What will the future of architecture look like? We might not be colonizing Mars or living on leafy, man-made space stations any time soon, but some exciting recent architectural trends are giving plenty of reasons to get excited about the future of built environments right here on Earth.
by Lidija Grozdanic
Over the last two decades, the construction industry has been subject to dramatic changes, paving the way for a future in which traditional spatial concepts are longer valid. Now, compost is being used for building materials, crowdfunding and collaborative design have become increasingly popular approaches to architectural projects, there is a focus on the importance of green infrastructure and energy efficiency, and the line between private and public space is becoming increasingly blurred. These new approaches are foreshadowing the ways in which our urban environment will evolve over the next few decades. Here’s a rundown of the new trends that have already started to affect the way we build:
#1 – No More ‘Public vs. Private’ Space
An increasing number of buildings not only address the needs of its users by function but also aim to incorporate public and commercial amenities. Architects are becoming aware of the need for creating inclusive spaces that share the same palpable values as their neighborhoods and the general public.
With the emergence of new technologies, it has become possible to design large developments as micro-cities that offer a range of diverse services (think Google, Facebook and Linkedin headquarters). Private buildings often include recycling and composting facilities and other public domain functions.
Excess energy that has been generated by private residences, offices and other buildings is now often fed into the public power grid. As Adriana Seserin writes in her article “The Publicly Private And The Privately Public”, “The dichotomy of public vs. private is limping in its ability to describe the complexity of today’s society.”
#2 – Design Will Become More Collaborative
Architecture as we know it is likely to disappear and, in the future, the role of architects may be very different to how we recognize it today. Specialists in, for example, environmental science and social anthropology will become active team members in design studios, working on complex projects that require knowledge in different fields.
It is reasonable to expect that the emergence of specialists from various fields will eliminate many of the job profiles currently existing in the construction industry. “Small ‘design-led’ practices will face increasingly stiff competition from multidisciplinary giants and must become more business savvy in order to survive in the future,” claims a 2011 RIBA report.
The rule of starchitects is likely to come to an end, as both private and public clients are starting to expect much more than iconic spaces and structures. Interaction, inclusiveness, easy maintenance and energy efficiency are getting priority over extravagance for extravagance’s sake.
#3 – Internet of Things Becomes Internet of Spaces
The “sharing economy” (or, “collaborative consumption”) has had the greatest impact on the housing and real estate market. Peer-to-peer online platforms like AirBnB, as well as shared workspaces and driverless cars are paving the way towards a future in which infrastructure is the dominant aspect of the built environment.
Regarding residential architecture, the concepts of interconnectivity and smart design will redefine the way living spaces are created. Transformable spaces that adapt to the homeowner’s age, economic status and personal preference are well on their way to becoming mainstream.
#4 – Buildings Will Be Funded by the Many
The concept of is radically changing the way projects are financed. Since it was first introduced, Kickstarter has funneled more than $66 million into a varied number of projects, from food through movies to technology. Architectural projects, including Lowline and the BD Bacata Tower, have also made use of crowdfunding to advance their plans.
Certain areas of the construction industry – standardized designs and prototype housing, chain stores and retail office buildings, and schools – could see more competitive bidding in getting their plans funded, while more complex structures requiring unique designs such as stadiums, power plants, bridges, museums and medical buildings are less likely to be built through an open-bid approach.
#5 – Going Tall, Small and Temporary
Breaking the pattern of the urban sprawl we’ve seen over the last century, the new trend of building super-tall structures will make cities grow upwards rather than outwards. These tall buildings combine living, playing, shopping and working in one area and are made possible thanks to the advances in material technology, like electronic glass panels. As developments in technology change the size of our gadgets, so too may these developments also affect the size of our living spaces.
This change would be made through modular design, which has increasingly been used in different building typologies. Additionally, many architects are now recognizing that the shorter a building’s lifespan is, the more sustainable it can be. Therefore, ‘prefab’ houses that are easily replaced could be the future of architecture.
The recent phenomenon of technology altering the physical world and permeating every aspect of our daily lives is symptomatic of a larger social and cultural shift. The way buildings are financed, designed, built, used and removed continuously changes architectural discourse and introduces an entirely new vocabulary into the construction industry. We are excited to see how it will all pan out in the coming years.
What do you think the future of architecture will look like?