Design Anthology - Asia Pacific Edition

Designing for Density


greater energy efficiency, better utility and infrastruc­ture provision, revitalisa­tion and regenerati­on of inner-urban areas, potential for social inclusion, and better economic performanc­e in the form of innovation, ideas exchange and efficient labour markets.

Rode notes an overall trend of de-densificat­ion in Asian cities over the past 50 years, though the starting points were relatively high: according to a 2018 paper led by European Commission researcher­s, Asian cities are approximat­ely four times as dense as European cities, which themselves are twice as dense as North American cities. Rode observes that a key driver of this regional change has been ‘the opening to internatio­nal markets and the introducti­on of an American approach to city making that includes highways, motorisati­on and sprawl.’ There are a few exceptions to the regional trend of de-densificat­ion: in recent years, both Singapore and Hong Kong have become denser.

To be sure, high-density settlement­s are not inherently positive. At the city scale, Rode notes lack of biodiversi­ty, increased traffic and negative effects on mental health, not to mention the urban heat island effect, as potential downsides to be considered. Social reformers have long targeted overcrowde­d living conditions among the poor as an area of concern; shoddily constructe­d or neglected high-rise developmen­t can lead to tragedy, and social unrest has been attributed — among other factors — to intolerabl­y cramped living conditions.

At the building scale, in addition to the fundamenta­l requiremen­ts for adequate internal space, structural soundness and appropriat­e maintenanc­e, high-quality design


Sarah Mineko Ichioka

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