CommerCity, by P&T Architects and Engineers
CommerCity, by P&T Architects and Engineers

Cities are changing in ways that are increasingly hard to predict, says P&T’s James Abbott

Cities are now changing in ways that architects, planners and developers are having a hard time understanding, said P&T’s director and architect James Abbott.

“The use of technology in the way that we work, the way that we buy goods and services, and the way that we spend our free time is having a fundamental impact on the economics of building development, and architects should be at the forefront of the response to these changes to ensure that cities can continue to develop with a rich mix of uses,” he said. “This would enable self-contained communities, districts and neighbourhoods to develop within their greater limits.”

The Beijing Oriental Plaza by P&T Architects and Engineers

While technology provides the tools for design, with computers and software becoming more powerful, complex and adaptable, designers have had to realise more ambitious projects.

“There are always upsides and downsides,” Abbott said, “and the danger with all new technology is that it leads rather than assists the design. Fundamental goals and objectives are relegated to second place in the decision-making process.”

Abbott noted that current trends for mixed-use projects include developers wanting increased integration of different uses within single buildings or developments, as well as flexibility in the use of buildings during the design stage, construction stage, as well as during the life of the building after it’s been constructed.

“This is challenging because the regulatory environment in which authorities and architects work rarely, if ever, makes this level of flexibility easy or even possible at all,” said Abbott. “On rare occasions unfortunately, buildings are built at great expense to all involved, and usually for reasons that appeared perfectly justifiable at the time, that never really meet the economic and social requirements of their location. Such buildings become unwanted and unloved landmarks.”

Sky Park in Hong Kong, by P&T Architects and Engineers

P&T has recently revealed a design for Dubai’s CommerCity, an upcoming mixed-use development that Abbott said reflects the trends currently happening in the sector, especially regarding design technology.

“The whole development has been planned with a simple and extremely flexible planning strategy that allows for the development to be adapted as easily as possible over its entire lifespan according to changing trends in market conditions, and end-user and community requirements,” he said.

“The design has been developed using the latest technologies, but it has not been driven by technology. We feel that the most important considerations with regards to technology is that the design allows, as far as it is possible to predict, for the adoption of future changing technologies that may impact our lives. The impact of autonomous transport systems on the site and within the logistics facilities and the opportunity for the incorporation of large scale renewal energy generation from solar energy are just two of the many trends in technology that are being considered as the project develops.”