unrivaled views of Manhattan to echo Mayor Michael Bloomberg's statement, “If we could get every billionaire in the world to move here, that would be a godsend.”
SHoP's proposal for 107 West 57th Street, photo via
Each of these palatial abodes received significant opposition from their communities, as their imposing presence will act merely as a privileged place for the super-rich who can afford the ultimate view. As Bloomberg's pro-development reign comes to a close, we hope to see stronger oversight for new development projects that takes the public payback for these elite structures into consideration. As Michael Kimmelman noted in a recent New York Times article, "Exceptional height should be earned, not just bought. Let community groups and city agencies weigh in . . . Developers might also give something back for the profits reaped as they leverage public assets like parks. They could pony up for affordable housing and improved transit."
Christian de Portzamparc's One57, photo via
4. More low and mid-rise affordable housing solutions
In the mid-20th century, constructing affordable high-density public housing often translated into towering concrete apartment blocks set within ample green space—a practice that today has been criticized for creating stark, isolating environments that ignore the human scale. However, a new building typology arose nearly 40 years ago that sought an alternative for public housing, as the need for better living conditions and space grew. Incorporating more light, open space, and a closer connection to the ground, this practice became known as low-rise high-density, and reached its prominence in the 1970s with the Marcus Garvey Park Village in Brooklyn.
Marcus Garvey Park Village, photo via
This past year, RKTB Architects & Urban Designers built the Monsignor Anthony J. Barretta Apartments in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, an exemplary model of low-rise high-density public housing. In eight buildings, 64 units were built for very low-income tenants that qualify for Section 8 assistance. The apartments were built with the intention for LEED-certification, maintain a close connection to the street and surrounding resources, and show a concerted effort to improve the living conditions of New York's often overlooked outer boroughs.
RKTB Architects & Urban Designers' Monsignor Anthony J. Barretta Apartments, photo via
5. Plan for people, not cars
In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco, leading to irreparable damage of the city's Embarcadero and Central freeways. But, rather than rebuilding the two major arteries, San Francisco took a progressive approach to the damaged infrastructure that ensured a more pedestrian-friendly city: they tore them down. Since their demolition, the surrounding neighborhoods that were previously cut-off from one another by the elevated highways started to slowly stitch themselves back together through the building of public parks, pedestrian walkways, and bicycle routes.
Erik Jensen and Justin Richardson' Fieldshift, photo via
Over the last year, numerous cities have been seeking similar planning strategies to benefit pedestrians and bicyclists, rather than pollution-heavy car transit. San Francisco hopes to recreate the success of its earlier highway demolitions with this past year's 280 Freeway Competition. Landscape architecture students Erik Jensen and Justin Richardson proposed dismantling the 280 freeway, leaving behind the concrete pylons to create a "cultural field" of murals, sculpture, and community art, while leftover concrete would be used to create a buffer for rising sea levels. In August, St. Louis, Missouri also followed suit, breaking ground on an elevated park over I-70, connecting downtown neighborhoods to the St. Louis Arch and riverfront area.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates' Park Over the Highway, image courtesy of CityArchRiver