OMA’s description of it’s Hyperbuilding project, a self-contained city Bangkok
Although the concept of a Hyperbuilding initially seems irrevocably linked to older, developed societies, on closer inspection, the advantages of hyper-concentrated structures and programs are more evident in societies undergoing the drastic upheaval of modernisation at full force. In other words, the Hyperbuilding may be less credible in the almost ‘completed’ urban conditions of, for instance Japan or the US, where strictly speaking it would have little significant qualities to add, than in a developing condition where the virtues of the hyperbuilding, the provision of an enormous controllable critical mass, could be a demonstrable advantage.
If this hypothesis is true, it would follow that it would be interesting to play down rather than play up the technical aspect of the hyperbuilding. Although the Hyperbuilding – a self-contained city for 120,000 – is clearly the ‘next step’, it should not be confused with high-tech. It will only work if we can combine the visionary ambition of the hyper-scale with a de-escalation of its technicality, with a degree of elementary simplicity.
To test this hypothesis, we have looked at the city of Bangkok. Maybe its greatest quality in the context of this operation would be that Bangkok is a city on the edge of the tolerable.
From its traffic to its haphazard development, to its politics, it is a city of crisis. It is therefore by definition a city that is ripe for experimentation.
The Hyperbuilding would have to be adjusted to this context. In Bangkok this means reducing the reliance on commuting by introducing a place where people can stay in the city.
The site is Phra Pradaeng, a green reserve on the west bank of the Chao-Phraya river on the other side of the city. The density of the Hyperbuilding contrasts with the virgin environment, which is close to the new business development and important urban infrastructures.
To preserve the environment and the necessary proximity between home and work space, the Hyperbuilding is a self-contained city, but it is not disconnected from the surrounding urban dynamic.
To achieve urban variety and complexity, the building is structured as a metaphor of the city: towers constitute streets, horizontal elements are parks, volumes are districts, and diagonals are boulevards.
The Hyperbuilding has multiple transportation systems: four boulevards with cable cars, gondolas and train elevators connect the hyperbuilding with the city below, six streets with high and low speed elevators are the main vertical connections and a walkable promenade of 12km goes from ground level to the top.
The Hyperbuilding can be read as the integration of several buildings into a larger whole. The different elements support each other in every sense: architecturally, they form an integrated complex; technically, issues of stability, access, circulation and servicing are organised collectively; urbanistically, the entire building becomes an urban quarter of a new kind.
The first, perhaps most general, principle to note is that in OMA’s proposals the argument always takes precedent over the project. In other words, there is always primarily an engine, be it discursive or diagrammatic, never a design that is introduced into the urban milieu to be reconfigured. It is never a question of organising a space at the outset, but rather of unleashing, trigging, or capturing larger and already existing processes.
Stanford Kwinter, Introduction to Urbanism After Innocence: Four Projects in Assemblage 18