Under One Roof:
The Evolution of the Mixed-Use Building

Compounded by global issues such as resource scarcity, the migration to cities is placing great responsibility on urban buildings to do many things, and do them well. Mixed-use development, the physically integrated combination of residential, commercial, cultural, and transportation functions, consolidates activity within a structure or neighborhood. In our densifying cities, the adoption and thoughtful execution of mixed-use development is a necessity.

The mixed-use typology is not new; one of the first examples is Trajan’s Market (110 AD) of ancient Rome with both shops and apartments built in a multi-level structure. Historians believe that the building’s arcades were administrative offices of Emperor Trajan, and the remains of a library have been excavated. The rise of the automobile and telecommunication technologies in the 20th Century, meant dispersion. Sprawl prevailed. However, as the population has increasingly migrated into cities over the past thirty years, the mixed-use building has experienced a period of great experimentation and rebirth. At each period, KPF has been a major contributor to the evolution of the mixed-use building type.

Trajan’s Market, 110 AD

The completion of KPF’s 1989 900 North Michigan Avenue was one of the first buildings on Magnificent Mile with a vertical, varied program. The building combines five major uses: a shopping mall with Bloomingdales as an anchor tenant; a Four Seasons Hotel; office space in the tower’s lower section; condominiums on the higher floors; and one of the city’s largest parking garages. With four ‘lanterns’ forming a crown at 260 meters, the tower punctuates Chicago’s skyline with a sophisticated, unified expression. 900 North Michigan was the first of its kind for KPF, and remains the 8th tallest building in the city today.

900 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, 1989

The value of each floor benefitted from the common desire among tenants and residents alike for a streetfront that invited the city in. It offered proof to the development industry that different uses, like architectural elements themselves, could be brought together to form a new kind of synergy, with a combined effect greater than the sum of its parts.

From 900 North Michigan’s success, KPF was commissioned to design the Japan Rail Central Towers and Station, completed in 2000 in Nagoya, Japan that includes 1.1 million square feet of office space, a 700 + room hotel, 10 restaurants, and a 50,000-square-foot convention center. What made the JR Central Towers extraordinary was the fact that they were built over the largest train station in the world, Nagoya station. The station comprises two national and two private railway lines, four subway lines, Japan Rail and city bus lines, as well as the bullet train Tokaido Shinkansen. This project physically connects the subterranean to sweeping views of the city of Nagoya, with places to work, eat, sleep, and meet in between. It took the commercial synergies of 900 North Michigan and merged them seamlessly with an entire nation’s transportation infrastructure. The project was not only pioneer for vertical living, with public spaces and sky streets to located 10 and 15 stories in the air, but its link to public transportation makes it one of the first and most-successful transit-oriented developments.

Japan Rail Central Towers and Station, Nagoya, Japan, 2000
Landmark, Hong Kong, 2013

In the 2000s, KPF designed some of the most frequently cited mixed-use projects, including Roppongi Hills, completed 2003 in Tokyo, which remains the largest private-sector urban redevelopment in Japan’s history. Several projects in China followed, such as Plaza 66 of 2001, a premier shopping and office address in Shanghai. In Hong Kong, Landmark, also completed in 2006, included the renovation and extension of a retail development, and addition of a boutique hotel; the International Commerce Centre was completed in 2010, with offices, the world’s highest hotel, and a new transportation hub beneath; and Hysan Place followed in 2012 with 32 floors of offices and retail outlets, and a direct link to the Causeway Bay Station.

Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, Japan, 2003
International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong, 2010

It was during this period that the Shanghai World Financial Center, the tallest tower in Shanghai and second tallest in the world upon its completion, was completed in 2008. The 380,000 gross-square-meter structure tower houses a mix of office and retail uses, and the Park Hyatt Shanghai. The form, two arcing curves that gesture to the sky with a trapezoidal aperture at the 97th floor, offers a graceful moment of serenity amidst the frenetic environment of Pudong, Shanghai’s Central Business District. At the supertall scale, the responsibility of the architect extends beyond the boundaries of building envelope and project site. Similar to 900 North Michigan, the mixed-use typology took a visual and important place in the skyline. It became an instant symbol of the culture and commerce of the city.

R: International Commerce Centre Observatory, 2010M: Hysan Place, Hong Kong, 2012L: Shanghai World Financial Center, 2008

While the firm has continued to design high-rise buildings and supertalls, KPF’s formula for the pronounced vertical stacked tower influenced the firm’s work at the neighborhood level. How can the density of a skyscraper work within a communal town square? This answer is scale. An example is the Jing An Kerry Centre in Shanghai, the multi-use complex features two towers, podium retail, a 508-key hotel, an event center and office amenities arranged around the preserved house where Mao Zedong lived. Fusing the neighborhood’s historic character with modern Shanghai, Jing An Kerry Centre combines high density living with of the city street experience. Open-air walkways lined with shops welcome pedestrian activity. Careful integration on the ground level using architectural elements in proportion to the human body – lighting, colors, and materials – connect the soaring towers to the street. Meanwhile, the tall buildings visually mend the skyline by connecting two existing office clusters in the city.

Jing An Kerry Centre, Shanghai, China, 2013

The expertise gained in the creation of one mixed-use neighborhood led to the improvement of another. Covent Garden, with its first existing master plan dating back to 1609, is a renowned district with a culturally and architecturally rich history. In Covent Garden in London, this kind of mixed-use thinking was extended to fine-tune elements for the overall improvement of the neighborhood. Plagued by congestion, run-down facilities, and intensive tourism, Covent Garden had become an avoidable destination for Londoners. KPF’s expertise in mixed-use environments allowed the firm to believe in this historic section of London as a single functioning entity that could sponsor a great diversity of experience. Three major actions are proposed in the master plan: public realm improvements, conservation and re-positioning of the heritage assets, and the replacement of non-contributing outdated buildings with new architecture.

Covent Garden, London. Image courtesy of Timothy Soar.

The projects of the early 2000s represented a new approach to mixed-use design that coalesced at the scale of a building, but also at the scale of entire districts. The integration of cultural spaces, public parks, walkable shopping and entertainment areas, and seamless transit connections enriched the urban fabric in their cities. These districts attracted many visitors and lured blue-chip tenants to lease tower floors in order to secure a place at the most vibrant addresses in their cities. The cultural and financial success of the golden age of mixed-use development in Asia attracted the attention of ambitious developers in Europe and in the United States. KPF and many of our peers have since been commissioned for projects in these regions.

L: 55 Hudson Yards, New York.R: 10 Hudson Yards in front of 30 Hudson Yards, New York.

The largest private real estate development in the history of the United States, the first phase of Hudson Yards covered 11,340,000 square feet of construction. Drawing on the experience gained over 20 years in complex, mixed-use construction, KPF led the design of the development. Hudson Yards’ defining characteristic is the humanistic design approach to seamlessly blending infrastructure with architectural designs. To complete Related’s ambitious master plan, two platforms bridge 30 active Long Island Rail Road train tracks. Two towers, at 52 stories and 90 stories respectively, completed construction atop the rail yards. The buildings extend through the platform and rise above, with caissons drilled deep into the bedrock between rail lines to support the structures. The combination of the public and private interests, transportation, retail, commerce, residences, and education makes Hudson Yards the most complex mixed-use project in New York since Rockefeller Center.

L: Hudson Yards Plaza, New York. Image courtesy of Connie Zhou.

The popularity of the mixed-use typology has traveled where it is needed. In Chicago, 900 North Michigan set a precedent from which Magnificent Mile grew. In Japan, Roppongi Hills and JR Central towers provided transportation infrastructure and tight-knit urban communities in the country’s most populous cities. Spreading to China, projects like the Shanghai World Financial Center and International Commerce Centre, implemented much-needed vertical density and cultural symbolism in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Now, in New York and throughout the USA, development is benefitting from KPF’s global experience in mixed-use architecture. As cities continue to grow, the mixed-use building will serve as an important tool to densify in a humanizing manner and will be critical to the success of the city in the future.

Hudson Yards, New York. Image courtesy of Connia Zhou.