Urban living: Lombard Odier rethinks it with Monocle
Lombard Odier has been partnering with Monocle magazine to show how our Rethink Everything philosophy chimes with the spirit of the time. Around the world, rethinkers are redefining urban spaces. We tapped into the conversation in a three-part cooperation, focusing on city-building, green spaces and waterways. From Stockholm to Singapore, Berlin to Bangkok, and Hong Kong to The Hague, architects and motivated individuals are reassessing the way we live in cities with an eye on a sustainable future. In the same way, our clients can bank on Lombard Odier to provide them with long-term financial stability by questioning the conventional approach and constantly rethinking.
Let’s build better cities
CASE STUDY 01
Folkhem is questioning the very building blocks of our cities and how a new generation of architects are giving back with beautiful structures that are sustainable and sound. “We used to live in wooden houses in Sweden, then for 100 years we went to concrete and steel; now we’re trying to go back to wood,” says Sandra Frank of the Stockholm property developer campaigning for the revival of timber as a key building material. The firm, which began championing timber as an alternative to concrete in 2002 and has a host of high-rise wooden projects on the go, is guided by a desire to reduce its footprint without compromising on the quality of its buildings. “The industry produces 50 per cent of all greenhouse gases emitted worldwide – and 80 per cent of these come from the construction of concrete buildings,” says CEO Arne Olsson. The use of wood in forest-rich Sweden is an as yet untapped resource. folkhem.se
CASE STUDY 2
URBY STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK
Urby Staten Island provides affordable community-centred living in New York. Founded by developer David Barry’s firm Ironstate, the mixed-use space on the North Shore waterfront houses 900 apartments, as well as retail space and one of the city’s largest urban farms. The farm feeds a communal kitchen where Urby’s chef-in-residence, Brendan Costello, cooks and teaches culinary classes for residents. This modern take on city life wouldn’t be complete without a pool, nor a bike room to encourage commuters to opt for two wheels instead of four to get to work. Barry’s idea was realised by Dutch studio Concrete. ”A rental building cannot just be where someone lives and sleeps,” he says. “It needs to also serve as a mobile office and a sanctuary for them to get away from the day.” urbystatenisland.com
CASE STUDY 3
POCKET PROJECTS SINGAPORE
Pocket Projects is an all female creative consultancy that goes against the grain to preserve Singapore’s historic and culturally significant buildings, where – all too often – shiny new towers tend to take precedence. Founders Karen Tan and Blaise Trigg-Smith specialise in breathing life into heritage spaces to keep traditional culture current. “We are in competition with the commercial viability of knocking something down and building [anew],” says Trigg-Smith. “But what we do can be complementary. It’s about changing the public mindset on what the place can be.” A 2014 refurbishment of The Projector, a 1970s cinema within a derelict office block opened to much fanfare, while the revitalisation of shophouses in once-seedy neighbourhoods provides a reason to meditate on thinking differently about urban planning. pocket-projects.com
Rethinking Green Spaces
CASE STUDY 01
ROOFTOP REPUBLIC HONG KONG
“We wanted to reconnect urban-dwellers with the origin of food,” says Singaporeborn Michelle Hong, who founded urban-farming enterprise Rooftop Republic with Andrew Tsui and Pol Fàbrega in 2015. Besides reaping the benefits of being able to access fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables, clients get the unique opportunity to experience farming in the heart of Hong Kong. “Our chef and staff are very excited about planting and picking herbs on site to make in-house pesto and have learned a great deal about basic farming,” says Jonathan Wallace, manager at the nearby East Hotel. From building a rooftop farm for the Nan Fung Group to the 38-storey Bank of America Tower, the team has managed to sway schools and NGOs to spare their rooftops for growing produce and hosting workshops. “We are building a support network between small businesses, remote areas and the CBD to share farming knowledge, as well as reliable resources in the form of local produce,” says Hong, whose mission is to advocate for urban green living. www.rooftoprepublic.com
CASE STUDY 02
DE SCHILDE THE HAGUE
De Schilde in The Hague was once home to regional telecommunications company Philips; then it fell into disuse. Rather than tearing it down, a Swiss company by the name of UrbanFarmers transformed the empty 1950s office block into the so-called Times Square of Urban Agriculture. De Schilde’s sixth floor is now home to a colony of fish, while fresh lettuce and tomatoes thrive on its rooftop. The idea is to serve 900 families, as well as restaurants and a cooking school, with 500 tilapia a week and 50 tonnes of vegetables a year, proving the extent to which urban green spaces can revitalise a city. www.urbanfarmers.nl
CASE STUDY 03
DERBYSHIRE STREET POCKET PARK LONDON
For all of London’s sprawling parks there are many concrete corners around the city that could use some sprucing up. One was Derbyshire Street, tucked in the bustling eastLondon neighbourhood of Bethnal Green next to Oxford House, a 125-year-old arts centre whose CEO John Ryan sought to transform the gloomy patch of concrete into a verdant pocket park for the community to enjoy. In 2014 architect Luke Greysmith spread a flowerbed down the street (decked with flora planted by residents and irrigated by downflow pipes from Oxford House) atop a newly laid permeable pavement to avoid irksome puddles. Not forgetting the birds and the bees, sheltered bike racks are roofed with a stretch of grass for the critters to enjoy and the space is set to welcome an outdoor café run by Oxford House next year. “It shows how we can rethink small spaces that have been overlooked for years, many of which are not fulfilling their potential,” says Greysmith.
CASE STUDY 01
BANGKOK RIVER PARTNERS THAILAND
Australian-born David Robinson, director of Bangkok River Partners, has a mission to turn the Chao Phraya River into a vibrant part of town. “I watched London renew its love of the Thames and always believed Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River to be undersold,” he says. He co-founded the brand “real Bangkok” in 2015 and created Bangkok River Partners to clean up the river and revitalise the surrounding area. Robinson and his team are improving access to the district (a fleet of new water-taxis has just arrived) and repurposing empty buildings by helping entrepreneurs open shops, restaurants, live-music venues, art studios and galleries such as Duangrit Bunnag’s The Jam Factory, to bring life and culture to the area without gentrifying this historic part of Thailand’s capital. “Our vision is a place where Thais, expats and international travellers enjoy exploring the old and new along the river,” he says. “Where the lifestyle and livelihood of communities living and working in the Creative District is improved.” bangkokriver.com
CASE STUDY 02
KURILPA BRIDGE AUSTRALIA
The visual and architectural feat of the Kurilpa Bridge embraces Brisbane’s image as a city of innovation and design. It also links the central business district with Kurilpa, a long-overlooked neighbourhood that is finally embracing its waterfront. The pedestrian bridge by homegrown Cox Architects engages with the river and encourages walking and cycling, as befits a tropical city. Its helix-like design relies on Buckminster Fuller’s principles of tensegrity – a balance of tension and compression of materials – that allow the bridge to blend seamlessly without disturbing the existing infrastructure, which includes the Aboriginally significant Kurilpa Park and various developments springing up in the neighbourhood. Its wide pathways are sheltered by a continuous canopy that protects from the sweltering antipodean sun, while resting areas and benches are scattered at intervals for pedestrians to stop and enjoy the structure, as well as the view of this transforming part of town. coxarchitecture.com.au
CASE STUDY 03
FLUSSBAD BERLIN GERMANY
Flussbad Berlin is an ambitious urban development project aiming to transform 1.8km of the Spree River in the heart of the German capital into a new public space for Berliners and visitors alike. Currently the canal is inaccessible between Fischerinsel and Bode-Museum and its water is far from drinkable. Next to cleaning the Spree’s water, Flussbad Berlin also plans to build a new boardwalk and plant trees and bushes to simultaneously green the city and filter its water. Although there’s much left to do, project cofounders Tim and Jan Edler of art and architecture studio Realities:united already host annual swimming competitions along 1,000 metres of the Spree to give the public a taste of what could be possible. ““We hope to be able to open the river pool in 2025, exactly 100 years after Berlin’s last one was forced to close down,” says Jan. flussbad-berlin.de
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