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Image courtesy of Austin Williams

Very rare is it to meet a China expat in the architecture and design field who is as an astute observer of development trends as Austin Williams. Williams is a British architect and educator who came to China six years ago at the behest of the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) in Suzhou to set up a new Architecture Department there.

Prior to making the move over to China, Williams was an editor of the Architects’ Journal and authored a series of books for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). He is currently working a new book, China’s Urban Revolution: Understanding Chinese Eco-Cities“, which is due out this October.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Williams recently about his experience in China and his observations of the country’s development. We also spoke a bit about his new book and how he is generally bullish about China’s ability to quickly clean up the environmental mess that has been generated through rapid development. View full post »

Photo by Adam Mayer

This article by Harry den Hartog originally appeared at Sixth Tone.

As early as 2002, the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas noted how architectural spaces facilitated the urge to consume: “Shopping is arguably the last remaining form of public activity. Shopping has infiltrated, colonized, and even replaced almost every aspect of urban life. Town centers, suburbs, streets, and now airports, train stations, museums, hospitals, schools, and the internet are shaped by the mechanisms and spaces of shopping.” View full post »


On my Twitter feed I recently came across a post about a new urban development concept called “SuperDensity” crafted by the international design practice HASSELL. Introduced by HASSELL Principal David Tickle at the 2016 Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat International Conference in China this past October, SuperDensity is described as a “three-dimensional systems of open space, transport and resource utilization, inspired by the systems of the existing city”.

Having not attended the CTBUH talk and only seen a few provocative renderings of lush towers rising out of the Hong Kong skyline, I wanted to learn more about this proposal. David was a nice enough to answer a few questions for us and elaborate on the ideas that led to SuperDensity. View full post »

  • Hayden White - My concern, having seen this idea proliferate around the center for tall buildings and urban habitats and toy with it personally is that it might become too inclusive and not be resilient to failure. When we look at the steven holl linked hybrid in Beijing, where I now work as an urban design researcher, we can see (often) armed security surrounding the area that was designed to be ‘public space’. I also think back to corbusier’s unite dehabitation and how it did not take long for commercial activity to move out and shops became abandoned. In my own opinion this arose from a lack of commercial competition.

    I believe such towers could be very well designed but what is more challenging is the econometrics of how infrastructure and commerce would be sustained.

    Would the spaces be public? (for all!) or private. Any ambiguity would quickly be pounced upon by a developer.

    Would the ‘vertical street’ contain paid-for amenity or services (cinema/gym/shops?)? And how could these be sustained at reasonable cost. Of course, hoping here that the notion of Super Density is not restrained to the wealthy elite.

    My hunch is that this kind of tower could plug in to a vertical section like Kowloon Station in HK very well but would need paid-for amenities to remain near ground level to force competition and supplier resilience should a premises be vacated or close down.

    I also believe fast/slow elevators can act as somewhat public/private elevators. I wonder whether this would be something designed in. No room key to take an elevator to shops/public garden but would later need a room key to activate the elevator to individual residential floors?ReplyCancel

    • David Tickle - Hi Hayden,
      Thanks for taking the time to make these comments. You are absolutely right about public/private delineation … and it’s fundamental to our proposal. SuperDensity is primarily a public system, with the vertical “street” rising to the top of the structure and having complete public access – although there would be some commercial activity, like a typical city street. It definitely does not work if it is a privatised system.
      And yes, fast and slow lift options make sense. Our idea is that the main “tram” would be like a bus that moves vertically and only stops at certain points.
      Thanks again for the comments. We will be uploading the full report to our website ( in a few weeks so keep an eye out for it!

  • Warner Quinlan - This is a really big problem with Chinese cities, it’s sad to see China falling into this trap instead of following the much better East Asian urbanization style of South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan with small blocks and narrower streets. A lot of developments are totally out of human scale and to car-centric, it’s partly the reason those so-called ghost cities look so empty.
    This author articulates this really well, his articles are a must readReplyCancel


East Bund Waterfront Competition Proposal, Design by Agence Ter

This article by Harry den Hartog originally appeared at Sixth Tone.

Shanghai used to be a city crisscrossed by waterways, and dozens of street names still pay homage to the canals and creeks that run through its urban sprawl. Lying in the swampy Yangtze River Delta, this former fishing village witnessed an industrial boom following the establishment of its treaty port after the Opium Wars.

Though the city’s name literally translates as “on the sea,” these days the Yangtze’s immense forces of sedimentation have pushed the coastline well out of town. In addition, large-scale land reclamation projects since the 1950s have made great tracts of marshland suitable for human habitation, though with negative side effects for ecology and flood protection. View full post »

China Urban Development readers: I’m very pleased to share with you a recent TV news interview with our very own Ziyou Tian on the state of housing in Hong Kong. In this segment she offers a fresh take on how to tackle the housing shortage and addresses some of the underlying issues that cause income inequality in the city. Please take look below: