The CTBUH is a non-profit organisation that is involved in the future of cities. They understand how density and verticality can support sustainability and healthy cities worldwide while also dealing with the effect of climate change. They also understand and study the relationship between buildings, people, policy, urban pace, interior space and infrastructure. 

Youtube for Architects: ‘Smart Cities / Smart Buildings’ seminar- Zaha Hadid Architects Sheet1

RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) is an architectural body that is based out of London for professionals in the UK with the intent of advancing in architecture as a broad field. This organisation has existed since 1837 and has established a strong foothold not just in the UK but also internationally. Their motto has been Usui civium, decori urbium which translates to ‘for the use of the people, for the glory of the city.’, which they have propagated by promoting architectural education, conducting award ceremonies and competitions. It evaluates existing city structures and envisions sustainable, resilient cities for the future through a science-informed approach.

The UK chapter of CTBUH hosted a panel discussion in collaboration with Zaha Hadid architects and in partnership with ABB about smart cities and the various interdisciplinary experts within the field. The moderator for the discussion was a British writer and commentator on architecture and the built environment Peter Murray of New London Architecture. Guest speakers were:

– Simon Giles of Tyrens, London

– Carolyn Dwyer of City of London Corporation

– David Nicholl of ABB

– Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects

Youtube for Architects: ‘Smart Cities / Smart Buildings’ seminar- Zaha Hadid Architects Sheet2
© wikipedia
Youtube for Architects: ‘Smart Cities / Smart Buildings’ seminar- Zaha Hadid Architects Sheet3
© Architecture & Design-Zaha Hadid Architects

Organisers Viviana Muscettola and Katrin Förster open the stage with a brief introduction to the various parties involved in the panel. The topic of Smart city and its very definition was outlined as the combination of technologies that interact with authorities,  communities or even individuals. The Smart City concept has been seen as a solution to contemporary urban problems. Right from climate change to increase in the urban density to financing these cities considering the growing older population into perspective. 3 areas that would be touched upon by the speakers would be:

  1. Communication- between government agencies, macro population or micro population or at an individual level. Dwelling on the ideas as to how a building communicates with the city.
  2. AI (Artificial Intelligence)- how this technology has advanced in the coming years from a cloud database to a software that provides measurable algorithms to determine outcomes of certain strategies  
  3. Optimisation of natural resources- right from conserving water, to generating renewable energy but also sharing facilities and generating power within the building for its sustenance.

The larger goal of a Smart City is to elevate the quality of life, by improving the air quality, providing work opportunities, etc.

The host, Peter Murray is currently Chairman of New London Architecture and the London Society. He also curated a number of major exhibitions at the Royal Academy including the 1986 New Architecture: the work of Foster, Rogers, Stirling, and Living Bridges in 1996.

He briefly talks about the positive outcomes of how the development of tall buildings in Central London digitally using computer-aided simulations would bring in new developers and investments into the city. 

Interestingly there is a mention of Quayside, Toronto which is a waterfront district slated for redevelopment and how investments from agencies like Sidewalk Labs and Google could bring in the required investments for projects of that scale.

David Nicholl, the first speaker from ABB’s Electrification department outlines every aspect right from Solar power to grid. He lays out basic statistics of the growth of electrification in the industry, its growing demand and the revolving environmental concerns around it. With a very interactive 3D simulation he shows different layers of the city and energy requirements for the same. Shedding light on transportation he speaks about reducing pollution by adopting alternatives to fossil fuels and crude oil. The focus would be turning towards autonomous vehicles. Its usability is not permanent rather temporary. Looking at the current trend most of the younger population do not have driving licenses and opt for Uber instead. This in the long run could be beneficial to cities.

Youtube for Architects: ‘Smart Cities / Smart Buildings’ seminar- Zaha Hadid Architects Sheet4

In the field of automation, he mentioned the ABB factory in China that deals with robots making robots leaning towards customization that is becoming very demanding in the present times. AI communication in the future would not exist between individuals and machines but also between machine and machine. Innovation in this regard will be developed tremendously.

Securing power, and locally sourcing would be key in establishing a strong infrastructure. This would include the entire journey of electrification from PV (PhotoVoltaic) farms to consumption, which is renewable and reliable.

In the later part of his presentation, David speaks about the functioning of a smart building and distribution board. As a single unit, the building automaton is supported by the cloud, speech recognition, lighting, sensors, cameras, etc., understanding the basic working of a building. At a distribution level, he points out the transition from a solar panel to storage to communicating any problems to its data source. 

Carolyn Dwyer of the City of London Corporation, the second speaker of the discussion zeros onto the city of London. Going back to the post-Second World War, she talks about the Barbican Centre which stood against the then planning policy that dealt with decentralising residence and relocating to the suburbs. The Barbican Centre was equipped with amenities and cultural facilities in Central London which eliminated the need for workers to commute long distances in overcrowded public transport. 

Just as the 2nd World War gave way to the construction of The Barbican, the devastating IRA bombings of the 1990s saw a development of tall clusters of buildings integrating the new and old style of architecture present within the framework of the city. 

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© Eat.Drink.Sleep-The Barbican.

As mentioned by David Nicholl earlier, to understand all the parameters that play a key role in shaping the skyline of the city, simulating the same using 3D software becomes vital. Wind, sunlight, and daylight analysis, pedestrian flows, traffic flows, aviation regulations, etc., become defining parameters in establishing tall buildings. She further emphasizes how the external facade must help mitigate problems within the tall cluster of buildings, which includes the shift from the 9-5 regime to a more flexible interior space that further deals with change in the trend of working (co-working spaces). Finally, she speaks about how Big data can help assimilate all the information required for buildings to function smoothly.

Youtube for Architects: ‘Smart Cities / Smart Buildings’ seminar- Zaha Hadid Architects Sheet6
© Dezeen-East London cityline

The third speaker, Simon Giles of Tyrens London, has a very interesting perspective on Smart Cities from the technology side of the lens. Elaborating on the incident that took place in RAND Corporation in 1968, which most ardently failed to address the fire that displaced 600,000 from the region of New York at that time. With this, he points out that simulations can not be the only way to define the 100% efficient working of an urban system. He then moves towards two theories which he believes co-exists with each other. The Network Theory analyzes social networks, ethnographic demographics and communication flow within the city. Supporting that theory would be Technology Theory as it reinforces artificial intelligence such as 5G that is imbibed within IoT (Internet of Things) technology at much lower costs, with a report of the performances of buildings and how people are interacting with the environment.

Interdisciplinary within the smart city network that includes collaboration with architects, planners, structural engineers, facade engineers, and geotechnical engineers MEP engineers, for a more interactive and iterated design process. This provides a holistic approach to urban simulations at a faster rate whilst dealing with complex problems within the city.

Finally, he talks about Value creation which is all about creating trust within all the shareholders that the smart city idea is not only an economic strategy but the decision taken by the technological and design experts to address social and economic problems that simply translates to more added value for the clients. 

Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects investigates congenial user experience through a journey from modernism to postmodernism. Discussing urbanism as an adaptive, coherent and self differentiating fabric that works on complexity and dynamism of non-repetitive forms that exist through AI. Understanding the entire Smart City concept with examples from their ongoing projections of ideas revolve around the idea of better visual connectivity with enhanced user experience.

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© IvanDupont- TheMorpheus Hotel
Youtube for Architects: ‘Smart Cities / Smart Buildings’ seminar- Zaha Hadid Architects Sheet8
© Construction Supply Magazine- Wuhan Smart city

The entire panel discussion centred around the idea of combining Planning policies, Technology and Design. In the broad timeline of human civilizations, necessity gave way to innovation. The concept of Smart Cities is not only futuristic but very real speculation of how social behaviour and environment in the current times are playing a dominant role in framing the very objective of a healthy lifestyle in an urban system. 

The term used by Carolyn Dwyer ‘Healing’ is an apt description of what these smart cities ought to represent human civilization. Cities were developed with the vision to cater to human cognitive needs and interaction with the environment, this approach can be asserted through remodelling and weaving in equal parts of technology, design and political framework that meet the end goal.


  1. (2020). Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. [online] Available at:
  2. (n.d.). Royal Institute of British Architects. [online] Available at:
  3. (2019). Zaha Hadid Architects. [online] Available at:
  4. (n.d.). Welcome to the Barbican | Barbican. [online] Available at:
  5. (2021). quayside. [online] Available at: 
  6. (n.d.). “Smart Cities / Smart Buildings” seminar. [online] Available at: 

An architect and innovator, Tanisha sees Architecture not as a single entity, rather as a confluence of people, in their time and its lasting imprint left for future explorers to further delve into. In her words, 'Expression is an act of acceptance, either to thyself or the world.