Research by MVRDV, Airbus explores how to integrate vertiports into urban environments

The Netherlands-based MVRDV, led by Winy Maas, designs urban transport system in collaboration with Airbus, where flying vehicles are integrated into existing cities.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Mar 07, 2020

Looking ahead at the future of technology with advances in computing, materials, and electric propulsion technology, an explicit symbol of an urban vision of any futuristic film or plan or installation would be, flying vehicles. To turn this into a reality, MVRDV collaborated with Airbus, Bauhaus Luftfahrt, ETH Zurich, and Systra to research and plan for the future of Urban Air Mobility (UAM), and simultaneously answer these fundamental questions - How will these flying vehicles impact our urban environments? / How can issues of energy, sound and safety be approached? / What protocols should be established with authorities to guarantee their safe and harmonious integration? / How could they be leveraged to improve our cities – not only for their users, but for everybody?

Facilitating access to temporary events, Coachella Festival | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
Facilitating access to temporary events, Coachella Festival Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

Due to Airbus’ on-demand helicopter service Voom, Airbus Urban Mobility envisions a comprehensive mobility concept. The futuristic urban design taken up by the Netherlands-based firm MVRDV supported Airbus in exploring strategic urban development scenarios that leverage UAM as an opportunity to grow cities around the globe into thriving urban regions. Understanding that revolutionary transport modes when introduced to cities without careful planning may affect both short-term and long-term scenarios, the study aimed to avoid any detrimental impacts that may arise from this disruptive technology. The research highlights how, when implemented with urban principles in mind, UAM can reconnect territories with minimal impact, and deliver a multi-modal system that is accessible to, and beneficial for, people of all backgrounds.

  • Promoting green mobility, San Francisco | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Promoting green mobility, San Francisco Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Integrating into comprehensive urban proposals, Los Angeles | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Integrating into comprehensive urban proposals, Los Angeles Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

The design unlocks the potential of the project largely through ‘vertiports’, landing hubs that integrate and connect the aerial network with the existing and future ground transportation system. The research findings envisaged vertiports of various types and sizes, just like traditional transport stops, stations and terminals. However, unlike our urban transport options such as trains, metros, or buses, the network does not require any linear infrastructure in between these ports. No tracks, tunnels or roads are required which further save energy, natural resources, as well as land.

UAM methodology - Understanding diversity on Urban Air Mobility | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
UAM methodology - Understanding diversity on Urban Air Mobility Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

This would allow designers to adapt the vertiports to a variety of different locations, plugging into and enhancing existing urban scenarios. The vertiports have been designed as catalysts for urban improvement and as hubs of renewable energy, data, and public amenities, while remaining sustainable and resilient. A mature network of vertiports could serve to connect disadvantaged areas of cities, improve emergency response times.

  • Optimising intermodality, San Francisco Airport | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Optimising intermodality, San Francisco Airport Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Integrating into Transit-Oriented Developments, Shenzhen | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Integrating into Transit-Oriented Developments, Shenzhen Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

“As cities become denser and technologies improve, it becomes increasingly clear that the truly three-dimensional city – one that includes flying vehicles – is surely one of the city models of the future… a city where my mobility is at my balcony!” says Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “But to reach this future will require many small steps. It’s a credit to Airbus that they are thinking about these issues in advance and doing so in a way that will improve things in the meantime.”

  • Promoting accessibility between disconnected areas, Jakarta | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Promoting accessibility between disconnected areas, Jakarta Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Connecting tourism opportunities, Shenzhen | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Connecting tourism opportunities, Shenzhen Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

On a broader scale, the research investigates the potential of future UAM networks within cities and recognises that it should not seek to replace cities’ existing transport infrastructure but to complement it. The research concludes that with an extensive network of vertiports, UAM could serve as an interesting contributor to a mobility system.

  • Promoting accessibility between disconnected areas, Jakarta | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Promoting accessibility between disconnected areas, Jakarta Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Envisioning future transport hubs, Shenzhen | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Envisioning future transport hubs, Shenzhen Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Adding value to residual spaces, Sao Paolo | Airbus | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Adding value to residual spaces, Sao Paolo Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

In order to communicate the nuanced vision for a connected future to the public, MVRDV and Airbus developed a number of scenarios. The research findings were translated into an immersive exhibition, titled The City and the Sky Above, created through a collaboration between MVRDV, Airbus, and Squint/Opera that is currently on display at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen).

Together, these ideas through illustrations in varied forms give a glimpse into a future world that masters technology for a more responsible, more collaborative, and more accessible society.

Project Details

Name: UAM City Integration
Year: 2018-2020
Client: Airbus Urban Mobility
Size and Programme: Research
Architect: MVRDV
Founding partner-in-charge: Winy Maas
Director: Enno Zuidema
Design team: Jeroen Zuidgeest, Bertrand Schippan, Kris Schaasberg, Irene Luque Martín, Halina Zarate, Chun Hoi Hui, Laura Huerga, Rocio Calzado, Alexandra Farmazon, Sophia Armpara, Francesco Barone, Boris Maas, Vedran Skansi, Monika Novkovikj, Paul van Herk, Yayun Liu, Leo Stuckardt, Chiara Thomassi, Nika Jazaei, Isabella Suppa
Visualisations: Antonio Luca Coco, Luca Piattelli, Francesco Vitale, Pavlos Ventouris, Kirill Emelianov, Magda Bykowska, Jaroslaw Jeda, Angelo La Delfa
Strategy & Development: Jan Knikker, Bart Dankers, Daan van Gool, Greetje Wieringa
Partners
UAM Team: Systra, Tractebel Engie, ETH Zurich, Bauhaus Luftfahrt, MIT, Upstone
Biennale video production: Squint Opera

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