Across the world, Cities evoke distinct images in our minds. Whether it is Los Angeles, Shanghai, Berlin or Mumbai, the unique composition of public spaces, built-form, and street life evoke an intangible but distinct character. This ‘identity’ of a city is the expression of its culture, defined by the people who live, work, play and travel within it, making it their home. When tasked with redesigning sections of an existing city, designers always face the challenge of understanding and responding to this distinctive culture.
Embracing this challenge, City Design Studio (CDS) is an architecture, urban design, and planning firm that focuses on creating unique projects that reflect place, culture, and time. The company is on a mission to revitalize communities by creating unique, vibrant, and inspiring environments. CDS assumes all three roles in its practice: as urban designer, architect, and as planner to reposition and revitalize communities through strategic development. CDS recognizes the culture of the community as the primary catalyst of design and planning.
We recognize that the unique culture of each community reflects not just a static population but of generations living together. This is why we strive to create the planning tools, design the built environment and shape the public realm to reflect the place, the culture of the community, and the times that we live in
“We recognize that the unique culture of each community reflects not just a static population but of generations living together. This is why we strive to create the planning tools, design the built environment and shape the public realm to reflect the place, the culture of the community, a n d the times that we live in,” says Farooq Ameen, Principal at CDS.
CDS’ global experience informs its innovative responses to local challenges. They also bring their understanding of both public agency needs and private development incentives.To enable the implementation of projects, their collaboration with larger multi-disciplinary firms and smaller specialized practices is crucial in crafting bespoke design solutions for their clients.
In Shanghai, CDS worked on the 100-acre Zizhu International High Tech Zone TOD Masterplan on the banks of the Huangpu River about 12 miles south of the Bund. The Zone is currently home to the offices of some of the largest tech firms in the world—Intel, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and CGN. CDS had to work with the Minhang District planning agencies, whose zoning regulations did not permit mixed-use. As each Parcel was zoned for a specific use only, it initially hampered the ability to create a vibrant street-level environment that could attract and retain millennials.
CDS evaluated cultural elements and built on the principles of the traditional Shikumen district in Shanghai. Based on these studies, they negotiated with the client and the district to allow strategically located program variations. As a result, their team reconfigured the design to contain walkable, creative neighborhoods that connected nature and cultural activities through a network of open spaces of various configurations. These included an urban plaza, a “talent street” adjacent to “talent housing”, with ground-level active uses, an urban promenade, and a meandering upper-level Skywalk. The project’s success allowed the client to create not just a functional masterplan but a culturally sensitive community; one that is attractive to all demographics.
CDS is currently working on the largest net-zero project in the state of California. Their team initially prepared the design guidelines and are now designing several buildings that engage the community of Inglewood. Today, they are focused on a three-dimensional approach to planning and evaluating how culture can become an integrated component of all planning efforts. CDS recognizes that a design approach that authentically reflects culture contributes to a more equitable community.