How To Make The Most Of Our Urban Space [Future of Cities]

How To Make The Most Of Our Urban Space [Future of Cities]

PSFK Labs explores the range of creative design solutions for making urban lifestyles feel limitless within a finite amount of space.

  • 20 october 2013

As the world’s cities grow larger and denser, one of the most precious commodities in urban environments will be free space. In our Future Of Cities report, PSFK Labs investigated the key trends and pressing issues that will play a role in shaping the evolution of urban environments over the next decade.

A major theme identified in the report is Maximized Space, which examines the range of creative design solutions for making urban lifestyles feel limitless within a finite amount of space. This theme consists of five key trends: Pop-Up Culture, Elastic Environments, Snap-On Housing, Micro Living and Multi-Modal Transit Hubs.


The Pop-Up Culture trend described in the Future Of Cities report highlights the way in which architects and planners are experimenting with temporary venues designed to be quickly deployed and assembled to host temporary events like performances and films. These flash experiences connect with an ever changing audience, while showcasing locally sourced content and bringing cultural enrichment into people’s lives. An example of this is the Stairway Cinema, a mobile movie theater created for urban environments that converts an ordinary building stoop into a pop- up cinema.


A major trend within the Maximized Space theme in the report is Elastic Environments: to keep pace with the changing face of downtown areas as they transition from understated business and commerce centers by day into lively areas for social and cultural engagements by night, developers are designing infrastructure that can adapt to meet an evolving set of needs. These flexible solutions accommodate a range of use cases, transforming any environment into a multi-use destination that attracts a mix of demographics. An example of this the 11 11, which is a multipurpose, premium parking garage in Miami Beach, Florida that doubles as a venue for weddings, wine tastings, yoga classes and more.


The Snap-On Housing trend described in PSFK’s report in urban living looks at how architects and planners are experimenting with construction techniques that allow for the rapid assembly of housing and other structures, often onto the footprint of existing buildings, as a way to accommodate an increasing influx of urban residents, These modular, prefab designs can be used as standalone dwellings or be stacked together to create multi-unit buildings that can be adapted for a variety of uses. For example, the MuReRe housing concept adds prefabricated units on top of existing structures in order to enhance and expand a city’s built environment.

SF apartment

As a larger percentage of the population resides in cities there has been a greater emphasis placed on the importance of space. As a result, there has been a shift towards living spaces that are designed to take up a smaller footprint without sacrificing on functionality or comfort, which is part of a larger trend called Micro Living. These creative solutions rely on multipurpose furniture, adaptive interior environments and the efficient use of resources to accommodate a range of living styles and needs. For example, city officials in San Francisco approved a proposal that will reduce the minimum size requirements for a residential apartment from 290 square feet to 220, effectively paving the way for architects to begin designing what will be the nation’s smallest apartments.

the wire

The final trend in the Maximized Space theme found in the Future of Cities report is Multi-Modal Transit Hubs. The trend describes the way in which city planners and transportation agencies are considering multi-use transit centers as a way to reduce congestion and increase transportation efficiency. These hubs combine multiple forms of public transportation such as trains and buses with shared systems like bikes and cars, allowing people to access the best form of transportation based on their current needs. In addition, these spaces typically contain parking for personal vehicles, as well as additional travel services such as repair, retail and changing facilities. For example The Wire is an aerial mass-transit solution concept in Austin, Texas, weaving together disparate modes of transit in order to offer commuters choice and augment the travel experience altogether.

In our Future Of Cities report, PSFK Labs examines the innovations and driving forces that will shape the urban environments of the future. To purchase the full report featuring fives themes, 28 trends and multiple examples of change, please visit the publishing page.


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