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The Triple Threat: Urban Design, Architecture and Sociology

“Design is a conversation through which different perspectives are integrated into culturally creative action.”

Daniel Christian Wahl

Call me crazy, but I have always had an in-explainable infatuation with modern architecture and design. So, let me focus a bit on what’s going on in terms of design in the CRE sector. Get ready for post that promises to be both mentally and visually stimulating.

Let’s face it, urbanism and urbanization is NOT a new concept. However, if you want a brief overview on what factors are propelling urbanization, by all means, feel free to read our recent post on urbanization and its positive impact on the retail sector. But, let’s get back to the beauty of some more recent projects! Architecture and design are meant to fit the needs of the people. So what “needs” are currently in need of being met?

  • Walkability
  • Connectedness
  • Natural & Organic

Design Intelligence tends to call these needs “New Urbanism.” How are we attempting to cure the negative implications of the “Old Urbanism” through design? Well, in order to dissect this we must tap into what I like to call our Sociological Imagination, a term coined by C. Wright Mills.


There’s a Green Movement happening. If you’re still in denial about Global Warming, we’re praying for you. Urban designers are moving in the green direction, following a prominent movement which is both social and reactionary in nature. Look around you: city bike shares and mixed-use developments are attempting to counteract what Design Intelligence calls “unhealthy urbanism, often driven by an emphasis on transportation planning over planning for people’s needs.”

In order to bring more green into people’s lives, developers and architects are turning to some innovative and eco-friendly designs. Take, for instance, the Green City Hall in Bac Ninh, Vietnam which is planned to “help the local government achieve their goals of developing a more energy-efficient city,” accodring to Inhabitat.


Naturally, we are creatures of symbolism and the Green City Hall is “perceived as the new symbol of the city, which unites both greenery and culture together,” says Vo Trong Nghia Architects. As seen, the two towers will lean together, unifying while maintaining individuality. Each terrace will be covered in greenery, tall windows to allows for maximum natural light, and a public observation deck.

We are straying away from concepts of ‘sustaining innovation’ or ‘disruptive innovation,’ and turning to transformative innovation instead. Green design, both in and outside of an urban environment, is focused on maintaining synergies, shaping community values while restoring ecosystems and celebrating cultural diversity, according to Danial Christian Wahl, author of Designing Regenerative Cultures.

Emphasis on Shared Space

In the realm of CRE, we have been noticing more of an emphasis on coworking and shared space. We are social creatures not meant to be confined to a single cubicle 8 hours a day. We saw the idea of “shared space” through road planning and the urban design approach to minimize the segregation of pedestrians and vehicles by removing as many curbs, road markings, traffic signs and stop lights as possible.

In 2015, the number of coworking spaces worldwide grew to a whopping 7,800 and that number is predicted to reach 1 million in 2018, according to DeskMag’s Global Coworking Survey. Start-ups and larger companies are breaking down the cubicle (and real) walls in order to create a work-space that promotes collaboration. Take for instance Interchange’s ‘Triangle’ building in London, England which serves freelancers, entrepreneurs and startups. The innovative design incorporates aspects to help maintain that work-life balance such as an on-site gym, restaurant, bar, and event spaces.



On another end, the sense of mixed-use space has become increasingly more popular. Again, mainly due to the walkability factor. Let’s take a look at Marina One, Gustafson Porter’s newest project for the center of Singapore’s business district. Marina One is planned to be 3.67 million SF and will include two 34-story residential towers, two 30 story commercial towers and an array of shopping and leisure areas. However, what sets it apart from other mixed-use development is the the integration of “soft landscape into the fabric of the building, carving a Green Heart in between the development’s four towers,” according to Arch Daily.

Architect Gustafson Porter comments:

“Visitors and inhabitants ascend skywards from the Green Heart into Strata Terraces, a Cloud Garden, Green Screens and Rooftop Gardens that allude to the changing environment and habitats that one might experience whilst climbing a mountain.”

This concept truly integrates the “new urbanism” concepts of walkability, sustainability, and shared space. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see more developments like this sprout up in our region.



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