Smart & creative cities

In collaboration with the Venice Architectural Association (VAA), S&A Architecture has developed a new model for the cities of tomorrow. In our keynote paper titled ‘Smart & Creative Cities – Innovation & Sustainability through Urban Regeneration Projects’, we outline our unique vision for Smart & Creative Cities. Following is an overview of the paper and the full presentation can be accessed here.


Architects, engineers and urban planners are already designing and thinking about the cities of tomorrow, known as ‘smart cities’. However, the concept of a smart city is not that new. The aqueducts and water drainage systems of ancient Rome were two ‘smart’ ideas based on technology that made their citizens’ lives easier.


In simple terms, a smart city uses technology to provide services and solve city problems. The main goals are to increase efficiency, reduce waste and inconvenience, and improve economic development and quality of life for its citizens. This is achieved primarily through better infrastructure and public facilities, efficient transportation and traffic control, and effective data-driven decision-making. 


S&A Architecture is pioneering a new model for open forum discussion that incorporates cultural and heritage considerations currently lacking in the standard smart city model. We take a more holistic and integrated approach on how to design and implement the smart city model, as outlined in Smart & Creative Cities. Our main objectives are to stop the destruction of our natural and architectural heritage, reduce waste and employ reuse and recycle practices, preserve heritage buildings by adapting them for reuse, and implement new technologies that support sustainability and efficiency, while staying respectful and sensitive to traditional cultural values.


With rapid urbanization, a projected global urban population of up to 9 billion people by 2050, the world as we know it will be forever changed. In addition to very real humanitarian stressors such as global economic inequalities & food security, Planet Earth is now facing potential irrevocable change due to climate change.

Earth’s ecosystems and biological rhythms are under constant pressure with climate change, deforestation, pollution and wildlife endangerment (biodiversity loss) being the biggest contributors. In 2019, more than 14,000 species were listed as threatened, almost double the amount in 2007. The global temperature continues to increase (1.1% in 2019), causing rising sea levels and melting ice caps. Add to that, about 8 million tons of plastic waste is discarded into our oceans every year.

On a global scale, economic inequality is on the increase, with the top 1% of the world owning half of the world’s wealth. The Asia-Pacific region has lost nearly 30% of its cultural heritage over the past 20 years alone. And we’re emerging out of the Coronavirus pandemic with a reported 6 million deaths and 452 million confirmed cases across 185/195 countries of the world.

While things may seem all doom and gloom, innovative thinking coupled with leading-edge technologies and future-driven frameworks will give governments, companies and stakeholders at large the opportunity to take a pioneering role in finding solutions for the cities of tomorrow.


We can’t reverse the tide but we can take a more holistic and strategic long-term approach to mitigating pressing economic, social and environmental challenges. The framework for this future living environment is Smart & Creative Cities, which promote connectivity and community, as well as eco-friendly and sustainable practices.


S&A Architecture recognizes the importance of being part of the smart city solution, and that’s why we are spearheading two key smart projects in collaboration with the government of Vietnam, ‘Hanoi – Felicity Smart District’ and ‘HCMC – Saigon Golden Square’. 

Transportation & Mobility

Connecting buildings and locations in smart ways will reduce our need for transportation, and thus our environmental footprint. Smart road design, parking and traffic control combined with autonomous vehicles and integrated public transport will radically reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. Quality of life is improved through time efficiency, upgraded pedestrian and designated public areas, and greater public safety.


Smart Infrastructure

Smart planning is the first step in designing efficient systems that underpin the cities of tomorrow. Cloud technology and data-driven decision-making will improve security and surveillance, and provide greater access to public services. Saving water, minimizing and managing waste, and reusing and recycling wastewater and other waste will reduce harmful impacts on our natural environment. Integrated urban agriculture will enable citizens of smart cities to live more self-sufficiently. 


Energy Efficiency & Sustainability

Integrating energy efficient and renewable energy sources such as solar power reduces fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. A decentralized energy system allows for more optimal use of renewable energy as well as combined heat and power, increasing eco-efficiency. Microgrids are also able to operate using decentralized, autonomous control.


Preserving the past for the future

Adapting heritage structures for reuse with a new purpose offers a range of benefits including preserving cultural legacy and history, preventing the negative impacts of construction such as air and noise pollution, and offering communities new economic opportunities and growth.

As more and more buildings worldwide are being forgotten about or abandoned, adaptive reuse is the perfect solution to preserve heritage while breathing new life into an old structure for future generations to enjoy


Establishing smart cities in preexisting urban environments can pose many challenges.

At S&A Architecture, we have identified four key strategies to achieve this:


  • Renovate the built environment – through heritage preservation and adaptive reuse, we can repurpose old structures for new use, offering economic and cultural benefits
  • Create resilient and self-sufficient cites – from zero waste, reuse and recycle to self-sufficient food, water and power
  • Implement capacity buildings and smart hubs – from community support and knowledge sharing to improved sustainability, functionality and integrated green spaces in hybrid buildings
  • Combine tradition and innovation – creating energy-efficient buildings and improving an existing building’s ventilation, thermal insulation and comfort for continual use


The Hanoi – Felicity Smart District, designed by S&A Architecture, is based on four key concepts that serve to improve residents’ quality of life: Friendly, Eco, Local and Intelligent.

The area is a triumph of technology paired with green initiatives. Integrated, open public and green spaces, green roofs, solar energy and rainwater harvest complement smart planning and balanced buildings and accessibility.

Quality of life will be improved and our carbon footprint reduced.


Saigon Golden Square is a smart cultural initiative designed by S&A Architecture.


The vision is to synthesize the traditional with the modern and create a more positive cultural experience for the end user, whether tourists or locals. Restoration of the historic landmark, Ben Thanh Market will be integrated with pedestrian-friendly and open, green public spaces, with smart parking and public transport solutions.


Visitors will be able to enjoy the culture and atmosphere of Ho Chi Minh City’s heartland in a more relaxed way.


Preserving heritage and a range of new commercial activities are the benefits of this project for the city.

In conclusion, the answers are never simple or straightforward and require the effort of multiple stakeholders. However, through our Smart & Creative Cities platform, we are working towards a model of cities that seamlessly integrates the creative with the smart, the past with the modern, and technology with tradition. In summary, Smart & Creative Cities will offer the following competitive advantages:


  • Enhanced cultural and social identity for communities with ancient roots 
  • Reduction of transportation and infrastructure costs
  • Improved ‘smart city’ management
  • Energy efficiency
  • Economic development with the creation of jobs and activities via mixed-use buildings
  • Tourism development with economic benefits

Read our full Smart & Creative Cities presentation here.