Mixed Use: multifunctional buildings for the future
  1. Home
  2. What's On
  3. Mixed Use: multifunctional buildings for the future of urban communities

Mixed Use: multifunctional buildings for the future of urban communities

Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects - LOHA | Urbanus Architecture & Design | Tianjin TIANHUA Northern Architectural Design

Mixed Use: multifunctional buildings for the future
By Redazione The Plan -

What are the advantages of mixed-use buildings?

Historically, this type of building was extremely rare. In the past, it was simply easier to combine buildings with different functions rather than group different uses into the one structure. In historic city centers, it’s quite common to find houses that overlook a square, alongside markets, restaurants, churches, and shops.

Subsequently, with the advent of new materials and construction techniques, it was decided to regulate the construction of buildings with specific functions, grouping them together into well-defined areas. I’m referring here to zoning, a model that, for better or worse, typified the 20th century.

Today, however, planning is increasingly favoring a diversification of functions at both the urban level and at the level of individual buildings. This is how the mixed-use model came into being, according to which, different uses – such as residential, commercial, administrative, and even industrial – are combined in the same development.

In the first place, this approach encourages social cohesion, since it avoids the segregation and isolation of people based on their profession, and fosters meeting and interaction. It’s also attractive to consumers, since both young and old benefit from having the services they need close at hand. This, too, can lead to important opportunities for exchange and intergenerational relationships, all of which enrich the performance of whatever activities are conducted in the area.

On top of this, mixed-use buildings can reduce distances between homes, workplaces, and services. This is no small matter, with long travel times one of the biggest problems facing cities today. Having multiple services available in a single structure brings us a step closer to the 15-Minute City model proposed by Carlos Moreno (from the Sorbonne, where he is scientific director of “Entrepreneurship, Territory, Innovation”).

Finally, mixed-use buildings also help us reduce land use, since they help eliminate the need to construct additional buildings for whatever activity is envisaged. Concentrating different functions into one area also helps promote a greater sense of belonging to place in workers and residents, and, therefore, a renewed sense of community.

The Mixed Use category of The Plan Award 2021

Over the years, a large variety of projects for mixed-use buildings has been entered in The Plan Award. This annual award, open to both completed and future projects, was established to promote awareness, as well as the quality of the work, of designers, academics, and students in the fields of architecture, design, and urban planning, and to broaden the discussion of topical issues affecting the sector. The Plan Award 2021 is divided into different categories, for each of which the Jury will decide one winner and, if appropriate, honorable mentions. The registration deadline is May 30.

Read more about participating in The Plan Award 2021.

To design multi-use buildings and complexes, it’s necessary to adopt a broad, flexible design approach, as can be seen in these projects selected from The Plan Award 2020.

Westgate1515: a different idea of neighborhood

Before it was an exit off the Interstate 405, Santa Monica Boulevard was part of the famous Route 66 – an almost perfect microcosm of American culture that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. In southern California, this long stretch of road connected Pasadena, Downtown LA, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. Long commercial corridors lined with stores, restaurants, and car yards joined up neighborhoods, forming a mid-20th-century urban planning archetype. Along one of these is West Los Angeles, a neighborhood now divided by the busy Interstate 405.

With the aim of creating a reference point for citizens and giving this neighborhood a village feel, LOHA designed Westgate1515, a project that deconstructs the classic housing development into homes, common green spaces, and a redeveloped public plaza. The site, covering approximately 334 thousand square feet (31,000 m2), takes in an entire city block, once home to a massive car dealership. Today, however, it’s a model for high-density, mixed-use development.

Read more about the project in English

China Nuclear Smart-City, Commerce, Community

A smart city for the future that turns the limitations of its city setting to its advantage to create a dynamic, green mixed-use complex that’s open to the public. A series of stairs and ramps boosts the usability of the different spaces, all organized around a central hub. Each floor hosts different functions and uses, with a garden on the roof.

Read more about the project in English

Enhancing the indoors and outdoors: Shum Yip Upperhills Loft

This project is a high-end commercial complex comprising six tower buildings that accommodate offices, hotels, and apartments. URBANUS’s job was to create apartments and offices in a 1.08 square feet (100,000 m2) loft area above a shopping center that, in turn, occupies over 646 thousand square feet (60,000 m2).

To avoid the enormous undertaking of creating an additional skyscraper, the architects created two artificial mountains, a design choice that connects the project with the natural shape of the nearby Lianhua and Bijia Mountains. This also made it possible to create long sidewalks, giving the complex the feel of a small city with many faces. The LOFT Theater and the Trading & Exhibition Center are two public buildings within the complex.

Read more about the project in English


If you’ve designed a mixed-use project – built after January 1, 2018, or yet to be completed – you have until May 30 to register for the Mixed-Use category of The Plan Award 2021. Submit your project via the registration page.

All other credits relating to photos and render refer to individual articles.


Keep up with the latest trends in the architecture and design world

© Maggioli SpA • THE PLAN • Via del Pratello 8 • 40122 Bologna, Italy • T +39 051 227634 • P. IVA 02066400405 • ISSN 2499-6602 • E-ISSN 2385-2054