Repurposing tailored to the mobility of the future
What will road travel be like in 20 years’ time? Will it be fully electric? Will there be more or less public transport? Or will self-driving cars be the norm? These are the questions that preoccupy many today. Indeed, mobility experts, architects and repurposers alike, are fascinated by the roads of the future.
As spatial planners, we’re keen to anticipate the mobility of the future. What transport modes will people use to frequent our buildings and urban districts? By factoring in evolving mobility, we can ensure that repurposed sites will remain attractive and accessible hotspots twenty years from now. Even if, as expected, our nation’s cities house up to a quarter more residents by 2060. Will the urban fringes become giant car parks - or will more car parking spaces be available in the suburbs?
At bow architecten, we’ve developed our own vision on future mobility – and are cleverly incorporating this into our repurposing projects. By thinking ahead. Which is essential, because it’s the only way to make our designs future-proof.
We’re convinced that the movement towards urban hubs with a higher quality of life, coupled with the greening of mobility, has already begun. We won’t abandon our cars en masse, but we will start using them less frequently and more sustainably.
The trend towards a better quality of life and greener mobility might be inexorable, but we’re not there yet. City and town councils, as well as spatial planners and architects, still require a large dose of courage and guts to transform resistance into support. The residents of the first car-free city centres weren’t entirely happy at first either. And remember the power struggles that resulted from the scrapping of parking spaces and the switch from two-way to one-way traffic? Yet, many of these projects weren’t consigned to the scrap heap; on the contrary. Following a positive evaluation, the scale and number of decommissioned parking spaces, one-way streets and car-free city centres often demonstrably increased.
Our designs typically consider the mobility and spatial policies of the future. We predict a series of urban hubs. These hubs will in turn combine various functions, such as housing, education, shopping, care, work and relaxation. They will be self-sufficient. Towns and cities already do this, but university campuses and hospital grounds are also well on their way to becoming ‘villages’ in their own right. Urban hubs, in effect.
These urban hubs will become increasingly interconnected. Travelling from one hub to another will be more seamless than it is today, because living life to the full will necessitate being inside, as opposed to outside, such hubs. Seamless links between hubs will gain in importance. Such as that offered by the coastal tram or the Regional Express Network in Brussels. Uninterrupted connectivity to mobility hubs will be crucial, as will accessible infrastructure. Or the provision of the necessary amenities, such as electric charging points, for both cars and bicycles. Who could have foreseen that ten years ago?
Our point is clear: the issue of mobility is integral to repurposing. This often requires engaging in conversation with other spatial planners, such as the Planning Department or those responsible for Regional and Spatial Implementation Plans. We can only do this if we’re thoroughly prepared, and armed with concrete solutions to our mobility issues - such as who will frequent the repurposed building, both now and in the future? At what times of the day? During the week? At weekends? And what transport modes will they use? Will people travel more for leisure and less for work, due to an increase in teleworking?
In short: how can we consider - and allow for – the evolutions that will ultimately be widespread? Can we proactively incorporate smart city technology that can guide traffic flow based on GPS signals, or the space that will be required for shared bicycles, shared cars and shared scooters? Can we provide a central point where couriers can securely deposit parcels and grocery deliveries - and will letterboxes be surplus to requirements?
Architects who breathe new life into old buildings would therefore do well to give them a renewed purpose that’s not only fit for today, but will also stand the short and long-term test of time – including in terms of mobility.
Do you or do you know someone with former business premises or a derelict site that you don't know what to do with it?
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