How to Build a Better City

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How to Build a Better City

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How to Build a Better City

How crowded should or can cities get? What should be driving tower design?

The flurry of high-rise tower construction now under way in New York will bring about a quantum leap in density, one that will forever change our urban environment. The city is now home to seven of the 100 tallest buildings in the world. The current building campaign will produce five more. They are a reminder that towers have become the dominant building type in most major cities around the world, increasing congestion as they accumulate.

These developments raise fundamental questions: How crowded should or can cities get? What should be driving tower design, be it residential, commercial or mixed use? Are our current planning and zoning regulations adequate in guiding this growth, in mitigating the impact of density? Or do we need new tools for a new era of mega-scale construction? Finally, towers create fundamental questions about the nature and character of the public realm.

Neither the prevailing tower designs nor current planning practice world-wide are able to cope with the new reality. The quality of life within towers is wanting. We still treat them, at best, as sculpture, and at worst, as utilitarian vertical extrusions of space. […]

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