A liveable city is a city where there is life between the buildings, but it is not just something that comes automatically - it’s created by design. The local climate plays a major role when designing liveable cities, because when a city is designed with its microclimate in mind (wind, sun, shadow) – it can foster city life and public realm. One can decrease temperatures or increase temperatures – to make spring arrive earlier or prolong the autumn – when one works with the microclimate.
In Riyadh, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we created an entire new district from scratch. The goal was to create a living city with activity around the clock – a challenge in a desert with extreme temperatures. But by working with the proportions of the buildings and using materials that can reflect the sun and improve the microclimate, We decreased the outside temperature by a substantial 6-8 degrees Celsius, which enables a better urban life. We also designed the heart of the district after a Saudi ‘wadi’; a low-lying area in the desert that becomes green after a downpour. This means that the entire pedestrian area is eternally green, shadowy, and recreational.
There is no need for school buildings to be closed all summer, public buildings during night or financial districts during weekends. A city needs activity, diversity, opportunity, and openness. In order to move away from single-function buildings, one can design them to live day and night. A city hall should not just be a place citizens can enter during work hours. If we think creatively, it might also provide space for a kindergarten, a park, museum, and other such shared spaces. By granting a building multiple purposes, it can become more intertwined with the city’s life. A modern city is multi-functional, and we need to move away from customs when designing the compound of buildings.
Kiruna City Hall is designed to attract the public with access located throughout the building.
It comprises exhibition rooms, workshops, a city council hall, meeting rooms and balconies that are stacked on top of each other, rising up through the building. Not only can you visibly see into the city halls’ council chambers, you can also rent it for your wedding.
We design communities, not organizations. We aim for our designs to become part of the city - not located in remote locations or business parks. When organizations actively open up to the city, the city becomes their lab and identity, helping engage with potential customers and creating a more active place to work. Further, this approach can increase opportunities for employees around their workplace, beyond their usual role. In addition, by doing so, the city can gain from a corporate building that is more inclusive, open to the public realm and thereby granting identity.
At the new Siemens Headquarters in the heart of Munich, Germany, this idea was manifested in the ground floor – which includes green inner courtyards, a café, a restaurant and a fountain – all of which are publicly accessible. Passageways are integrated to provide the citizens of Munich and visitors to the Bavarian capital with a new footpath between downtown Munich and the city’s museum district. Thereby Siemens meets the city at eye-level and actively takes part in the city life.
Ultimately, as architects, we need to know our responsibilities in urban planning. City life can be created with design, and we need to approach that task with ambition, respect, and vigor. With knowledge and ambition, we can create the best, liveable cities ever seen in the world.