Jun 2nd 2023

Towering Cities, Singapore Trip Highlights Success in Newest College of Architecture Program

At a distance, a 10-foot-long model showcasing the future of cities could be mistaken as a “forest” of interconnected mushrooms.

But a closer look of the project, showcased alongside hundreds of others at IIT College of Architecture’s Open House, visualized how a city can be designed to avoid the sprawl that is common in American metros. The Master of Tall Buildings and Vertical Urbanism (M.TBVU) program recently capped its first year, which included students experiencing a two-week Southeast Asia field trip, lectures from world-leading experts on tall building design and engineering, and a deep dive into the latest technologies for building the tall structures of the future.

“There really is no other program at the moment that is truly questioning how future city designs and organization can become more dense and more connected in multiple planes,” says Patrick Dilger, (B.ARCH, M.TBVU ’23).

One of the studio’s proposals, “Mycelium Myriad City in Del Norte County, California,” marries the ideas of building tall with sustainable building materials and energy usage, packaged in an area a fraction of the size of sprawling suburban metropolises like Los Angeles. Designing cities vertically will be the future of urbanism, especially as millions of people across the world flock to urban areas every week—and thus is integral to the MTBVU program, co-led by program director Antony Wood and assistant program director Yohan Kim (M.ARCH ’15, Ph.D. ’22).

“We’ve had a very exciting first year of the program, especially in the studio, where the students worked together to design an ultra-dense, ultra-tall city of the future,” Wood says.

Drawing from ecology as inspiration, Mycelium Myriad City rises 2,000 feet above the coastal California landscape, nestled close to towering Redwood forests. Residences, entertainment, services, and more are situated in massive vertical towers. Huge open spaces for parks, sports, and transportation span across the towers, though each is mixed-use and meant to house everything a resident needs.

A highlight of the studio was an extensive field trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, led by Wood, also president of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, where students experienced buildings and city design not typically found in the United States. The trip “highly influenced the design schemes of the future timber city as students explored numerous real-world examples of vertical greenery, sky gardens, and skybridges, which we believe, are essential elements of future vertical cities,” Kim says. Renowned architect Mum Summ Wong, founding director of WOHA Architects, hosted the students for an entire day of building visits to key WOHA projects.

The tall building and vertical urbanism program will start its second year this fall.