Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

This site uses cookies. By using our services, you agree to our cookie use.
Learn more here.

Competition: Hyper-Dense Cities, Asia

An open international ideas contest is being held to rethink a 1km² area of an Asian city so it can be home to at least 100,000 people (Deadline: 31 December)

The FuturArc Prize 2019 invites architects and students to pick a 1km² area of any city in Asia and transform into an inclusive and accessible home for 100,000 people, which promotes biodiversity, and produces its own energy, water and food.

The call for concepts aims to identify new approaches for dealing with the rapidly increasing density of cities across Asia such as Manilla, Jakarta and Hanoi. Proposals will be expected to provide living and working spaces for 100,000 people while also engaging with the wider city in ‘positive and generous ways’.

Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai

Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai

Source: Image by François Zeller

Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai

According to the brief: ‘The Asian city grows denser by the day. Where densification is unplanned and under-regulated, there is a sense of overwhelming crowdedness and heightened perception of risk. The city feels less inclusive, public spaces are lost. There is less water and greenery to share. In the hyper-dense city, the poor suffer the most. There is insufficient investment in resource and mobility infrastructure, especially in low-income areas. There are too few opportunities to make a living.

‘Density however can be an opportunity. The compact city can be lively and energetic, with businesses and trades thriving on a large consumer base. Urban culture emerges organically, creating a vibrant sense of place. The FuturArc Prize 2019 asks you to investigate what it means to live in a hyper-dense city in Asia, one with no less than 100,000 people per square kilometre.’

Across Asia, cities are densifying at extraordinary rates and while some have planned around high densities others have failed to respond with sufficient infrastructure. The FuturArc Prize 2019 aims to promote debate about how such cities could adapt to their rising populations.

Participants are invited to propose new ways of densifying existing areas which respect current neighbourhoods and communities while also enhancing their contribution to the surrounding city. The total built-up area of conceptual proposals must be no larger than 2.5 million m².

Manila, Philippines

Manila, Philippines

Source: Image by Anton Zelenov

Manila, Philippines

Schemes will be judged their reciprocity with the surrounding city, use of resources, provisions for public space and community wellbeing, and integration of natural ecosystems. Judges include FuturArc’s chief editor Nirmal Kishani and Jalel Sager of California-based Berkeley – Hub for Energy Access.

The winners of the professional and student categories will be announced in April. The top entry in the professional category will receive SGD15,000 while a second prize of SGD8,000 and third prize of SGD4,000 will also be awarded.

The overall student winner will receive SGD10,000 while a second prize of SGD5,000 and third prize of SGD2,000 will also be granted.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 31 December

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Nirmal Kishnani

The jury chair and chief editor of FuturArc discusses his ambitions for the competition

Nirmal Kishnani

Nirmal Kishnani

Nirmal Kishnani

Why are your holding an international contest to increase the density of an existing urban area?

The FuturArc Prize has been around for little over ten years now. Each year we ask a hypothetical question that stretches the limits of an argument, shows us new pathways and paradigms. This is not a search for literal solutions; it is meant instead to challenge preconceptions and path dependence. We are looking at individuals who can re-frame the problem in new ways.

The problem of hyperdensity is peculiar to Asia; this region continues to struggle with a rapid urbanisation. Over the past 3-4 decades, we have seen massive in-flows of people from the countryside into cities. While the average density of the most dense of Asian cities can be 20,000 to 30,000 people per square kilometre, peak density in these places can hit 100,000. Mumbai, for instance, has a slum which has 300,000 people per square kilometre. The challenge of sustainability in Asia is a challenge of urbanism, i.e. how we organise cities to accommodate the numbers, without creating social inequality and environmental degradation.

What is your vision for the new high-density urban areas?

Coping with hyperdensity calls for paradigms in planning and land use, new morphologies at the scale of building and neighbourhood. Can the two scales be independently designed, as they are now? How is social and economic opportunities distributed so that well being does not fall below a baseline? How are resources generated and recycled? The questions of sustainability - social, ecological and economic survival - become even more acute at these densities.

The competition this year asks for solutions for 100,000 people per square kilometre, ones in which energy water and food needs are met. Not everyone will be able to demonstrate self-sufficiency; the question really is how far we can go to meet our needs and minimise our impact on the natural world. This is the inherent tension of Asian urbanism.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We’ve always had a strong following from south-east Asia, specifically Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. Lately we have also seen entries from India and China; awareness of the competition is clearly growing. We would love to see entries from other parts of the world. What does a designer in Europe or South America think might be solutions for cities in Asia like Manila or Jakarta or Hanoi?

Are there any other recent high-density urban projects you have been impressed by?

Many architects and researchers in Asia are interested in the question of density. WOHA, for instance, are a Singapore-based firm that is active in this area. They proposed a high-density resilient city of Jakarta that aimed for net-zero energy and partial self-sufficiency of food. They have also examined prototypes for hyper density with 100,000 people/km².