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When construction finished on the 32-storey 461 Dean late last year, the uninformed passer-by might have dismissed it as merely Brooklyn’s latest large-scale residential complex to pop up seemingly overnight. However, this project lays claim to being the tallest modular tower in the world, with 90% of its construction completed offsite. Are we entering the age of the pre-fab skyscraper and what are the connotations for our cities? We ask Christopher Sharples, principal at SHoP Architects, Zhang Yue, founder and chairman of Broad Sustainable Building, and MAKE Architecture founder Ken Shuttleworth.


Whether it’s abandoned warehouses, disused power stations or shuttered factories, the reclamation of redundant industrial space in the cities of Europe and the US has been responsible for some of the most significant architectural undertakings of recent years. The prevalence of such work reflects both the demise of manufacturing in these locales and an urgent need for development sites to meet the demands of mass urbanisation. But what are the pitfalls of such undertakings and how can architects and developers ensure that these projects don’t further disenfranchise those already impacted by the demise of traditional industries? Partners from Studio Gang Architects, Rafael Viñoly and Cynthia Davidson, curator of the American pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale join the debate.


The UK government recently announced that 14 garden villages totalling more than 48,000 homes are to be built around the country. However, are such developments as new towns, garden cities and villages a realistic response to dwindling construction levels and affordable housing shortages, or an antiquated response more reflective of the built environment challenges of the last century rather than those we face today? The LEAF Review meets architects, legislators and campaigners to find out.

Regional focusTop

The debate surrounding whether non architects should be allowed to design buildings reached an unprecedented pitch in 2015, with stellar names from both sides of the fence weighing into the argument as superstar industrial designers and artists snapped up ever larger commissions. Are clients really looking for partners who “think outside the box” and can too much knowledge ever be a bad thing? We hear from Dror Benshetrit, whose New York studio is developing a giant urban island off the coast of Istanbul, RIBA president Jane Duncan, German-Iranian designer and architect Hadi Teherani, and a designer with a fast growing portfolio of major architectural projects, Thomas Heatherwick.

Special reportTop

The number of people aged 60 years and over has tripled since 1950, reaching 600 million in 2000 and surpassing 700 million in 2006. It is projected that the combined senior and geriatric population will reach 2.1 billion by 2050. From retirement villages to residential masterplans, how is this trend set to impact the way in which we design and future proof our buildings? We talk to Haptic co-founder Tomas Stokke, Spark director Stephen Pimbley, and Arup’s Stefano Recalcati.

Design Top

In its own way, New York’s High Line was the naughties equivalent of “The Gugenheim Effect”: a development that demonstrated the regenerative (and headline-generating) power of architecture which cities around the world then tried to ape with varying success. It also served to make landscape design and architecture a much more high-profile pursuit, with municipal authorities prepared to invest unprecedented amounts of money into prestige parkland projects. We meet the designer behind some of the most exciting, including the repurposing of a Seoul station overpass by MVRDV, Studio Makkink & Bey and landscape designer Ben Kuipers.

Technology Top

Technological design platforms are meant to empower architects to realise their visions, rather than drive their designs. There is a growing argument, however, that the increasingly standardised use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) software might fundamentally influence the manner in which we conceive our buildings, as well as execute them. What might this BIM School look like and should such a thought scare or excite us? Jakob Andreassen, BIM Manager at BIG, Atkins technical director Anne Kemp, and architect Peter Barker, managing director of BIM Academy, join the debate.

Lighting Top

When it comes to lighting, office developers and facility managers have traditionally prioritised saving money through energy efficiency of the lighting system, but the growing prevalence of studies associating one’s lighting environment with productivity levels is seeing increased thought and investment being applied to exactly how we illuminate our work spaces. We meet the architects looking to lighten the load for office workers, including Architecture 49, Clive Wilkinson Architects and Snøhetta.

Materials Top

There has never been a greater focus on building lifecycles, with our built environment expected to embody sustainable credentials across ever expanding metrics. Within this context, to what extent are the principles of the circular economy impacting material choice and building design: extracting maximum value from one’s materials, then recovering and regenerating said materials at the end of their service life? We travel to Amsterdam to speak to architects and construction leaders at the annual ECCA congress.

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