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Architectural Digest: HOK Planners and Designers Envision the “City of the Future”

Five HOK planners and designers contribute to a discussion about using design to solve some of the urgent issues facing cities.

Excerpted from Architectural Digest:

No one-size-fits-all solutions exist across geographic locations, as urban planning will increasingly be rooted in local culture. But cities must also be capable of sustaining transformation and addressing larger issues, including public health, climate change, and energy generation. “To thrive in the future,” said Rae Smith, a senior urban designer based in HOK’s San Francisco office, “we need to maximize the value of our built environment and leverage it to solve multiple problems at once.”

“We are looking to combine people-focused design with cutting-edge technology to enhance livability with a greener, more connected public realm and new levels of sustainability,” said Brian Jencek, director of planning at HOK in San Francisco.

The advent of autonomous vehicles will revolutionize our streets. Once AVs are safe, on demand, and zero-emissions, “cities will be irreversibly transformed,” said Anthony Fieldman, a design principal in HOK’s Toronto office. Public transportation—including better connectivity between modes and hubs—will also be greatly improved.

From office skyscrapers to condominium towers, their design will focus on greater adaptability and reuse, since the way we use them has proven to be constantly in flux. They’ll act as transit hubs and mixed-use spaces that better “incorporate ‘live’ and ‘play’ into the places you ‘work,’” said Mark Ejnes, design principal at HOK in Los Angeles.

Some engineering projects won’t be logical or cost-effective, however, and “there are some impossible geological conditions that we can’t fix,” cautioned William Kenworthey, regional leader of planning at HOK in New York. “Cities don’t last forever and, depending on the long-term realities of sea level rise, some cities may become the ‘new Atlantis.’”

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