The city within the city

Fig. 1
View of the south façade and terminus.

The city within the city

The master thesis project takes place in the context of globalization and hyper-urbanization. It represents a metropolitan and vertical ‘house’ the size of a city block that also allows other uses next to living. A set of houses, a fusion of architectures. A new world contained in a project that functions as a city within a city. A house the size of a small city and a city the size of a large house. Being both theoretical and pragmatic, this project is an excellent illustration of how I work. It signifies the culmination of the knowledge gained throughout my academic career.

The world is currently in an accelerated process of globalization. A heightened state of mobility and inter-connectivity along with an excessive upscaling of international integration brings people, cultures and markets ever closer together. Society takes on a new form: a globalized society of cosmopolitan people. The city houses the essence of society. The current worldwide hyper-urbanization brings about an inevitable rise of hyper-dense and vertical mega-cities. Infrastructural nodes are the catalysts of urbanization, accompanied by the demise of the city center as the core of urban life. The city becomes therefore a polycentric area of autonomous enclaves—an archipelago of self-sufficient islands.

Nowadays, architecture appears to be moving towards one of neutrality, uniformity and the indefinable. A search for the absolute zero point of architecture, the absence of style. For this new phase in architecture, notions such as location, context and identity seem to be losing their meaning. The once specific and local becomes interchangeable and global.

Fig. 2
Situation plan

“London—its only identity a lack of clear identity—is perpetually becoming even less London, more open, less static.”

—Rem Koolhaas, “Generic City,” in S, M, L, XL.

London is as the most prominent international city in Europe, also hit by a violent urbanization for which the city has deployed a future-oriented redevelopment in which the building of sky-scrapers makes up an important part. The project is situated on the infrastructural hub of Waterloo Station. Situated nearby the South Bank, it is a very important traffic junction for the city and it belongs to one of the sites to be redeveloped.
The city as an archipelago of autonomously functioning districts is the main driver of the project. The city within the city is both architecture and city. An architecture that includes the complexity of the city. A city on the scale of architecture. The project acts as autonomous as the city and its parts: all essential functions of urban life—traffic, live, work, learn and relax—are unified. The project develops itself vertically with the superposition of its elements and can be read as a continuation of hybrid/ mixed-use concepts and building typologies.

The towers on podium typology is seen as an important solution to the housing problem worldwide. A drawback, however, is that it often results in a singular circulation and a separation of public functions in the podium with private functions in mono-functional towers on top. This is contrary to the idea of a true city within the city. Therefore, to oppose this paradox, it is modified in terms of its horizontal and vertical components so improved links can be made both with the city and between functions. The outcome is a better mix of public and private along with an increased density and complexity.

Fig. 3
View of the approach to Waterloo Station.

 

 

 

Fig. 4
Different floor plans (from top to bottom): sports & theatre, hotel rooms & apartments, forum with hotel & apartment lobbies, station concourse level.

“The terminal concourses are the ramblas and agoras of the future city, time-free zones where all the clocks of the world are displayed, an atlas of arrivals and destinations forever updating itself, where we briefly become true world citizens.”

The city is a continuous mechanism that constantly transforms and evolves. The demolition of old for the realization of new is often not only inefficient and unsustainable, but also a stab in the back for the development pattern of the city. Waterloo Station is a structure that includes a zeitgeist and has a great significance as a gateway to and from the city. As a building that continues to meet future needs, it is preserved and integrated in the conception. A minimal perforation of the old is reached by separating the new from the old through the use of three rectangular columns. This way, existing daily traffic is disturbed as little as possible. Waterloo Station becomes thus an even more extensive junction of traffic through the addition of the vertical infrastructure.

Given the mix of functions, height, width and density, circulation inside is just as complex as in the urban context in which it is situated, using different scales of vertical and horizontal transportation. Through forums and blocks the functions are arranged. These forums are publicly accessible via the central core which acts as a vertical metro. This vertical metro only stops at the forums. The outer two cores contain local elevators to the specific function. Similar to the contemporary city, infrastructure becomes a device for establishing hierarchies, rhythms and thus sets a new way dwellers experience the urban space.

—J.G. Ballard, “Airports: The Cities of the Future,” in Blueprint. (1997).

Fig. 5
Long-section.

Fig. 6
Cross-section.

The circulation cores are literally and figuratively the fundamental structural elements of the project. These, in turn, carry the structure of the blocks: a steel exoskeleton. This structural skin is made up of a body of columns and beams, which together form a rigid three-dimensional vierendeel frame. The openings between the columns and beams are of varying sizes, dictated by the axial forces within the frame.

A city is never infinitely big. The division into districts makes it clear where the city ends and the suburban begins. A city quarter acts as a city in itself and contains its own centre and border. The curtailment of growth results in a dense and efficient city. The boundary is a fundamental element for the functioning of the city. The city within the city has a clear limit—the square—which emphasizes the unification of the various blocks inside. In this way it sets an absolute limit which thus defines the actual shape of the vertical city.

The city within the city represents an urban model that seeks to frame the city architecturally. Its form is the synthesis of the timeless and contemporary. The conception seeks an architecture absent of style and freed from any excessiveness and inventions of form. The architecture is provided with a sense of normality and neutrality through the use of order and repetition. It is generic and universal, but obtained by the interpretation of specific and local elements. It represents the impact on society by globalization and internationalization. A true home for the cosmopolite.