The world is facing a sharp rise in population. Increasing the density of urban fabric is the only solution to the problem of increased demand for housing. Is this a nightmare? Not in the slightest! A high-quality dense city can very well be achieved if its design responds to the diffuse boundary between urban design and architecture. After all, such a city is not about buildings alone, but the space between them. The Japanese concept of MÀ, which roughly means ‘meaningful empty space’, denotes the tension-filled gap between two musical notes, or the pause between two sentences in a theatre play. This idea can be translated to the design of cities and buildings. For the unbuilt space along the boundary between architecture and urban design is not random. Rather, it must be a space of meaning, an MÀ. And, just like the built environment, it needs to be designed.
The disciplines of architecture, urban design and landscape architecture overlap when it comes to sustainable urban and architectural design. The boundary between buildings and their context blurs and also changes the role of the architect: both buildings and the spaces between them have to be strengthened through an integral design process. Only then can designed emptiness, or MÀ, acquire greater significance and emotional weight. Such tension is not evoked by compositional elements but occurs in the imagination.