Urban Requalification

Providing a resilient habitat for existing city populations without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same.

Sustainable cities are urban communities that are designed with consideration for their social, economic, and environmental impact. They are focussed on achieving social inclusivity and sustainable economic growth while at the same time improving environmental performance by minimizing required inputs of energy, water, and food, and drastically reducing waste, output of heat, air pollution – CO2, methane, and water pollution.


Global land area is occupied by cities


Global energy consumption occurs in cities


Global carbon emissions are generated in cities

In 2020, 55% of the global population were living in cities, and the United Nations estimates this figure will reach 70% by 2050. Accelerating progress towards more sustainable cities is therefore a key to transforming the impact of how we build and allowing all life on earth to be sustained.

Urban populations are growing rapidly

According to the World Bank Group’s Urban Development overview, over 50% of the global population lives in urban areas. By 2045, the world's urban population will increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion. City leaders must move quickly to plan for growth and provide the basic services, infrastructure, and affordable housing their expanding populations need.

C40 is a network of mayors of 96 world leading member cities, making up for more than 20% of the global economy and directly representing more than 580 million residents. Its mission is to halve the emissions of its member cities within a decade, by urban interventions that are mitigating, adaptive, and promote inclusive and thriving cities. A Global Green New Deal is envisaged, to promote green and just recovery.

Urban renewal to upgrade the urban fabric

Urban requalification plays an essential role in this scenario. It aims at addressing urban decay, by redeveloping and upgrading the urban tissue of cities and reinstating quality of life and better opportunities for its inhabitants, by implementing innovation that allows a conscientious approach to resources, emissions, and humans. These projects are particularly significant in the case of endemic slum areas, unused urban space, loss of functionality and cultural identity. A vast permutation of sustainable solutions is possible, ranging from building infills for urban voids, preservation and upgrade of distressed areas and heritage without demolition, increase of resilience for vulnerable cities.

Ancient Rejuvenation in China

Ancient Rejuvenation is one of these redevelopments, with the goal to restore a decadent historical district of Shenzhen to optimal functionality and enhanced social integration. The architect’s intervention explores alternatives to demolition, and renews the are through micro design actions, such as re-using buildings for new vital functions including community centers, work counselling offices, hostels and museums.

Underused urban space can constitute an opportunity for further development and working with urban infills can be a promising strategy. Housing Infill is an example of regenerative and flexible urban densification, addressing house shortage needs as well as counteracting urban sprawl. Small house principles are taking foot in urban areas, where land is precious and comes at a high cost, but also as a general philosophy of housing minimalism in natural areas. The project was awarded with an Acknowledgment prize 2020 for Latin America, in recognition of a flexible and regenerative design solution and its scalability for cities.

Establishing strong links to address cultural disconnect

The project Maximize the Minimum in China, sets to correct this cultural disconnect, by re-establishing a strong link to the context, but also surpassing the dichotomy between vernacular and functional architecture. In the development, flexible and modular functional interiors and infrastructures are integrated within traditional buildings and structures. The project offers a set of strategies for the regeneration of the Baitasi historic neighborhood in the west downtown district of Beijing. New low-rise, courtyard housing will be added within the built fabric via pilot programs to increase densification without high-rise construction.

Baitasi urban regeneration, Beijing, China

The proposed scheme empowers local stakeholders and vulnerable on-site residents to upgrade infrastructure and public services. The project received a Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize 2017 for Asia Pacific.

Further reading on urban requalification