The pandemic postponed the original schedule, but it couldn’t stop Expo 2020 Dubai. Project leaders for the US$8.2 billion megaproject regrouped, pushing back the global spectacle by a year to open in October 2021 and run through March 2022. Organizers expect the event to pull 25 million visitors to the region, helping spark a rebirth for global travel. And that’s a win for project leaders and political stakeholders alike, as government leaders look to diversify the country’s economy and shake off one of the worst recessions in five decades. The event is expected to boost Dubai’s economy by US$33 billion and create about 300,000 jobs.
22nd Most Influential Project of 2021
Government leaders in the Maldives believe a floating city could address the urgent risk of the island country being swallowed by the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts sea levels could rise a half meter (1.6 feet) by 2100, a scenario that would submerge 77 percent of the South Asian archipelago’s land area. Launched in partnership with Dutch architecture studio Waterstudio and construction company Dutch Docklands, the massive infrastructure project could serve as a scalable blueprint for other coastal communities. Slated to be built just outside of the Maldives’ capital of Malé, the new island city will be powered by renewable energy and provide space for thousands of homes, a hospital, a school and commercial properties. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022, with work completed in phases over the next half decade.
24th Most Influential Project of 2021
Japan’s largest city is reimagining public toilets—with a focus on making them cleaner, healthier, more accessible and more tourist-friendly. The TOKYO TOILET is a creative collaboration by The Nippon Foundation and the Shibuya City Government. The Nippon Foundation recruited 16 creators—including high-profile architects and designers—to dream up their own take on public water closet installations. Scattered throughout the busy Shibuya district, they all prioritize accessibility, ensuring wheelchair access and a gender-neutral option, but each one also makes its own design statement. The Nippon Foundation have completed more than half of the 17 toilets to date.
49th Most Influential Project of 2021
Sydney has committed US$1.15 billion to transform 114 hectares (282 acres) of grasslands around the yet-to-open Western Sydney International Airport into its third city center. More than AU$900 million will be used for remediation and basic infrastructure underlying what government leaders are positioning as an Indo-Pacific economic center that will fuel investments in technology, engineering and advanced manufacturing. Following the results of a community survey, the new city will be called Bradfield, in honor of John Bradfield, who designed and oversaw construction of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. Construction is slated to begin by the end of the year.
Now this is a power play. The SAR6 billion King Salman Energy Park (known as Spark) is a global energy technology hub that will include factories, workshops and a railroad port, along with residential, educational and commercial areas. The megaproject puts a heavy focus on sustainability, with the first phase of the 50-square-kilometer (19-square-mile) development obtaining LEED silver certification—making Spark the first industrial city in the world to do so. The site will be operated and anchored by Saudi Aramco in partnership with the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones. And it’s already attracting local and international industry investors: Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. (known as Taqa) and the Saudi energy consulting firm Amco signed tenant deals in March.
London is full of creatives—who often can’t keep up with rent in one of the world’s most expensive cities. Developer Knight Dragon came up with a plan to change that: building out an area full of affordable workspaces that would also act as a catalyst for regeneration of an industrial site. In keeping with the project’s more imaginative ethos, each of the eight architects chosen to design the 16 buildings in Design District wasn’t aware of what the others were working on. It was a bit of controlled chaos, all aligned to a rigorous masterplan by architect HNNA. The result? With space for 1,800 people, the district lets creatives pick the venue most likely to inspire their muse—whether that’s a co-working space or a gritty workshop—plus places to eat and indulge in sport.
A pandemic that had people craving the great outdoors coupled with shocking heat waves underscored the need for urban greenspaces—and highlighted the social inequities that sequester them in more well-off neighborhoods. In June, Stanford University researchers released Urban InVEST, a free mapping tool that lets urban planners input data to visualize the links between nature and wellbeing. Tests in Shenzhen revealed how parks could mitigate flooding and decrease daytime temperatures, for example. And in Paris, the software helped identify neighborhoods in need of greenspace by overlaying economic data with information on which had access to nature.
Berlin has a housing problem. There’s a shortage of 310,000 units, and rents in the city have doubled in the last decade. Tegel Projekt GmbH is responding with one of Europe’s largest urbanization initiatives: Berlin TXL aims to put 5,000 new homes and a sustainability-focused industrial park on the site of the defunct Tegel Airport. It’s a long time coming: The airport was supposed to be replaced about a decade ago. With Berlin’s new airport finally opened last year, the project is finally taking flight, having broken ground in May.
Getting an urban development project in motion can be a slog—an often months-long process of coordinating input from architects, developers, project managers and urban planners. Delve software from Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs aims to streamline the process, using machine learning and cloud computing to compile city data on buildings, open spaces, amenities, streets and energy infrastructure. And then it runs millions of design combos to see how they change project metrics, from cost to energy use to the availability of natural light.
Urban planning in Rotterdam is looking up—literally. With space becoming increasingly scarce, city planners commissioned Dutch architecture studio MVRDV and Rotterdam Rooftop Days to produce the Rooftop Catalogue, a compendium of more than 130 innovative ways to make productive use of the city’s 18.5 square kilometers (7 square miles) of flat roofs. Many of the ideas are familiar, such as green roofs, solar arrays and water towers. Others seek to push the limits of what roofs can supply. Think coworking spaces and cemeteries.