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  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 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.
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.
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.
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