Hyper-city | Hyper-density

Hypercity |
A hyper-city is has an overall density that xceeds 5,000+ inhabitants/km² often with city districts exceeding 30,000+ inhabitants/km2. Cities that fall under this definition include Mumbai, Paris, Nairobi, Hong Kong, Macau, Dhaka, Dar es Salaam, London, Manila, Stockholm and Shanghai [1] Most existing hyper-cities are located in Europe with some in Americas, the newer cities are those in Asia where the countries population is migrating on mass to cities from rural areas in search of a better life.

How is a Hyper-city different from a Mega-city? Mega-city are often defined as 10 million plus residents, however they could be spread across a large area with very low densities. It is noted that many Mega-cities fall under the definition of Hyper-city.

There are two types of hypercities, those that are established (over 100 years old) and those that new cities(developed in last 50 years). Both have separate issues relating to systems and building form(architecture) which will be discussed later.

SYSTEMS & NETWORKS
Hyper-cities are often touted as the answer to the mass migration from rural to urban landscapes. They are seen as more sustainable and efficient form of city where services(transport, health, utilities), commercial (office, retail, markets, trading) and residential (apartments, villas, mixed use) are all located within dedicated area and people travel short distances to and from work, commerce and recreation. However, this is where the theory and implementation diverge as there very few communities that actually live within a few minutes of their workplace. Often housing is purchased based on personal preference and circumstances at the time of purchase including cost of housing, family size, proximity to family, proximity to friends, with proximity to work often the last factor considered as people have become more transient in their careers often staying with the one employer for 2-5 years but living in the same house for 15-20 years. Therefore, transport systems require more thought and flexibility to allow for an transient workforce who may work in factory, then a hotel, then an office in their career or maybe all in the same day.

Systems and networks are key to hyper-cities – transport, utilities, open space, services and retail. Lessons must be learnt from new and established cities to create liveable places to live.
These systems and networks can be intertwined to allow for better living experience. Limiting a hyper-city to one form (grid, organic, network, hub and spoke, etc) creates an instant legacy that takes years if not decades to change. Hyper-cities should allow people to be able to live easily and fluidly.

TRANSPORT – The network than make or break a city
Transport of people, goods, services is key to the success of a city. The need for people to move to and from home, to work, to shop, to a service, to recreate, to home is only half the network. The other half transporting food (whether inter or intra city) and services is key and requires more study and implementation of different models. Public Transport and Individual Transport (cars, bikes) have not changed dramatically, in recent times car-sharing has started to develop. Hopefully, car sharing and autonomous cars will come together to reduce the need for individual car ownership. Imagine a city with a car fleet and very few car spaces – that’s acres of land and basements that are no longer required.

Public transport will always remain bus, train, tram(streetcar) with different modes (elevated, subway, BRT, etc). It is the network form and energy type that will create for more efficient low- carbon cities.

Transport of goods is key and currently uses large amount of energy to move goods to and from inhabitants whether at home, at the office or at the store. A change from the traditional form of logistics is paramount to reduce pollution and congestion. If we look at bulk container shipping we see a model that could work for hypercities. Container shipping is based on selling space on a ship and this comes down to the last square metre, they contract sell to anyone the space within a container to allow for most efficient use of space. Currently, in cities there are numerous couriers who use this method of transport as well but it is still inefficient. If hyper-cities use a centralised system of electric autonomous vehicles on a central system

FOOD
Food for residents is either inter or intra (coming from the city or outside whether another region or country). For a hyper-city to be efficient it requires a change in land use, form and mind set.

Landuse
Currently, most agricultural land near cities is under threat from development and is a source of cheap housing. However, large tracts of arable land are replaced with cheap housing and farmers moved to the fringes of the cities into less arable land. When planning a Hyper-cities there is a need to study, map and zone areas of arable land to allow the city to have a sustainable source of food. Also hypercities should map all areas of flood zone and waterways and allow this land to be used for farming rather than creating vast tracks of non-productive recreational land.

Form
The traditional form of producing food is often grown on flat arable land on the edge of cities or in rural areas. With technology hypercities can grow food in vertical structures with hydroponics and aquaculture. Also growing food on productive green roofs could sustain vast numbers of inhabitants allowing for reduced land and transport.

Change in Mindset
Food is often flown or trucked into a distribution centre and then moved by road to point of sale. We have moved from distributed small markets to now having centralised big box markets that require inhabitants to travel. The solution seems to be a change in the mindset of inhabitants to eat based upon season and also purchase online. Online purchasing of food in China and other countries is growing. With hypercities it is possible to create network systems and logistics to create an efficient system of food distribution. Although many residents will still wish to shop at the market there is a need to source as much of the food as a city needs from the local surrounds(within 100km) to reduce the impact of transportation.

LEGACY VS MONOTONY
The main issue that established hyper-cities have to address is a legacy of old infrastructure and systems. For a established hyper-city requires continual investment in changing systems and infrastructure. It also requires for community engagement to alleviate concerns about demolision, new infrastructure (roads, utilities) and increased density. New cities face less issues related to legacy systems and have to face the issue of how to efficiently(time and money) development and scale the city to meet demand of the influx of new residents. An ability to develop large areas of residential and commercial areas often leads to replication of architecture and built form and thus a monotonous landscape of similar tall towers with little variety in form, colour or spatial arrangement. Although these monotonous landscape create cheap housing, they also create a dehumanising effect due to scale and repetition. Thought needs to be given to planning controls, architectural controls and landscape design and quality to ensure new hyper-cities are places residents wish to live for the long term and create communities rather than moving for education or employment only.

To solve the legacy issue requires cities to develop methods of replacing, pigging-backing or improving systems. More research and planning is required to develop systems for power, information (web), refuse disposal and transport. These are the key areas where cities need to develop solutions that will be resilient.

Solving the scaling issue requires more thought and flexibility in planning guidelines. New cities in China are starting to realise that there is little to differentiate them from their neighbour cities due to the use of the same planning regulations, often the same developers and same construction companies develop and build cities within the same region creating the problem of not knowing when you’ve left one city and entered another. This is also has to do with the propensity to flatten large areas of land to allow for ease of construction often wiping out any semblance of landform.

CONCLUSION
Creating a city of over 5000+ inhabitants per km2 requires the ability of the built environment and allied professions to come together to develop new solutions to problems that allow for a city to develop organically and be resilient in its forms.

1. The largest cities in the world by land area, population and density | City Mayors Statistics
2. List of cities proper by population density | Wikipedia

Response to Sean Chiao: Planning China’s megacities

Mega-cities are becoming a hot topic in China and academics & government seems to moving on from eco-city and low carbon city to mega-city. Recently Sean Chiao, the executive vice president of China for AECOM posted Planning China’s megacities on McKinsey stating that Mega-cities need to be planned, managed in an innovative way. Scott goes on to talk about rules and guidelines for cities.

For Chinese megacities to function properly, there must be clear state policies on how to build and run them, as well as strict audits to ensure that the laws are followed. Rules and guidelines on how to build a “green” infrastructure—from buildings, bridges, transport networks, and sanitation systems to power grids, incentives for consuming power efficiently, and disincentives for energy abuse and malpractice must be mandated and put into practice.

He also discusses that planning of mega-cities should be multi-disciplinary and that government and private sector need to work together due to the complexity of the planning a mega-city.

I agree mega-cities need multi-disciplinary teams to create, design and retrofit existing mega-cities and regulation is required to ensure that the design is implemented. The greatest area that needs to be addressed in urban planning in China is assessment and auditing of the implementation of urban plans in China. Assessment of the implementation of Conceptual Master Plans and DCMP’s is key to learning what has been successful and what has failed. Often in Urban Design Masterplans are implemented but the formal independent assessment needs to be improved – there is abundant anecdotal evidence and some reports from government but this information needs to be formally recorded and assessed to allow designers of future urban designs to be able to learn how to design a successful CBD, new area development, or revitalise an old city. Cities should be commissioning independent assessments and reports and then placing this information in a system platform that all government departments can access.

Regulation and guidelines are key to planning mega-cities but we can over-regulate thus stifling innovative and creative solutions for cities. Often regulations go too far by setting too many constraints such as colour palettes for architecture. If we over regulate we often end up with generic cities or monotonous superblock after superblock of the similar architecture with same colours. Regulations and guidelines have their place in urban planning but they need to be used with utmost care.

Mega-cities are a good solution to creating energy efficient and productive cities but we need to ensure that the social aspect of these cities is catered for through urban parks, urban plazas, pedestrian streets, and forests with varying scale of developments with enough community and social services to cater for the people of a mega-city. Providing spaces for social interaction is just as important to a city as providing energy efficient buildings, integrated transport systems, and green infrastructure. Cities are merely buildings and roads without people.