The rapid growth rate of Australia’s urban populations demands the design of skyscrapers that are not only relevant today but well into the future.

Ahead of the Australian Smart Skyscrapers Summit in June, Architecture & Design explores some key elements surrounding future-proof high-rise design - with some help from UNStudio associate director Jan Schellhoff and Futurespace managing director Angela Ferguson.

Diversity is Key

Can a skyscraper successfully cater to all age groups? Jan Schellhoff says yes, with UNStudio’s Green Spine promising to deliver diversity upon completion.

From its indoor childcare facility and mix of entertainment and fresh food offers, to its public park, ‘green’ verandas and garden housed atop the podium, Schellhoff says Green Spine’s heterogeneous quality will be reflected through the mix of programs embedded throughout its interior and exterior.

Ferguson says diversity and flexibility are even the big drivers for the workforce of the future. “We have four, and soon five generations in the workplace, and without a doubt each of these generations has different priorities.”


Occupiers with multi-floored tenancies will desire floors that are opened up, “beyond the addition of a simple stair and looking more to create vertical and horizontal connectivity between floors”.

The Sydney office of Futurespace client PwC reflects this diversity and flexibility in action, with its platformed stairs and ‘open’ meeting rooms.

Actively Forecast

Though innovations in the building industry are traditionally slow, other fields influencing the way we work, live and use our buildings and cities have a much faster innovation cycle, presenting ample opportunity for smart and adaptive design.

UNStudio’s company vision ‘future-proofing the future’ is encapsulated by their active forecasting process, which Schellhoff names as his team’s “key approach to ensuring our buildings are relevant at the time but also in 50 years.”

Active forecasting within the UNStudio office consists of a range of different groups, which strategically forecast key aspects of the built environment including material innovation, sustainability and parametric modelling.

Technology, Technology, Technology

An obvious element, but one that requires deft handling, nonetheless.

“Technology moves so quickly that it can be difficult for the pace of design and construction of fitouts to keep up,” Ferguson says, adding that, technology “should always be about people, and about creating better experiences for them – in terms of sharing information, imparting knowledge, and making life easier, better, simpler – and more interesting.”

One of Ferguson’s favourite examples is Futurespace’s work on PwC’s Sydney and Melbourne Client Collaboration Floors.

“Throughout these two environments, technology has been used not only for practical reasons such as wayfinding and room booking, it has also been used to create signature experiences – from demonstrating new initiatives, to conducting surveys and polls, to facilitating communication and gathering and sharing information across the global PwC network with clients, partners and visitors.”

Catch Jan Schellhoff and Angela Ferguson at the 3rd Australian Smart Skyscrapers Summit, on the 25th and 26th of June at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Image: Futurespace managing director Angela Ferguson