Astrid Piber
UNStudio, Amsterdam

Cities all over the world are currently facing urgent challenges regarding ongoing densification. By 2050 an additional 2.5 billion people will be living in urban areas. How do we ensure that our cities can adequately cater to this immediate growth, environmentally, socially and economically? How do we ensure that our cities become resilient to ongoing densification over time? And how can we create workable strategies for the integration of new materials and technologies in the built environment?

Designers must adequately respond to the demands of our cities and provide strategies to cope with densification. In some locations, vertical expansion has been the only viable option, however efforts should also be concentrated on remodeling existing buildings. In order to do this, it must be understood how these structures can be upgraded with new technologies and materials in order to provide an improved environment for users, reduce energy consumption and ensure enhanced connections with their surrounding contexts.

That said, in some cities high-rise new builds are, at times, the only viable option. However, we understand that the structures we build today will one day be the existing buildings of the future. As such, the potential for future retrofitting should be embedded into the equation from the outset when designing a new high-rise. The similarities and differences in the design approach for new-builds and retrofits are examined through project examples which illustrate how the possibility to one day retrofit new materials or technologies can be embedded, potentially changing the life cycle of our buildings.