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Mikel Azkona

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Can we think of factories and commercial buildings growing vertically, in order to save land and bring those uses back into compact cities?

I'm an architect and I participate in a research project of the University of the Basque Country. We are doing research on higher density industry buildings and we think the global decision that has been taken in residential areas of going into higher densities, should also apply in industrial areas. Main reasons apply in both cases: shortage of building land and the need of a sustainable mobility.

Here in the Basque Country, the reasons that make us want to turn into higher densities are quite evident: rough terrain, high population density and industry still playing a major role in the economy. It is therefore difficult and expensive to obtain industrial land and the costs are very high. During the XXth century, there was in fact, a tradition of urban industry edification, but as in many other places, urban sprawl has prevailed in recent decades, spreading industrial buildings and emptying city centers.

We have seen many examples where, despite not being motivated by topography reasons, higher models have been recovered in order to prevent industries and manufacture activities being kicked out from growing metropolis (examples in Paris, Vancouver, Brooklyn…).

In our research work, we are examining the main practical problems that exist, paying special attention to the limitations set by the existing technical regulations and urban planning. The alternative may come from the growth in number of floors and merging of uses. So the final aim of this research is to find and work on new building typologies that would give a solution to these problems.

We are hoping the TED community will be interested in sharing and suggesting ideas on this subject, and would like to discuss on what possible solutions there might be. We'd love to hear of similar experiences around the world and would appreciate the sharing of some other interesting examples you may know.

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  • Sep 6 2013: The most important criteria is designing a 3 dimensional transportation system as the grid on which this city is built. That is when you get the biggest benefit. I have a design, there is only one road in the entire city, and the road is one way for it's entire route. One of the reasons I did this was because of the design of the circulation system in the human body. I integrate cars, subways, bicycles, walking, escalators, elevators, and even a canal.

    I calculate that it is possible to go from any point in a city of 2 million to any other point in 15 minutes, however, I would really appreciate someone who could design a computer simulation to test this and compare it with other cities. I have merely chosen several obvious trips (one side of the city to the other, etc).

    The city is an order of magnitude more compact with all of the financial benefits that entails. Because the road is so simple (it is one way the entire route, and there is only one road, no intersections, no lights, no stops signs, etc) I think it would be ideal for vehicles that have recently been developed that drive themselves. I envision residents using a computer/smart phone app to order vehicles from one point to another. As a result no one owns cars, which reduces the total number by an order of magnitude. Also, you don't need parking, which also saves a lot of space. Also, the road has a very slight downhill grade for about 99% of the route which is ideal for electric vehicles. If they are all electric then I can put the road underground. This way walkways and bicycle routes do not share the road with cars, rather they have their own park. Again, the city is ideally suited for the use of bicycles, especially mixed with the subway. So I see a system where the bicycles also belong to the city. Because the city is so compact it encourages bicycles and walking.

    Finally, every residence in the city has a beautiful view overlooking the park.
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      Sep 16 2013: I like your ideas. It resonate well with the challenge face by the urban planner.
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      Sep 17 2013: Thanks for sharing Stuart. Sounds interesting and challenging. You should ask someone to build you a Grasshopper script to get those simulations. I am sure that the results would provide valuable information.

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