Designing High-Rises for the Future

While the development of future-proof skyscrapers demands the utilisation and application of smart technologies within the design process and beyond, a truly future-oriented tall building is much more than the sum of its technological parts.

The 3rd Australian Smart Skyscrapers Summit is returning to Melbourne this June to unravel the art of conceiving future-proof skyscrapers, from the perspectives of leading local and international forces within the sector. One such force is Jan Schellhoff, Associate Director of Dutch practice UNStudio.

Jan, who will present on the unique design of his team’s winning ‘Green Spine’ design for the Southbank by Beulah competition, points to active forecasting as a successful strategy for future-proofing their high-rises. “Innovations in the building industry are traditionally rather slow – but other fields that influence the way we work, live and use our buildings and cities have a much faster innovation cycle,” Jan says.

“Within the office we have established different groups that are working on strategic forecasting for different aspects around the built environment, for example sustainability, material innovation, parametric tools. Throughout every stage of the project we consult with these groups in order to implement these relevant aspects.”

This lends UNStudio’s work a high level of flexibility. Their structures become flexible and adaptable, allowing room for sure-fire innovations set to occur in 10, 20, or even 50 years’ time.

Beyond active forecasting, encouraging social sustainability through design also has a transformative, future-focused appeal, in the way caters to a diverse range of tenant needs. But “social sustainability is very much location specific,” Jan adds, stressing that for Green Spine, “we wanted to design the next generation of residential towers.”

“A tower that caters for all age groups with a strong focus on providing homes for families. This is reflected in the mix of programs containing a child care facility, various entertainment and fresh food offers as well as a generous offer of shared and private outside spaces such as pocket parks, verandas, and a garden on top of the podium.”

Cox Architecture, who worked with UNStudio to bring Green Spine’s design to fruition, has put forth Director Paul Curry as a presenter at the event. Speaking on the large-scale development of Southbank’s upcoming Melbourne Square precinct, echoes Jan’s sentiments on the future-proof advantages of contextually considered, socially sustainable high-rise environments.

Of Melbourne Square, Paul says “Through the early design phases we carefully considered Southbank’s context and history to help inform how we can build on and improve this part of Melbourne for years to come.”

“The vision for the project included new green spaces and a level mixed use that did not previously exist in Southbank. For the parkland, we wanted to create a new kind of public open space not only for the occupants of the project but also for the broader Southbank area. The extensive parkland that we have been able to provide has a generosity which will shape the future of this part of the city.”

The result looks set to be a transformative one for Southbank, with a precinct combining slender, high-quality towers within what will become the area’s largest reserve of open green parkland – taking inspiration from Melbourne’s status as the garden state of Australia.

Applying a more holistic, out-of-box understanding of future-proof high-rises to our work means that we can begin to approach our designs in ways that truly benefit humans today and tomorrow.