The ever-changing trends, technological advancements, and climate issues call for various solutions in architecture to sustain the surrounding environment. Following are a few niches in the field of architecture that need to be pondered upon, reflected & proposed as interventions to tackle the needs of the hour.
Architecture for the Ageing | Debate competition
According to the United Nations (UN) World Social Report 2023, the number of citizens aged 65 years & above are expected to double worldwide in the next three decades. Numerous nations, especially in Asia & Europe, house a higher ratio of senior citizens than the working generation. Also, the need arises to develop various approaches to enhance the relationship between spatiality & elderly population. Users in this demographic crave active lifestyles with familial & community interactions. A few solutions that could create a secure & homely environment for the aged when they are looking for comfort are:
- Usage of materials to induce a comfortable atmosphere.
- Optimum community spaces with greenery.
- Simple planning for easier navigation to reach every user in times of medical care & emergencies.
- Ensuring appropriate anthropometry in furniture & WCs and all slippery areas & staircases to have grab rails at immediate reach.
A few notable projects from various typologies that have successfully rethought architecture for ageing innovatively are:
- ‘The Rainbow by Alive Lifespace’ by Benny Kuriakose & Associates in Kerala, which is well-known to be India’s first holistic retirement community,
- ‘Kaleidoscope’ by LEVS Architecten in the Netherlands has amalgamated residential, healthcare & cultural facilities under one roof, encouraging interactions between all residents,
- ‘Casa del Abuelo’ by Taller DIEZ 05 in Mexico which is a day-stay for senior citizens, etc.
Gender Inclusive Urbanism
‘Gender-inclusive urbanism’ encompasses the planning of cities where all citizens of every gender of various age ranges have simple & secure mobility across various urban spaces and access to affordable public infrastructure for health, water supply, sanitation, waste disposal, transit, electricity & amenities.
‘The Handbook for Gender Inclusive Urban Planning and Design’ published in 2020 by The World Bank, presented interventions & strategies to break traditional patriarchal norms seen in the planning of cities that were initially questioned in Europe & United States. However, decades later, the need arose to think radically about how to make cities neutral & safe for people of all generations, genders & minorities through participatory & holistic design approaches.
The criteria that determine gender inclusiveness are: Debate competition
- Safe & accessible public infrastructure: Not just secure parks & public plazas, but also incorporating facilities for children’s care in both male & female washrooms or lounge facilities
- Inclusive, affordable housing: To reduce the disproportionate burden of housing responsibilities on women.
- Equitable transit: Accessible transport systems for everyone, irrespective of gender, economic background, etc.
- Economic & education opportunities: To create employment opportunities within societies and pave the way for informed & educated communities.
Accessible Design – Concept of 15-Minute Cities
One of the most promising urban-planning approaches of recent years, the ’15-Minute City’ is a cityscape where all citizens can access healthcare services, commercial & public facilities, educational institutions, and workplaces within 15 minutes by walking or biking. First conceptualised by French-Colombian urbanist Carlos Moreno, 15-Minute City aims at:
- Lessening the need for intensive natural & man-made resources required for long commutes,
- Reducing stress and encouraging livable & sustainable communities,
- Decreasing pollution, traffic congestion & carbon emissions,
- Increasing efficient land use.
Cities like Paris & Melbourne have commenced implementing 15-minute city initiatives by creating improved bike lanes, pedestrian-friendly streets and expanding public transportation networks.
Use of Pre-fabricated & Modular Structures, especially during emergencies
With the onset of pandemics & conflicts in recent days, the need for Emergency Architecture catering to humanitarian & healthcare requirements and organizing for emergencies is a focused sphere. The requirement of ‘Emergency Architecture’ is amplified by the magnitude of the disaster, casualties, materials, economic resources, locations, and assistance rendered by local authorities & organisations. One such solution for emergency architecture would be ‘Prefabricated structures’ with retractable components & pieces that could be mounted on-site in a jiffy. Pre-fabricated & modular systems are relatively simple to install and flexible, requiring less time and effort.
Innovative Sustainable Materiality
Innovative sustainable materiality refers to coming-of-age unique, sustainable materials that have aesthetic appeal while being utilitarian. A few examples of such materials are
- Cross-laminated timber: Light-weight, flexible & structurally strong material utilised for load-bearing & non-load-bearing structures. It is also used primarily for high-rise buildings.
- Solar-glass: For facades, skylights, and windows to save energy costs in the long run.
- Bioplastics: Having little to zero carbon footprint, it is used in interior spaces and product design.
- Pollution-absorbing bricks: As the name implies, it is similar to a normal brick in aesthetics and filters out air pollutants when utilised in facades.
- Bacterial Cellulose: For flexible and efficient shape-retaining building cladding systems.
- Aluminium foam: Recyclable material for organic facades.
Ecological Restoration for Climate Resilience | Debate competition
Ecological restoration is key to revitalising ecosystems that have incurred damages due to human activities. Designing sustainable landscapes and incorporating green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales & native vegetation could tackle drought, extreme heat, and flooding issues arising from climate change, provide wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration & conserve vegetation.
Engaging the public with ecology restoration projects could educate communities on this prevailing issue and encourage them to start at home by planting native species in their garden spaces and progressing to neighbourhood & city levels. The need arises to develop more innovative methods to sustainably safeguard natural habitats on par with technological advancements for future generations.
Are ‘Vertical Cities’ the future of architecture?
As land availability is becoming alarmingly sparse due to the exponential rise in population & climatic changes, an experimental architectural concept known as ‘Vertical Cities’ was advocated as a workable solution. Austrian-American architect Friedrich St Florian explored this approach through his proposal of a 300-story tower with a cylindrical form, centralised transport & energy stations and solar technologies for healthcare, educational, and daycare facilities located at the top. ‘Vertical City’ a non-profit organisation, has constantly advocated for support to implement this concept.
Despite ‘Vertical Cities’ being self-sufficient interconnected towers, they remain a fairly utopian concept in most cities. Due to increased construction costs as the structure goes higher, built environment professionals still have a long way to go to garner support from the public and authorities. Only when resources become extremely scarce & land costs surpass construction costs ‘Vertical Cities’ will be a step away from becoming a reality if implemented with principles of disaster-resilient architecture & following safety regulations sincerely.
Challenges in implementation of ‘Smart Cities’.
‘Smart Cities’ are technologically advanced urban spaces that rely heavily on acquired electronic data to manage assets, resources and facilities efficiently. Whilst the future of urban planning, the benefits are accompanied by certain concerns, including invasion of privacy, security loopholes, lack of funding, non-flexibility and political differences.
AI tools to increase creativity in architecture
Using artificial intelligence in architecture could cut down on the requirement for resources, improve design to make it more effective and aid architectural professionals to conceptualise and innovatively improve their designs. A few AI tools available for architects are:
- Maket.ai is known to quickly create multiple design schemes to cater to clients’ requirements within available land.
- Midjourney, a text-image converter that is user-friendly & produces photorealistic renders.
- Spacemaker, to test multiple architectural concepts & schemes to deduce the most resource-saving option.
- Get floorplan to generate 3d models from ideas.
- Archistar, to provide access to aerial perspectives and access to planning regulations (permitted height, zoning, protected spaces, etc.)
- Interior AI to generate creative interior design approaches from 16 themes ranging from Minimalist to Baroque, etc.
AI tools, while increasingly useful, should be something other than a tool to rely on heavily. Ultimately, innovational solutions are always derived from an architect’s creative and logical reasoning. AI tools are present only to enhance & visualise an architect’s design concept.
Diversity & Equity in the Field of Architecture | Debate competition
To ensure greater success, diversity should always be strived for in the field of the built environment. Time and again, it has been proven that the more diverse and inclusive a team is, analytical and creative skills will be enhanced multi-fold. There has been growing awareness, with initiatives implemented to include more women, people of colour, and all other marginalised communities in this profession. Addressing this issue should be executed with a multifaceted approach to tackle deep-rooted inequality issues in the built environment field.
On par with the above topics, several prevailing areas need to be explored, researched & discussed, such as challenges in the implementation of aesthetic, affordable & functional community housing, striking a balance between sustainability and affordability, architecture to enhance natural habitats, animal architecture, etc. The field of built environment constantly needs to update not just in terms of technology but also creativity and innovation to cater needs of citizens & environment shortly.
References: Debate competition
- 10 Innovative Sustainable Materials in architecture (2023) WTN. Available at: https://whereisthenorth.com/10-innovative-materials-in-architecture-that-help-better-the-environment/ (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
- 15-Minute City (2023) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/15-minute_city (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
- Baldwin, A.E. (2022) Building life cycles: Rethinking the architecture of aging – architizer journal, Journal. Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/collections/architecture-of-aging/ (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
- The best 26 architecture AI tools in the field: Why you should use them? (2023) Arch2O.com. Available at: https://www.arch2o.com/the-best-26-architecture-ai-tools-in-the-field/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20popular,use%20and%20photorealistic%20rendering%20capabilities (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
- Ghisleni, C. (2022) How gender inclusion is influencing urban design, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/986297/how-gender-inclusion-is-influencing-urban-design (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
- Maiztegui, B. (2020) Architecture for emergencies: On-site construction or prefabrication?, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/939936/architecture-for-emergencies-on-site-construction-or-prefabrication (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
- The rainbow by alive lifespaces: Spacious homes at Trivandrum (no date) Alive Lifespaces. Available at: https://alivelifespaces.com/ (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
- Robinson, M. (no date) Vertical cities could be the future of Architecture, Business Insider. Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/vertical-cities-future-of-architecture-2016-4?IR=T (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
- Undesa World Social Report 2023 | DISD (no date) United Nations. United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/development/desa/dspd/world-social-report/2023-2.html (Accessed: April 15, 2023).