Masterplanning and Urbanism is about a belief in making sustainable, integrated environments where our buildings become embedded within a city’s fabric. At Populous we are not only interested architecture, we are also deeply interested in their contextual influence – how they act as a catalyst for vibrancy, diversity and regeneration within cities. Often urban environments are both relentless and ubiquitous, they are made up of a repetitive fabric of residential and commercial development that creates a monotony to the way inhabitants experience the city. It becomes a collection of development parcels linked by infrastructure rather than a sequence of connected places of different urban qualities and character. In parallel with this it is also common that the most important elements of social infrastructure such as sports, cultural and educational facilities are often banished to the periphery of cities where land values are less so that the city centre can be better utilized for more intensive revenue producing development typologies.
Whether social infrastructure buildings are for sport, culture, education or health their location within the city and the amenity and sphere of influence they have on the surrounding fabric is the basic DNA that underpins an urban structure. An attitude towards social infrastructure and its relationship to the fabric of the city should infuse the approach to masterplanning and urbanism. Through our experience of sport, culture and other types of social infrastructure we take the approach where these building typologies are the starting point for urbanism.
Our approach is to turn the process of masterplanning on its head and take the approach of ‘urban acupuncture’ to new and existing pieces of city and use the location and relationship between social infrastructure elements and how we use them to drive added value and character as the starting point. Urban acupuncture is the starting point for creating vibrant and sustainable places within cities. By embedding sporting, cultural and educational buildings in to the fabric of the city we make them more accessible to the population and maximise the sphere of influence of these facilities in terms of the vibrancy and diversity of the cityscape but also in terms of the inherent value that they bring to the surrounding areas where people live, work and shop.
Regardless of whether it is about one or a number of different elements of social infrastructure, these building typologies spread their sphere of influence not only on a local scale but also on a wider more strategic level across a city. They become part of the character of a city, its’ sense of place and even the identity of the city. For this reason we consider the location of social infrastructure and its relationship to the city to be the fundamental building block of urban structure rather than something to be retrofitted at a later date.
London 2012 Masterplan
London 2012 has fast-tracked years of urban regeneration into just a decade: an industrial wasteland has been transformed into a new urban park; the lives of the local community will be radically improved through the provision of new housing, schools, shops, sports facilities and employment. And of course the Games themselves, thanks to meticulous planning, should be remembered as uniquely spectacular.
Melbourne Olympic Park Masterplan
CHALLENGE. Populous was commissioned (with a local architect) to develop and reinvigorate the existing Melbourne Park with a vision for the Australian Open to 2030. The Victorian Government wanted to maintain Melbourne as Australia’s premier sporting city and, beyond that, as one of the world’s leading event cities, so the masterplan had to take account of the changing demands of hosting major sporting events, as well as provide more comfortable climatic conditions for players and spectators.
INNOVATION. Large, shaded public squares will provide entertainment zones for spectators, as well as much-needed shelter and shade as they move between venues. For the players, moving roofs and other environmental control systems around the courts will temper the climate and make it more suitable for play. A new court ladder will define circulation routes, organising the landscape into an enjoyable, easy to navigate space.
IMPACT. By providing a new 16,000 seat centre court, new media facilities and a National Tennis Academy, the masterplan has ensured that the Complex will retain its position as a host for Grand Slam Tennis. More broadly, it positions the state of Victoria and the city of Melbourne as global sports leaders.
Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games Masterplan
CHALLENGE. For the 10th China National Games in October 2005, Populous designed and built the Nanjing Sports Park in Jiangsu Province, one of the largest athletic venue projects ever completed in Asia. Revisiting the city to create a masterplan for the Youth Olympic Games offers a fascinating opportunity to build on that previous relationship and see how the existing buildings can be knitted into a new structure. Without the need to create major stadia or other sporting buildings, Nanjing throws up a one-off canvas against which to plan a new piece of city.
INNOVATION. The Olympic City in Nanjing will be the start of the development of the southern part of the Hexi district – the structures and facilities required for the Youth Olympic Games form part of this larger vision for the city as a whole. Thus, unusually, legacy comes first: we’re trying to create a living, thriving city – a city that for 2 weeks in 2014 will host an Olympic event.
IMPACT. Our masterplan will create a new piece of city along the waterfront. The mixed use development, which includes schools and exhibition centres alongside Olympic venues and athletes’ accommodation, will make it a destination venue, giving the vibrant city of Nanjing a new hub, as well as the capacity to act as host to a major event.