2016 Conference Launches to Great Effect with Annual VIP Photo
After 18 months of planning, the CTBUH 2016 Conference officially launched on the morning of October 17, with over 1,350 delegates from 46 countries gathering at the conference venue to take in the first day of core programming. In keeping with “first day” tradition for a CTBUH Conference, 19 owner/developers of many of the world’s tallest buildings joined CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood and CTBUH Chairman David Malott, Principal, KPF, at the step-and-repeat for a commemorative photo.
Opening Plenary Sets the Scene for the Five Days Ahead
After some brief words of welcome, the Opening Plenary dove right into the conference theme, charting the meteoric rise from City to Megacity of the Pearl River Delta region while examining innovative concepts of sustainability and density within this urban context. Long Xiu, Chairman, Architectural Society of China, began the day with a discussion of China’s changing architecture guidelines. Focusing on sustainable design imperatives, Xiu charted the history of China’s architectural evolution and noted the ways in which new guidelines will transform the country’s megacities through innovative design. Xiu noted, “The most important element of China’s new architectural principles is the respect and protection of nature, making an environment that is responsible to humans and society at large…It is also our duty to promote Chinese traditions and ideas to the world.”
Next, Mun Summ Wong, Founding Director, WOHA Architects, shared his vision for the “Garden City, Megacity,” building off of his work with green, socially and environmentally sustainable design to advance a master planning concept for the age of global warming. This vision involves myriad connected, vegetated high-rise constructs that comprise an elevated urban network. This radical rethinking of what a city could become was the first of many innovative urban development models to be discussed throughout the conference.
Finally, CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood presented on investigations pertaining to the sustainability of dense downtown environments versus dispersed suburban settings, a pilot study conducted by CTBUH in coordination with the PhD dissertation of CTBUH Academic Coordinator Peng Du. The research produced numerous findings, among them the fact that the tall building may not be as inherently sustainable as previously thought and that true sustainability is dependent on a number of complex variables. Wood stated, “We need to be a little bit careful, as architects and engineers saying, ‘I’ve built a tall building, job done.’ The sentiment of the industry seems to be that the act of building a tall building is saving the planet and that’s not necessarily the case…The real finding from this is that it’s not necessarily about the tall building, it’s about urban density – it’s about the saving of land and the concentration of infrastructure.”
Day One Presentations Examine the State of Affairs of MegacitiesWith three sessions of 11 simultaneous tracks, Day One programming was jam-packed with presentations and discussions on a variety of topics related to the conference theme. Naturally, the theory and concepts behind existing and future megacities played a central role in many of the day’s presentations. The wide range of speakers allowed the megacity concept to be examined from multiple angles, with perspectives ranging from design, urban planning, and technology integration to economic considerations and sustainable imperatives, among other themes.
Notably, CTBUH China Office Director Daniel Safarik started the conversation with a look at the contemporary state of affairs for megacities around the world, introducing research conducted by CTBUH to determine the total number of megacities around the world with further analysis as to their density, skyscraper makeup, and other quantitative factors. This research was appropriately scheduled on the outset of the conference, thus framing future discussions about megacities throughout the week.A number of presentations looked directly at the role that tall buildings play in facilitating the urban habitat of megacities, with a particular focus on the concept of polycentricism, or the idea that megacities should embrace multiple tall building nodes rather than the traditional central business district of 20th century urbanism. This concept was clearly elucidated by Tim Blackburn, General Manager, Development & Valuations, Swire Properties, who argued for a shift from “central” to “core” business districts, saying: “From a planning and practical perspective, it increasingly makes sense to concentrate and cluster multi-story commercial office buildings near to each other to facilitate human interaction, information exchange, and commerce.”
Transportation connectivity was another overarching discussion of contemporary megacities, with all agreeing that transit-oriented development is an essential design strategy for successfully developing dense urban environments. Keith Griffiths, Chairman, Aedas, argued in his “City Hubs” presentation that transportation nodes will facilitate the creation of ultra high-density, connected, urban environments. Similarly, Paul Whalen, Partner, Robert A.M. Stern Architects supplemented this vision for connectivity with additional stress on pedestrian oriented developments made possible by ample transport connectivity in his presentation “The Continuous City.”
Case Studies in Asia and the Pearl River Delta Contextualize Conference Theme
Day One programming also featured additional presentations taking a closer at specific Asian megacities, and projects within them, to illustrate the growing emergence of the megacity phenomenon. Inevitably, many presentations turned to the particular case of the Pearl River Delta. Both Peter Kindel, Director, SOM, and Travis Soberg, Principal, Goettsch Partners, offered a history of the Pearl River Delta while assessing the urban development of the region. Meanwhile, a 20|20 Panel Discussion entitled “Shenzhen Recentralization” focused on development in Shenzhen, analyzing the revitalization of the city’s Futian District.
Other presentations looked more specifically at individual skyscraper developments and their role in advancing dense vertical urbanism. Discussions touched on a variety of unique towers in disparate contexts, such as 1 Undershaft in London; CTF towers in Guangzhou, Tianjin, and Wuhan; and MahaNakhon in Bangkok, among others. While dissimilar on the surface level, each of these presentations highlighted the particular ways in which iconic tall building developments have the capacity to shape rapid urban development.
Technological Innovations Inform Discussion on Future CitiesA number of presentations focused on technologies and trends that are set to shape the future of both cities and individual skyscrapers. James von Klemperer, President, KPF, offered an insightful presentation on the concept of “X-information modeling,” a data-driven design process that iterates many hundreds of design options across wide ranging criteria. “We thought, if we could take the criteria which matter to us the most – sunlight, density, block size, tower location, both factors of design, and resultants of design – we would then find a way to manipulate a tower within a multiple-block zone and find different ways to score these attributes,” von Klemperer said. Similarly, Patrik Schumacher, Principal, Zaha Hadid Architects, laid out his vision for the future of parametric design, and a 20|20 Panel Discussion examined the future of our cities directly by asking the question “What are the biggest threats and opportunities of future cities?” The multi-disciplinary panel had much to say on the subject, with CTBUH Trustee Steve Watts, Partner, Alinea Consulting, declaring, “Cities make up only 2 percent of the world’s surface area but they use up 75 percent of its resources. That is only going to get worse as the population gets bigger and people continue to flock to urban areas. We send greenhouse gases to the sky, we send plastics and other solid waste to landfill sites, and we send sewage to the ocean. If the World Bank is correct all of that will increase by 70 percent within 10 years – a frightening statistic.”
Day One Closes Fantastically with Shum Yip Networking Reception
At the close of Day One, delegates attended the second Shenzhen networking reception – kindly hosted by Shum Yip Land and sponsored by thyssenkrupp – held at Shum Yip Upperhills, located just north of Shenzhen’s main central business district. The reception was held in a marketing suite and terrace-level event space that showcased a model of the complex’s high-rise residential component. Outside, amid a drizzle of rain, construction on one of the site’s landmark office towers continued unabated into the night. In that sense, the complex reflected the status of the Pearl River Delta region: beautiful, constantly growing, ambitious, and rising ever toward the sky.
Scenes from the Day