More than half of the world’s population now live in cities, presenting new challenges for architects and urban planners. Architect Ole Scheeren, a speaker at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2014, explains some of his ground-breaking designs and why no planning process should begin without understanding how we live, work and interact.

Here are some quotes from the clip. You can watch the full video at the top of this page.

On the role of architecture

The way I like to think of the work that we do, is trying to develop prototypes of how we can take buildings and typologies of buildings (housing, towers, mixed use, etc) and think of them differently, how they could respond differently, not only to a changing world, but maybe also to us as human beings that inhabit those structures.

On the challenge for planners

As planners, we are supposed to plan, we are supposed to decide and define things. And very often our profession is caught up with this obsession with deciding things and determining things. Maybe we also have to think about what we don’t decide, what we leave open for others to decide. So, what is a planned space and what is an unplanned space – and how can we translate that into a city model?

On successful design

There’s the question: how can we reduce energy consumption? While it’s an important issue, it’s the wrong starting point, because actually if a city is terrible then it doesn’t matter how much energy it consumes. The first thing we have to think about is, what does quality mean? What does quality of life mean?

On a new way to plan a densely populated city

If we need extreme density, why don’t we create ultra-density – compress what we have even more, to open up spaces in between: a city of dense islands that float in free, possibly green space. You could interpret it as a large park, but it is more than a park; it is a space in which citizens can negotiate their territory in a different way.

Instead of investing equally in the entire territory, we could define areas of focused investment – maybe only 40% – so we actually have a fair amount of capital available to make those really good; and we leave other things simply open.

On a radically new residential development in Singapore

I simply toppled the towers. I said let’s throw them on their sides and turn the vertical into the horizontal, and take the horizontal elements and start to stack them on top of each other. We’re creating a very dramatic space of an interlinked network; we call it the Interlace. But though it looks chaotic from the side, if you look from the top, you realize it’s not chaotic at all. It’s actually a hexagonal grid, which forms large courtyards.

Author: Ole Scheeren is Principal Architect with Büro Ole Scheeren, People’s Republic of China.

Image: A view of Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai, with the Palm Island Jumeirah in the background, November 8, 2007. REUTERS/Steve Crisp