sg2014:Urban Compaction

Smartgeometry held our yearly Workshop + Conference, this year entitled sg2014:Urban Compaction at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, China, from 14-19 July 2014. The event was in two parts, a four day Workshop 14-17 July, and a public conference beginning with Talkshop 18 July, followed by a Symposium 19 July. The sg2014 Workshop and Conference was a gathering of the global community of innovators and pioneers in the fields of architecture, design and engineering.




Large cities thrive on density and diversity - an environment where opportunity and choice are always proximate. But beyond the clear energy and pollution advantages of the elevator over the automobile, there are complex issues at play in concentrating population and built infrastructure in contemporary high-rise cities. The wicked complexity of urban systems notoriously escapes modelling, understanding and prediction in ways that lead to good design and high quality urban environments.

Around the world, the twentieth century city of the American Dream constructed at low density around the opportunities of the automobile is giving way to realities of soaring migration to cities set against the urgent need to address congestion, peak oil, the impact of carbon on the environment. In many, the clearly defined high-rise central business district, surrounded by kilometres of low suburban development is not the model – there is a much more extensive high-density urban condition. Each city presents its own particular set of conditions and pressures, but in many the pressure on limited available land in relation to demand, poor quality of land for development requiring expensive engineering solutions, and the drive to collocate for increased economic, social and cultural  opportunity, is leading to very high rise development and increasing urban density.

What are the implications and opportunities of density for sustainable flows of people, food, energy and waste within building projects and at the planning scale for high rise, high density cities? Tall buildings thrive on rich infrastructure. What are the new ecological models for living, working, travel and transport, communication, production (vertical farming, innovative manufacturing) and disposal/conversion (waste to energy) in dense concentrations? Global competition between cities works to support investment in parks, art, intellectual capital and the rule of law - but how are the quality of environment and the intellectual and aesthetic qualities of the city maintained under the economic forces at play in the ultra high density city where the investment stakes are high? Does the city’s provided infrastructure suffice to support urbanity, or are additional layers in parasitic symbiosis emerging to enable the full richness of the 21st century megalopolis?

Within research there are many post digital examples of urban modelling based on biological metaphor, agents systems and other models that would be hard to pursue outside a computational environment. How can and should the most advanced and adaptive models migrate to influence and prototype the built projects and city precincts of the future? In a post digital age with some increased, albeit limited, opportunity for generative and complex modelling, how do the relevant contemporary models draw on or contradict the futuristic modernist visions that have been put forward since the early twentieth century?

Shenzhen, China, had the fifth highest density in the world at 17,150 per square kilometre for an estimated population of sixteen million. Neighbouring Hong Kong with its famously hyper-dense, high rise development has a comparable urban population to fast-growing Shenzhen but with its tracts of un-developed land, its large city lungs, does not appear in the top hundred cities for urban density.

Hong Kong, the world leader in ultra compact, high-rise development and challenging infrastructure provides the theatre for Smartgeometry to pursue the exploration of ways to research and prototype all aspects of design leading to innovations to support high quality Urban Compaction.


Gold Sponsors

Autodesk is working to help solve some of the world’s most complex design problems, from pressing ecological challenges to the development of scalable smart infrastructure. Designers use Autodesk tools to not only create plans for buildings, for example, but also to simulate their impact on the environment and track their performance over time.

bronze sponsors



The chinese university of hong kong

Our hosts for sg2014 are The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), in partnership with The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and City University of Hong Kong. Workshops will take place at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

sg2014 team

Host Committee

Marc Aurel Schnabel, CUHK
Yan Gao, HKU
Kristof Crolla, CUHK
Stefan Krakhofer, CityU
Ashley Scott Kelly, HKU

review & planning committee

Seth Edwards, CASE
Rob Woodbury, Simon Fraser University
Ralf Lindemann, Pilbrow & Partners

smartgeometry directors

Shane Burger, Woods Bagot
Jane Burry, SIAL / RMIT University
Xavier De Kestelier, Foster + Partners
Lars Hesselgren, PLP Architects
J Parrish, AECOM
Brady Peters, University of Toronto
Hugh Whitehead, Foster + Partners (retired)