As a result, modern cities are confronted with sustainability challenges that will inevitably endure. The emerging consensus is that increasing the number of dwellings and mixed use spaces per acre is the obvious response to combating sprawl, but the solutions command much greater consideration and imagination. Increasingly, architects and advocates are creating solutions that showcase smarter and more sustainable living.
Ahead of Mads Mandrup Hansen's presentation at this year's Medium Density Housing Summit, we showcase an award-winning development from his firm, C.F. Møller Architects, that is visually and functionally emblematic of how denser living developments can tick all of the boxes - sustainability, social values, and sophisticated, stylish living.
High profile environmental development Zenhouses (Zenhusen) is located in Stockholm, Sweden. Designed by C.F. Møller Architects with landscaping by Ramböll, it was nominated for a 2017 residential building prize.
Hansen explains the value and virtues of such a development: "The criteria for living in the city or close to it have shifted dramatically. Today the demand is more in the direction of apartments or row houses, 2-3 floors, with proximity to public transport and other services.
"It's about creating an affordable, manageable, and healthy environment for all generations, and building a happy community based on identifiable, well-functioning, and human-scaled neighborhoods."
Hansen celebrates the opportunity to create a more balanced, social and sustainable connection between people and place - specifically the outdoors - so that both can co-exist in a harmonious fashion.
Zenhouses certainly fulfils this brief, honoring the environment in so many ways - its concept, aesthetic and functionality. Achieving a seamless integration between the indoors and outdoors, it pays homage to the landscape and surrounding environment - both key protagonists in the visual narrative.
The Corten Steel featured on the exterior of the development reflects the red brick facades of the gasworks area and is also a stunning tribute to the natural ochre colours of the Royal National City Park. Behind closed doors, the campaign to honour the best of the environment continues with the selected natural materials an extension of the residential complex - slate and wood.
The buildings boast folded facades and large, continuous glass sections are integrated to frame the private outdoor area and terraces, while sight lines and double-high storey heights achieve transparency and space.
An alleyway situated between the two rows of townhouses is populated with entrances, private outdoor spaces, and an elevated arcade designed to enhance the social values of the quarter and the overall city plan. The landscape and vegetation, with Nordic ties, interact beautifully with the buildings' architecture, and were selected to contribute to the project's overall life cycle perspective.
Reinforcing its true respect of the environment are sedum roofs and vegetation in rich soil allowing biological diversity; extensive ecosystem services; stormwater detention; solar panels; eco-friendly materials; smart control systems; charging poles, and highly-insulating insulation.
On the future of such developments embracing sustainable and smarter living choices, Hansen comments: "It has staying power if we allow it to adapt to the shifting mix of how we want to live and co-exist in our cities. In the ideal setup, I truly believe it's the smartest choice for all generations."