Business management & development Vertical villages in China

The Xi’An MUD features a signature tower with 220-key hotel and serviced apartments. The development, by SCDA Architects, features two apartment towers, a retail podium and recreational facilities. The concept comprises a centre node with a civic character in an otherwise homogeneous residential urban plaza. It is situated next to parkland, which merges with the outdoor areas of the two sites. The Nanjing Super High-Rise development was treated by 10 Design and is located in the centre of Nanjing, the ancient capital of China. The 430m-high building has a triangular floor plate and comprises retail, office and hotel components. Grade A office space occupies the lower half of the tower, along with a seven-storey podium for retail.

A further 130,000ft2 space, over 3,000ft2

leisure space, and more than 76,424ft2

of office, R&D and life science of retail space, over 15,000ft2 of new and


improved public realm space will all be key elements. In London, The Makers MUD in Shoreditch is a £110m regeneration project designed by Avanti Architects. It will combine a vibrant mix of public, residential and commercial elements, a commercial/ gallery space, a new special needs school, enhanced community sports facilities and a new public space for the local community. The residential accommodation is housed in a seven-storey linear street block and a 29-storey tower above a two-storey podium. “The UK has been very focused on single-use assets for a long time, and developers tend to think in short-term or fixed models,” says Amir Ramezani, director of Avanti Architects. “They don’t want the complexities of different uses and tenants. That is why high-rise MUDs, until recently, have been more popular abroad.”

Ramezani, who frequently works on education, housing and regeneration projects, is a strong advocate for more flexibility and adaptability in buildings, embodied in his mantra “long life, loose fit, low energy”. “Now, town centres, office buildings and retail are changing,” he observes. “Usually, there has been a split between commercial and residential developments, but the space can be reallocated to convert one to the other. Tall buildings lend themselves to MUDs, and developers in the UK are starting to look at blended business models to balance income streams, but they need the flexibility to adapt and change floors to different uses.”

Hospitality serves

Although it does not take up the most space in a high- rise MUD, the hospitality element plays a central role. Like the nerves and blood vessels that keep a human body alive, the hotel connects everything. As well as housing short-stay or long-stay guests, hotels can provide services such as maid service or dining to serviced apartments, or provide access to facilities like gyms, spas and restaurants for residents and office workers. Their meeting spaces and


conference facilities can be rented to the building’s commercial enterprises, and residents can put up visitors in the on-site hotel.

“Hotels can also help to bring the local community into the ground floor,” says Lundgren. “They help to make the building a destination. They may have a signature restaurant or there might be an observation deck in the building, or cultural elements on the ground floor for the local community to use.” Hotel use may have to become far more flexible to benefit from the opportunities in a MUD, but in doing so they can stay committed to their core purpose – selling space and marketing a hospitality skill set. “The ground floor is king,” says Ramezani. “It should be an open, transparent, publicly accessible space that allows footfall for commercial functions. Hotels have achieved that for a long time. They provide the living room for the building in a way, and they provide the sense that a building can be part of the local community. They add a lot of richness compared with a bland single-use building.”

“The hotel benefits from a captive market in the other users of the MUD,” adds Adams. “Market forces are creating demand for these MUDs with upscale hotel, retail, residential units and office space. For hospitality, there is even an opportunity for dual- branded hotels. Two brands – one for short stays and one for long stays – in the same building could share back-of-house facilities, administrative functions and mechanical systems, which lowers costs.” Covid-19 has changed working habits and the use of office space. High-rise MUDs can offer flexibility, either with shared office space as part of a residential development, or the use of dedicated office space a few floors away from a residence. Converting existing office space to residential or hospitality space has its challenges due to the difference in layout and column spacing, but both new build and converted high-rise MUDs are set to be a growing feature of city life. In both, sustainability will be a key part of the design. “Sustainability is increasingly important, and we have to consider how to design the facade to use wind, shade and ventilation to drive energy efficiency,” says Lundgren. Adams agrees, arguing that there is real opportunity for sustainability, not just from shared infrastructure within a building and through exterior design, “but also from simply taking cars off the street”. The future, then, will be defined by the ability of developers to adapt to a new business model that was growing long before a coronavirus started transmitting to Wuhan residents. Now, with the pandemic changing myriad facets of our working lives and social communities, adaptability feels like the inevitable way forward for developers. “The model will have to change from short-term revenue to a slow-money mindset,” Ramezani concludes. ●

Hotel Management International /

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