Architects and architecture have always conflicted with time. The question that often haunts us is, ‘How does one make their creation timeless so that it is just as relevant in the future as it is now.’ While we cannot assure the timelessness of our buildings, architecture will supersede all bounds of time. As long as humans exist, they will continue to inhabit spaces. That is why while we cannot foretell the future of a designer, we can try to predict that of architecture. After all, everyone has at least once allowed their imagination to run wild and visualize a futuristic place. And that experience teaches us that imagining the future is just a commentary on the present. Taking cues from the day to day of architecture here is the most predictable future of the profession.
Movies have always succeeded in showing us a futuristic image of our cities and architecture in such a light that it makes us eager for that future to pass. Then be it the city of Wakanda in The Black Panther movie or the holographic blueprints of buildings in The Iron Man. If these movies are to be believed, then the future of architecture is paperless. And this future is already here, though only exclusively. Holographic technology already exists and is assuredly being used by the US military to map cities. The technology belongs to Zebra Imaging, an Austin, Texas-based firm. The company has been proactively working with six renowned architecture firms to introduce holograms as the new tool for architectural presentations. These firms include CollinsWoerman, Gehry Partners, Gensler, Leo A Daly, MulvannyG2 Architecture, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. While the technology remains to be shared with the world today, that future is not far when people will navigate cities through holographic maps on their mobile devices.
Architecture always finds itself divided between art and science. It is a field that does not completely cross over but manages to pervade into either stream. Because architecture is about human lives and behaviour, all sciences and art forms that have any capacity to influence human lives find an intersection with architecture. Hence as technology brings us closer and makes information easily accessible, we see science intersecting with architecture and applied to the built form. While architects are well versed with the application of mathematics, psychology, or anthropology with architecture, intersections with other sciences are also being explored. One such example is the works of Neri Oxman in material ecology. For anyone trying to find a niche in the industry the way forward is through collaborating with other professionals. Collaborations will not only keep your ideas fresh but also make innovations of the future possible and plausible.
With collaboration, large amounts of data and information become available on the tip of our fingers. As humans with limitations, handling so much information simultaneously can prove to be tricky. With the help of computers, making sense of these information parcels becomes easier. The world is already witnessing the prowess of parametric and computational designs. As information becomes more easily accessible and the data bank vast, the future belongs to the computer, not just when designing but also when constructing. The world saw its first 3D printed building in the year 2016 in Dubai, designed by Gensler. The first 3D printed house in India that was newly built, by Tvasta, a start-up in Chennai, also created great excitement. These developments only address that the future of architecture and building construction will be Artificial Intelligence dominated. The need for human labour in the construction industry will become obsolete like is the case with most arts and crafts around the country.
With our buildings becoming automated, that future is not far when our homes will become ‘smart’ and will be able to predict their occupant’s needs.
While most of our imaginable future is technology-driven, we need to consider sustainable architecture as the future. With the pace at which humans are consuming natural resources and destroying ecological balance, sustainable architecture will be their only alternative. Sustainability is a movement gaining momentum. We can see the seeds of it taking root with initiatives to build with sustainable materials, practices. Rating systems that are currently pro-choice will become a part of regulations and norms that all buildings must adhere to. Energy plus buildings will be the new standard in a utopian future if we continue to ravage the only planet we have access to at this moment.
Even if we can settle on another globe, architecture would still move towards sustainability, albeit on a different planet. It would be a lesson learnt from our time on Earth. Provided that Elon Musk’s vision of 100 million people on Mars by 2060 comes true, the face of architecture would change for good. All that we have learnt so far would have to be relearned, keeping in mind the context of a new planet. How materials behave, how people move would all change with the gravity of the said planet. It would probably be a world floating in the air.
Many visuals that we once saw in cartoons and movies in the 1990s have come true today. And many more that we are seeing in the world cinema now are on their way to becoming the world reality. Therefore it is not without hope that architects and designers continue to visualize the future of the built fabric. While they do so, the hope for a better, efficient and beautiful tomorrow continues to exist. As the saying goes, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it”.