After four decades of disrepair, London’s iconic Battersea Power Station is getting a second chance at life. The £9 billion mixed-use development project—led by Battersea Power Station Development Company, working with Malaysian site owners PNB, Sime Darby Property, S P Setia and the Employees Provident Fund—will transform the decommissioned power plant into a dynamic community destination that’s expected to draw 40 million visits annually once fully completed in 2030.
8th Most Influential Project of 2022
Coastal cities are in crisis, as climate change and extreme weather events make flooding a frequent reality. To address that existential threat, UN-Habitat is partnering with Busan Metropolitan City and sustainable tech firm Oceanix to envision a bold, new approach: floating, flood-proof cities. In April, project partners unveiled plans for a “modular maritime neighborhood” that would extend the South Korean port city of Busan into the ocean and house up to 12,000 people. Equipped with solar power, greenhouses that expand and contract based on need, and extensive public spaces to foster a sense of community, these kinds of oceanic outposts could offer a sustainable future for coastal residents worldwide.
12th Most Influential Project of 2022
Located on the outskirts of Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh, the SAR64 billion Diriyah Gate is meant to showcase the destination’s past, present and future—blending 300 years of culture and heritage with high-end retail, residential living and education experiences. One major mission of the project: restore At-Turaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site of mud-brick palaces that dates back to 1766. Project plans call for new construction to surround the existing complex, placing it at the heart of the new development. It’s a wildly audacious project but Diriyah Gate Development Authority and its subsidiary, DevCo, already cracked one major logistics conundrum last year: threading the project’s critical infrastructure through an existing urban community.
18th Most Influential Project of 2022
Unchecked urban sprawl in León, México has increasingly pushed housing to the edges of the city, isolating its residents from core infrastructure. But the team behind Las Americas Social Housing—which includes architecture firm SO-IL, collaborating with the Instituto Municipal de Vivienda de León, structural engineering firm ICNUM and the city of León—took a different approach: delivering a high-density housing structure that evokes the privacy local residents crave. The government-backed US$2.5 million project could serve as a template for future affordable-housing developments.
37th Most Influential Project of 2022
Governments the world over are pursuing ambitious projects to beat back the climate toll of urban living. But project leaders in Cairo have set their sights far higher: building the world’s first climate-positive city. Unveiled in March by Dubai developer URB, the masterplan for Nexgen spans 580 hectares (1,433 acres) and includes self-sustaining plans for food and energy production as well as water use to support 35,000 residents. The city is projected to actually produce more food and energy than it consumes, helping establish the made-from-scratch metropolis as “the next evolution in sustainable cities,” says URB CEO Baharash Bagherian.
40th Most Influential Project of 2022
Ghana is brimming with natural resources, but is short on the critical infrastructure needed to support industry at its full potential scale. To help address that need, real estate development company Wonda World wants to build a 2,000-acre (4,942-hectare) fully integrated business center for the oil, gas and mining industries in Ghana and its surrounding countries. Known as Petronia City, the proposed coastal outpost could expand the region’s business presence and tourist appeal, providing West Africa’s industrial magnates with facilities to share resources and information.
49th Most Influential Project of 2022
The city of Amsterdam unveiled plans in February to build an entire neighborhood out of a once familiar but now greatly underused construction material: wood. Named for nearby Nelson Mandela Park, the buurt (Dutch for “neighborhood”) will house a school, community facilities and enough apartment space to house 2,100 residents—a boon for a city in which affordable housing grows ever scarcer. Why wood? Using this renewable resource speeds construction, since structural-grade timber doesn’t require a masonry exterior, thereby simplifying the building process. Plus, wooden buildings don’t just reduce carbon emissions, they actually store carbon within their beams. One study estimates if 80 percent of Europe switched to primarily wood construction, the amount of carbon those buildings would absorb from the atmosphere would equal 47 percent of the continent’s concrete industry emissions. Construction is slated to begin in 2025.
In 2018, the town of Paradise, California, was victim to the state’s deadliest wildfire, which killed 85 people and decimated 18,000 buildings. To rebuild the town with greater resiliency, town leaders partnered with landscape planning firm SWA to develop a design that could prevent future fires from harming the community. The team used geographic information system software to develop the plan unveiled earlier this year. The principle at the center of the proposed design (or rather, at its edge) is a community-surrounding buffer zone composed of strategically thinned trees, orchards, athletic fields, parks and other public amenities less likely than forested areas to catch and spread fire.
The allure of the 10- or 15-minute city—an urban environment where residents can eat, shop, play, exercise and work all within minutes of where they live—became undeniable after the pandemic pushed millions back into their homes. Enter Project H1, Hyundai Development Company’s 10-minute smart city concept in Seoul that will transform an old industrial site into a hyperconnected, ultra-sustainable, car-free neighborhood. The 125-acre (50.6-hectare) project—designed by Dutch architecture firm UNStudio and Korean design firm Kunwon—includes eight residential towers, co-working spaces, a rail line, a cinema, fitness centers and even a hydroponic farm. Plans were unveiled in October 2021, though project leaders haven’t yet revealed a timeline.
Lack of affordable housing is fueling a global housing crisis, with the World Bank estimating that by 2025 1.6 billion people could be impacted by the shortage. Construction tech firm Icon argues that 3D printing may provide a solution, with its dual benefits of speedy builds and minimal crew. The company’s first 3D-printed home, in 2018, was a pint-sized proof of concept that took just two days to make. But its new project—to build an entire neighborhood of spacious 3D homes in Austin, Texas—radically raises the stakes, in what CEO Jason Ballard hopes will be “a watershed moment in the history of community-scale development and the future breaking into the present.” Architecture firm BIG and U.S. homebuilding giant Lennar have joined the project, announced in October 2021, to 3D-build the 100-home neighborhood.