Density, according to Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, isn’t just about numbers. For Dykers, density can be more about sociology than space, as noted in his keynote speech on urban density at World Architecture Day: “An experience in a city is not only related to density, but rather the ability to move from a dense area to a less dense one.”
In an age where the global urban population is growing at unseen rates, one corollary of increasing density is a need to have built infrastructure to support this larger population. The issue for Dykers, however, is not necessarily a need for more buildings, but rather a need for structures that are better designed.
“We have no shortage of buildings for people to live in or work in, but we abandon them,” said Dykers.
Architects, then, are in a position of power and responsibility in trying to shape spaces in cities that will enhance the environment and make it better for people, including designing buildings to last.
Dykers highlighted work from his firm (Snøhetta), specifically showing slides of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, plans for pedestrian amenities in Times Square, and street benches in Guatemala City. Dykers remarked that during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, citizens formed a human chain around the library to protect it, bringing together pro-government and anti-government individuals because of their connection with the building and the space.
Working with Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg’s office on the redesign of Times Square, Snøhetta is proposing benches that are equipped for audio-visual access, providing a ‘plug and play’ experience in the space. He also discussed the opportunity to orientate the benches in order to aid pedestrians in moving through the enormous space.
Finally, Dykers discussed a project in Guatemala City, a city that has historically had little sidewalk infrastructure but a significant population living and working on the street. One design solution Dykers has proposed includes benches along the streets that can function as a place for sitting, working, talking, and sleeping. The project is now being scaled with 3,000 benches in production after funding from a private donor.