Greening our cities: how densification and urban landscapes are converging

Greening our cities: how densification and urban landscapes are converging

As urban populations increase, our built environment is changing. With that change comes a greater need to better integrate adaptable urban spaces into our vertical buildings and commercial developments. We spoke to Michael Hawes, technical leader for design at Boffa Miskell, about what the urban landscape looks like in 2020 and beyond.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

With higher-density built forms maturing through our cityscapes, it has never been as critical to ensure our green spaces and public realm are protected and improved. There are many ways to do this in an urban setting, but the key to getting it right is understanding the value the urban landscape can have—socially, environmentally and in terms of fiscal value, Boffa Miskell’s Michael Hawes says.

“By weaving landscapes into the planning and design of our buildings, we are not just creating healthier spaces and the opportunity for biodiversity in our cities, we are creating value for commercial and residential developments. Places that attract people and encourage them to linger provide the key dual values of fiscal sustainability for the developer along with the fostering of stronger social connections for tenants—the latter of which is vital for offices and retail outlets where connection to place can support stronger productivity and sales potential; key components of any tenancy.”

At Gulf Rise, outdoor spaces are treated as community assets—they’re there to be used and residents are encouraged to be involved.
If you can create places where people enjoy spending time and provide a choice of working environments then productivity organically increases...

To successfully design a building of value, whether it is a hotel, an apartment or townhouse development, an office building or a mall, landscape architecture and urban design achieves the most when considered from the very early stages of developing the commercial vision through to the planning, design and aftercare, Michael explains.

“In this way, the project becomes highly collaborative from the outset. Where the environment supports the commercial vision through a connected understanding of the location, place, environment and community as opportunities to support the long-term sustainability of the project.

“It is generally much easier and more cost efficient to create great spaces at the early stages of a project’s development, than it can be when the landscape and public realm are added to the project further down the track.”

Michael adds that, in terms of commercial settings such as malls and retail offerings, the more time people spend in a place because they enjoy it, the more likely they are to make purchases in those stores. So the aim is always about creating spaces that attract people—spaces that are comfortable and where people want to linger—which is something best achieved in collaboration with the architects and operators from the beginning. 

“The same is true for offices. If you can create places where people enjoy spending time and provide a choice of working environments then productivity organically increases; and, if you can design landscape elements and spaces that function seamlessly with the architecture, the perceived value of the tenancies is immediately increased.”

Liveability in an urban environment

As more high- and medium-density developments are being realised, the importance of creating the right balance between social and private outdoor spaces is vital if demand is to be created in terms of the saleability of the dwellings and health of the community as a whole.

“High density living is something that Kiwis are still getting used to. Culturally, it’s a concept that we are still adapting to in terms of the way we want to live, so integrating the ability for choice and diversity of place is vital,” Michael explains. “Creating that desirability and a strong sense of community, is about getting the mix between social spaces—those that offer the opportunity to engage with others—and private outdoor spaces right. Often, that means flexibility in the landscape, so there may be different elements within the one setting; places designed for a quiet moment and places specifically designed to encourage interaction. All great spaces in a high-density residential development have both aspects within them and offer residents an ability to shape how they can be used.”

For Michael, who has worked in the industry for decades, this is a very different approach to saleability and desirability than even a few years ago when, he says, the approach was still centred around creating spaces for visual impact, the advertising shot. Now, he says, the sense of community and access to adaptable spaces that support social interaction are sought-after elements.

“It’s about not over designing; but about allowing for overlapping uses and for change over time. Often, the most successful spaces are those that allow for a sense of custodianship by the residents, tenants or owners. By being able to plant, garden or reorientate these areas, people develop a sense of having a relationship with the space that leads to a strong sense of belonging and ultimately, community.

“In an increasing number of high-density developments, the access to vegetation and nature that we have long valued has evolved into more interactive forms; edible landscapes, landscapes that work to mitigate environmental impacts and elements such as community gardens are becoming critical to desirability.”

The urban oasis of St Patricks Square, Auckland offers respite from the busy city

A more fluid sense of space

Across apartments, townhouse communities, offices, hotels and commercial spaces, landscape architecture is heading in a clear direction—that of choice. “More and more, we are designing a range of outdoor spaces within a single development, and that’s a direct result of increasing density and diversity,” Michael says.

“For example, you may have a green roof, green walls and a variety of usable spaces of varying sizes on different levels of the building. Consider an apartment or hotel environment, where you may want to move around the building at different times of the day and in different weather conditions or different activities. There is increasingly an expectation that there will be different options for outdoor spaces to utilise, day or night and for different social groupings.”

This is also the case in office buildings. 

“People are working differently. Workplaces are more fluid and versatile than they have ever been before. Creating a sought-after office environment is about offering choice in break-out and workspace options, often where the line is blurred between identifiable commercial and more fluid cohabitable space. What we’re designing, are often work areas that extend into the landscape, be it sky gardens, terraces or green spaces at any level of a building. 

“These are the elements that tenants are looking for in a development as work patterns change and people’s expectations are becoming more geared towards healthier, sustainable spaces where a connection to the both nature and a community are central features.”

Christchurch Justice & Emergency Service Precinct is the largest multi-agency government project in New Zealand

Designing retail gardens and rooftop spaces

One of Auckland’s latest retail offerings, Westfield Newmarket, is a great example of how green spaces are an inherent part of commercial buildings. “The design of the rooftop area was about creating a sense of character through a more eclectic informality. There are views across the Auckland skyline, so ensuring those were maximised was important, as well as designing a place that people felt connected to and therefore stayed longer. Introducing elements like the playground and a range of areas of shelter and semi-shelter as well as significant mature greenery allowed the architects and ourselves to collaboratively create a unique and successful space that blurs the boundaries between commercial and public.

“I think more people are starting to understand the value of investing in these types of urban spaces, not just for the environment but in terms of saleability and sustainability, as liveable places that do not require frequent reinvention to compete with the next iconic offering—and that is true across all types of commercial developments.”

As Auckland, in particular, prepares for a significant increase in density, it is looking likely that sky gardens, vertical gardens, mature rooftop planting and community gardens will become commonplace not just for their visual impact or an environmental tick, but to support the demand for more liveable and thus sustainable places within our cities. 

The planning and detailed landscape design within the Todd Property project at Long Bay is the responsibility of Boffa Miskell

Boffa Miskell is a leading New Zealand environmental, planning and design consultancy that works in the areas of planning, urban design, landscape architecture and planning, ecology, biosecurity and cultural heritage. Some of Boffa Miskell’s recent projects include: Westfield Newmarket, Auckland; the landmark Outlook apartment complex in Mission Bay, Auckland; O'Connell Street, Auckland; Whitianga Town Centre; and the Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, Christchurch.

Boffa Miskell

Boffa Miskell is a leading New Zealand design, environmental, and planning consultancy with offices in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch,...

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Greening our cities: how densification and urban landscapes are converging

Greening our cities: how densification and urban landscapes are converging

As urban populations increase, our built environment is changing. With that change comes a greater need to better integrate adaptable urban spaces into our vertical buildings and commercial developments. We spoke to Michael Hawes, technical leader for design at Boffa Miskell, about what the urban landscape looks like in 2020 and beyond.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

With higher-density built forms maturing through our cityscapes, it has never been as critical to ensure our green spaces and public realm are protected and improved. There are many ways to do this in an urban setting, but the key to getting it right is understanding the value the urban landscape can have—socially, environmentally and in terms of fiscal value, Boffa Miskell’s Michael Hawes says.

“By weaving landscapes into the planning and design of our buildings, we are not just creating healthier spaces and the opportunity for biodiversity in our cities, we are creating value for commercial and residential developments. Places that attract people and encourage them to linger provide the key dual values of fiscal sustainability for the developer along with the fostering of stronger social connections for tenants—the latter of which is vital for offices and retail outlets where connection to place can support stronger productivity and sales potential; key components of any tenancy.”

At Gulf Rise, outdoor spaces are treated as community assets—they’re there to be used and residents are encouraged to be involved.
If you can create places where people enjoy spending time and provide a choice of working environments then productivity organically increases...

To successfully design a building of value, whether it is a hotel, an apartment or townhouse development, an office building or a mall, landscape architecture and urban design achieves the most when considered from the very early stages of developing the commercial vision through to the planning, design and aftercare, Michael explains.

“In this way, the project becomes highly collaborative from the outset. Where the environment supports the commercial vision through a connected understanding of the location, place, environment and community as opportunities to support the long-term sustainability of the project.

“It is generally much easier and more cost efficient to create great spaces at the early stages of a project’s development, than it can be when the landscape and public realm are added to the project further down the track.”

Michael adds that, in terms of commercial settings such as malls and retail offerings, the more time people spend in a place because they enjoy it, the more likely they are to make purchases in those stores. So the aim is always about creating spaces that attract people—spaces that are comfortable and where people want to linger—which is something best achieved in collaboration with the architects and operators from the beginning. 

“The same is true for offices. If you can create places where people enjoy spending time and provide a choice of working environments then productivity organically increases; and, if you can design landscape elements and spaces that function seamlessly with the architecture, the perceived value of the tenancies is immediately increased.”

Liveability in an urban environment

As more high- and medium-density developments are being realised, the importance of creating the right balance between social and private outdoor spaces is vital if demand is to be created in terms of the saleability of the dwellings and health of the community as a whole.

“High density living is something that Kiwis are still getting used to. Culturally, it’s a concept that we are still adapting to in terms of the way we want to live, so integrating the ability for choice and diversity of place is vital,” Michael explains. “Creating that desirability and a strong sense of community, is about getting the mix between social spaces—those that offer the opportunity to engage with others—and private outdoor spaces right. Often, that means flexibility in the landscape, so there may be different elements within the one setting; places designed for a quiet moment and places specifically designed to encourage interaction. All great spaces in a high-density residential development have both aspects within them and offer residents an ability to shape how they can be used.”

For Michael, who has worked in the industry for decades, this is a very different approach to saleability and desirability than even a few years ago when, he says, the approach was still centred around creating spaces for visual impact, the advertising shot. Now, he says, the sense of community and access to adaptable spaces that support social interaction are sought-after elements.

“It’s about not over designing; but about allowing for overlapping uses and for change over time. Often, the most successful spaces are those that allow for a sense of custodianship by the residents, tenants or owners. By being able to plant, garden or reorientate these areas, people develop a sense of having a relationship with the space that leads to a strong sense of belonging and ultimately, community.

“In an increasing number of high-density developments, the access to vegetation and nature that we have long valued has evolved into more interactive forms; edible landscapes, landscapes that work to mitigate environmental impacts and elements such as community gardens are becoming critical to desirability.”

The urban oasis of St Patricks Square, Auckland offers respite from the busy city

A more fluid sense of space

Across apartments, townhouse communities, offices, hotels and commercial spaces, landscape architecture is heading in a clear direction—that of choice. “More and more, we are designing a range of outdoor spaces within a single development, and that’s a direct result of increasing density and diversity,” Michael says.

“For example, you may have a green roof, green walls and a variety of usable spaces of varying sizes on different levels of the building. Consider an apartment or hotel environment, where you may want to move around the building at different times of the day and in different weather conditions or different activities. There is increasingly an expectation that there will be different options for outdoor spaces to utilise, day or night and for different social groupings.”

This is also the case in office buildings. 

“People are working differently. Workplaces are more fluid and versatile than they have ever been before. Creating a sought-after office environment is about offering choice in break-out and workspace options, often where the line is blurred between identifiable commercial and more fluid cohabitable space. What we’re designing, are often work areas that extend into the landscape, be it sky gardens, terraces or green spaces at any level of a building. 

“These are the elements that tenants are looking for in a development as work patterns change and people’s expectations are becoming more geared towards healthier, sustainable spaces where a connection to the both nature and a community are central features.”

Christchurch Justice & Emergency Service Precinct is the largest multi-agency government project in New Zealand

Designing retail gardens and rooftop spaces

One of Auckland’s latest retail offerings, Westfield Newmarket, is a great example of how green spaces are an inherent part of commercial buildings. “The design of the rooftop area was about creating a sense of character through a more eclectic informality. There are views across the Auckland skyline, so ensuring those were maximised was important, as well as designing a place that people felt connected to and therefore stayed longer. Introducing elements like the playground and a range of areas of shelter and semi-shelter as well as significant mature greenery allowed the architects and ourselves to collaboratively create a unique and successful space that blurs the boundaries between commercial and public.

“I think more people are starting to understand the value of investing in these types of urban spaces, not just for the environment but in terms of saleability and sustainability, as liveable places that do not require frequent reinvention to compete with the next iconic offering—and that is true across all types of commercial developments.”

As Auckland, in particular, prepares for a significant increase in density, it is looking likely that sky gardens, vertical gardens, mature rooftop planting and community gardens will become commonplace not just for their visual impact or an environmental tick, but to support the demand for more liveable and thus sustainable places within our cities. 

The planning and detailed landscape design within the Todd Property project at Long Bay is the responsibility of Boffa Miskell

Boffa Miskell is a leading New Zealand environmental, planning and design consultancy that works in the areas of planning, urban design, landscape architecture and planning, ecology, biosecurity and cultural heritage. Some of Boffa Miskell’s recent projects include: Westfield Newmarket, Auckland; the landmark Outlook apartment complex in Mission Bay, Auckland; O'Connell Street, Auckland; Whitianga Town Centre; and the Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, Christchurch.

Get in touch with
Boffa Miskell

Request pricing/info
Visit website
Done tagging
Full screen
Greening our cities: how densification and urban landscapes are converging

Greening our cities: how densification and urban landscapes are converging

As urban populations increase, our built environment is changing. With that change comes a greater need to better integrate adaptable urban spaces into our vertical buildings and commercial developments. We spoke to Michael Hawes, technical leader for design at Boffa Miskell, about what the urban landscape looks like in 2020 and beyond.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

With higher-density built forms maturing through our cityscapes, it has never been as critical to ensure our green spaces and public realm are protected and improved. There are many ways to do this in an urban setting, but the key to getting it right is understanding the value the urban landscape can have—socially, environmentally and in terms of fiscal value, Boffa Miskell’s Michael Hawes says.

“By weaving landscapes into the planning and design of our buildings, we are not just creating healthier spaces and the opportunity for biodiversity in our cities, we are creating value for commercial and residential developments. Places that attract people and encourage them to linger provide the key dual values of fiscal sustainability for the developer along with the fostering of stronger social connections for tenants—the latter of which is vital for offices and retail outlets where connection to place can support stronger productivity and sales potential; key components of any tenancy.”

At Gulf Rise, outdoor spaces are treated as community assets—they’re there to be used and residents are encouraged to be involved.
If you can create places where people enjoy spending time and provide a choice of working environments then productivity organically increases...

To successfully design a building of value, whether it is a hotel, an apartment or townhouse development, an office building or a mall, landscape architecture and urban design achieves the most when considered from the very early stages of developing the commercial vision through to the planning, design and aftercare, Michael explains.

“In this way, the project becomes highly collaborative from the outset. Where the environment supports the commercial vision through a connected understanding of the location, place, environment and community as opportunities to support the long-term sustainability of the project.

“It is generally much easier and more cost efficient to create great spaces at the early stages of a project’s development, than it can be when the landscape and public realm are added to the project further down the track.”

Michael adds that, in terms of commercial settings such as malls and retail offerings, the more time people spend in a place because they enjoy it, the more likely they are to make purchases in those stores. So the aim is always about creating spaces that attract people—spaces that are comfortable and where people want to linger—which is something best achieved in collaboration with the architects and operators from the beginning. 

“The same is true for offices. If you can create places where people enjoy spending time and provide a choice of working environments then productivity organically increases; and, if you can design landscape elements and spaces that function seamlessly with the architecture, the perceived value of the tenancies is immediately increased.”

Liveability in an urban environment

As more high- and medium-density developments are being realised, the importance of creating the right balance between social and private outdoor spaces is vital if demand is to be created in terms of the saleability of the dwellings and health of the community as a whole.

“High density living is something that Kiwis are still getting used to. Culturally, it’s a concept that we are still adapting to in terms of the way we want to live, so integrating the ability for choice and diversity of place is vital,” Michael explains. “Creating that desirability and a strong sense of community, is about getting the mix between social spaces—those that offer the opportunity to engage with others—and private outdoor spaces right. Often, that means flexibility in the landscape, so there may be different elements within the one setting; places designed for a quiet moment and places specifically designed to encourage interaction. All great spaces in a high-density residential development have both aspects within them and offer residents an ability to shape how they can be used.”

For Michael, who has worked in the industry for decades, this is a very different approach to saleability and desirability than even a few years ago when, he says, the approach was still centred around creating spaces for visual impact, the advertising shot. Now, he says, the sense of community and access to adaptable spaces that support social interaction are sought-after elements.

“It’s about not over designing; but about allowing for overlapping uses and for change over time. Often, the most successful spaces are those that allow for a sense of custodianship by the residents, tenants or owners. By being able to plant, garden or reorientate these areas, people develop a sense of having a relationship with the space that leads to a strong sense of belonging and ultimately, community.

“In an increasing number of high-density developments, the access to vegetation and nature that we have long valued has evolved into more interactive forms; edible landscapes, landscapes that work to mitigate environmental impacts and elements such as community gardens are becoming critical to desirability.”

The urban oasis of St Patricks Square, Auckland offers respite from the busy city

A more fluid sense of space

Across apartments, townhouse communities, offices, hotels and commercial spaces, landscape architecture is heading in a clear direction—that of choice. “More and more, we are designing a range of outdoor spaces within a single development, and that’s a direct result of increasing density and diversity,” Michael says.

“For example, you may have a green roof, green walls and a variety of usable spaces of varying sizes on different levels of the building. Consider an apartment or hotel environment, where you may want to move around the building at different times of the day and in different weather conditions or different activities. There is increasingly an expectation that there will be different options for outdoor spaces to utilise, day or night and for different social groupings.”

This is also the case in office buildings. 

“People are working differently. Workplaces are more fluid and versatile than they have ever been before. Creating a sought-after office environment is about offering choice in break-out and workspace options, often where the line is blurred between identifiable commercial and more fluid cohabitable space. What we’re designing, are often work areas that extend into the landscape, be it sky gardens, terraces or green spaces at any level of a building. 

“These are the elements that tenants are looking for in a development as work patterns change and people’s expectations are becoming more geared towards healthier, sustainable spaces where a connection to the both nature and a community are central features.”

Christchurch Justice & Emergency Service Precinct is the largest multi-agency government project in New Zealand

Designing retail gardens and rooftop spaces

One of Auckland’s latest retail offerings, Westfield Newmarket, is a great example of how green spaces are an inherent part of commercial buildings. “The design of the rooftop area was about creating a sense of character through a more eclectic informality. There are views across the Auckland skyline, so ensuring those were maximised was important, as well as designing a place that people felt connected to and therefore stayed longer. Introducing elements like the playground and a range of areas of shelter and semi-shelter as well as significant mature greenery allowed the architects and ourselves to collaboratively create a unique and successful space that blurs the boundaries between commercial and public.

“I think more people are starting to understand the value of investing in these types of urban spaces, not just for the environment but in terms of saleability and sustainability, as liveable places that do not require frequent reinvention to compete with the next iconic offering—and that is true across all types of commercial developments.”

As Auckland, in particular, prepares for a significant increase in density, it is looking likely that sky gardens, vertical gardens, mature rooftop planting and community gardens will become commonplace not just for their visual impact or an environmental tick, but to support the demand for more liveable and thus sustainable places within our cities. 

The planning and detailed landscape design within the Todd Property project at Long Bay is the responsibility of Boffa Miskell

Boffa Miskell is a leading New Zealand environmental, planning and design consultancy that works in the areas of planning, urban design, landscape architecture and planning, ecology, biosecurity and cultural heritage. Some of Boffa Miskell’s recent projects include: Westfield Newmarket, Auckland; the landmark Outlook apartment complex in Mission Bay, Auckland; O'Connell Street, Auckland; Whitianga Town Centre; and the Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, Christchurch.

Get in touch with
Boffa Miskell

Request pricing/info
Visit website
Done tagging
Full screen