10.17.2014Architecture, Research

Can Mixed-Use Developments Be Better?

The notion of mixed-use developments is not new. From early civilized settlements up until post WWII, humans have created mixed use areas; areas that include residential, commercial, institutional or industrial. There are numerous factors that have made mixed-use less frequent, especially in spread out cities and rural areas.  Here are a few:

Near the end of the 20th century, the benefits of mixed-use had arrived back with popularity and for good reason. To list a few:

In recent decades in the US, there is a new typology of mixed-use developments. Most likely, you’ve been to one. They’re well planned, they’re comfortable, yet we think that each of them could learn from these case studies below.  We fully support mixed-use projects, and think the best ones take it’s surrounding (context) into consideration. There isn’t 1 formula or recipe that works in every location. Check out these below and see if you think the same.

1. Markethal – Rotterdam, Netherlands

Architect: MVRDV

Markethal, designed by the always impressive MVRDV, is an open air food market encased in a giant arch of housing. At first, we thought the giant 2 story digital graphics of food were a little crazy..but after sitting with these images for a while, we think of it as a modern interpretation of a painted chapel ceiling. How is that different, really?

markthal-rotterdam-mvrdv-Daria-Scagliola-Stijn-Brakkee Photo Credit: ArchDaily and Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee 
_markthal-rotterdam-mvrdv_nico-saiehPhoto Credit: ArchDaily and Nico Saieh

Besides the scale and sense of awe over this project, it’s great to hear how this public use space would have been financially infeasible had it not been combined with rental apartments. This is the ultimate financial goal of mixed-use developments: the property developer, tenants and local market users can all co-exist and make money. What makes this project so special is that it takes traditional elements of a food market, such as the open ends and covered roof, and constructs the building program in such a unique way. A more traditional developer or architect would most likely make this 2 separate structures on the site: housing and market. But MVRDV has proved that a modern design will produce (pun!) an urban approach that entices visitors. To learn more, click here.

2. BSN7- Aarhus, Denmark

Architect: BIG

This project was designed by our current favorite firm out there, BIG. Every thing they make has a poetic yet functional solution.  This specific mixed-use project, BSN7, is no different. This project appears to have a more traditional approach than the Market Hall above, but careful consideration with the program elements, including housing, a water front area and a theatre, create great civic spaces for residents of Denmark. The design includes outdoor spaces that are wide open to the public as well as inner private courtyards for building residents.

BSN7-photo-credit-BIGRendering Credit: WAN and BIG

The best thing about this project is that all of the outdoor spaces are being constructed first. In a world of value engineering, it is nice to see a project that puts civic space as a priority. Want to see excellent design diagrams and learn more? click here.

3. Bryghusprojektet- Copenhagen, Denmark

Architect: OMA

Since the late 90’s, we’ve been hooked and consider ourselves S,M,L and XL fans of Rem Koolhas and OMA.  This project aims to be completed in 2017 and consists of a large corporate headquarters, housing, office, dining, and an urban park. Again, we see an atypical approach to mixed use program. Instead of segregating into programmatic blocks that are adjacent with minimal interaction, OMA decided to create a ‘heap’ to encourage random interactions and pedestrian paths.


DT-oma-PP100-Rendering-07-EXT_Plaza_Night_120208-Rev01-800-x-434Rendering Credits: Bryghus and OMA

Looking at the project at the scale of the city, the most impressive design gesture is that the building intends to bridge the water front to downtown. The building truly bridges over the existing highway. In this sense, the project goes beyond the typical mixed-use formula and helps solve a problem for pedestrians of downtown. For more on this project, click here.

We understand when developing projects that decisions are ultimately made in spreadsheets. The numbers have to add up. Profits have to be made. What makes the 3 case studies unique to the countless mixed-use development projects is that they accept the profitability factor yet still provide solutions to urban issues. And, the unique designs will garner these projects visitors, residents, and corporations who want to live, work, and recreate.

Let us know what you think of mixed use developments.

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