When we think about the future of architecture, more often than not, our visions tend to circumnavigate around cities with flying cars, large-scale holograms, soaring skyscrapers, fine dining in space and perhaps even a settlement on Mars! Owing to the various technological advancements since the dawn of Industrialization, man has had his head in the clouds about a lot of motifs that he could explore in the future. 

In the architectural world, the need for working on something years ahead in the future was and is still heavily explored. This can be seen from the futuristic publications of the Archigram from the 60s, exploring ideas like ‘The Walking City’ or ‘The Plug-In City’. 

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‘The Walking City’ – Conception by Archigram Magazine _+Pinterest

Regardless, this trope of shaping a future world in terms of architecture is not just explored in the field of architecture but also by the general public, mainly in the form of pop culture. Given this medium of world generation, one can say that it is expected for the field of architecture to evolve or adapt to the various issues that are commonly depicted or discussed. 

Realistically speaking, architecture does have a heavy-handed role when it comes to the general future as it can essentially sculpt the perfect world that is sustainable, functional and aesthetic. Let’s discuss some critical facets that might play into the future of architecture with a bit of pop culture!

Resources and Materials

With Industrialization becoming a global phenomenon, the extent to which man used the Earth’s resources and depleted the same was indeed alarming. Unlike the formative periods of architecture from the Stone Age to the Classical Era, it is a fact that we humans, in this day and age, do not have the luxury of using all and every resource naturally or synthetically available. With the global trend of general consumption, there is a need for architecture to be lenient towards the environment concerning material usage, the climate crisis and the depletion of the planet’s green cover. 

Avatar (2009) is a good example that showcases the depiction of our planet at the brink of having all of its resources depleted. It leaves the viewers with the questions: Do we have a plan-B? Do we have some other planet or galaxy to explore as a countermeasure to our resources being exploited?

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An Earth Depleted of Resources Portrayed in Avatar _+Flickr

Fortunately, there has been a global interest in sustainable building practices and constructions and these trends are becoming a common denominator in most designs. This way of building is being heavily explored and innovated daily. Shelter prototypes, like the Earthship by Michael Reynolds, have been encouraging the usage of renewable and upcycled materials, water harvesting, in-module sewage treatments and energy from thermal, solar and wind sources.

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An Earthship _+www.youtube.com


Improvements in the healthcare sector and quality of life, in general, have led to a population boom since the 17th century that never quite ended. The steady migration of the populace to the cities in hopes of a better life has led to urban sprawl in almost every city around the world which in turn leads to inadequate housing and slums

In the future, these conditions are only set to worsen. Themes like this are explored in movies like Ready Player One (2018) and Blade Runner (1982) and they are all too close to home as they depict realities that are parallel to a lot of people today.

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The Stacks in Ready Player One _+www.columbusnavigator.com

Dealing with sprawls and slums and alleviating the conditions within the same are issues that most governments have only begun tackling. Ideas of ideal community and low-cost housing are themes that require a lot of trial-and-error for their success. Some instances of overpopulation being handled with grace can be seen with incremental housing projects like Aranya by Vastu Shilpa Consultants and Quinta Monroy by ELEMENTAL; as they not only provide adequate living spaces but also humanizes the living conditions and the needs of the inhabitants.

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Incremental Housing – Quinta Monroy by ELEMENTAL _+www.artworksforchange.org

Adverse Climatic Conditions and Pollution

Perhaps the most overwhelming moment in the entirety of the masterpiece that is Blade Runner 2049 (2017) was the still of K, lone and centred, against the polluted acid orange backdrop of Las Vegas, in a world that was completely devoid of trees. 

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Adverse Climatic Conditions Portrayed in Blade Runner 2049 _+www.IMDb.com

What is worse than ‘pollution’, ‘climate crisis’, ‘global warming’, ‘sea-level rising’ are phrases that are the new normal of the 21st century. Most metropolitan capitals in the world have alarming quantities of pollutants in the air with the ever-present smog and a population that finds breathing issues an inescapable daily hurdle.

With the adversities that have been popping up over the last couple of decades, there have been architectural efforts made to build more sustainablywith a steady increase in the number of firms that promote green building practices. Firms like Vo Trong Nghia Architects have popularized the trends of green roofs, roof farming, and cut and place landscaping.

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Kindergarten in Vietnam by Vo Trong Nghia Architects_+www.architectural-review.com

City-wide plans have been made to mitigate the impacts of climate change, with most cities like Boston and New York prepping their frontiers to accommodate the future rise in sea level. Many architects have also proposed many futuristic designs to help the planet cope with the inevitable cons that accompany climate change. 

Practices like Bjarke Ingels Group have proposed master plans of ‘Floating Cities’ and ‘Masterplanet’  that can be incorporated globally to evade the eventual rise in sea levels. 

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Oceanix City Proposal by Bjarke Ingels Group _+www.detail-online.co

The post-apocalyptic trope of the earth turning into a water planet is a theme heavily explored in pop culture like Waterworld (1995) and 2012 (2009) and it is a motif that is taken seriously by most individuals given its real-life implications. Future designs do need to be mindful of creating spaces that alleviate the drastic nature of extreme climatic conditions and pollution.

Waste Management

Pixar’s WALL-E (2008) was, in particular, a culture-shock and a wake-up call to most Millenials – an animated movie exploring the life of a robot stranded on a waste-ridden Earth with the hopes of cleaning it up. It depicts a planet that was overrun by non-biodegradables so much so that the inhabitants had to leave and settle for a life in space. 

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Waste-ridden City Portrayed in Pixar’s Wall-E _+www.screenmusing.org

Given the ever-steady rise in population and amount of waste that is produced by a single individual, waste management has been a serious issue for both historic civilizations and the people of today. Throughout history, we have seen many instances where poor waste management has led to numerous pandemics such as the Black Death or the Cholera Pandemics. Rapid Urbanization has led to cities allotting landfills to account for the waste generated but the adequate management and sanitary implications of the same are always in question. 

Countries like Japan and Singapore have come up with models that encourage active segregation of waste within most buildings, with Singapore implementing a model that generates energy from waste that powers around 1000 homes daily. Soon, these models are only set to improve with the issues arising from improper waste management being eradicated thoroughly.

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Semakau Landfill in Singapore_+www.wastemanagementreview.au

Pedestrian and Vehicular Traffic

The most typically explored prototype for the future is the usage of vehicles. Along with the common deduction that most of the vehicles would be capable of flight, there is also the popular opinion that in the future our streets are only going to be overrun by vehicular traffic. 

The idea is that there will have to be lanes accommodating vehicles capable of flight in addition to those lanes on land just to accommodate a large number of vehicles in an area at any given point in time. We can see this idea heavily explored in movies like The Fifth Element (1997), where there are numerous stills depicting traffic density.

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Traffic Lanes Explored in The Fifth Element (1997)  _+Pinterest

But unlike popular opinion, this particular area has been heavily explored by urban designers in recent years. To explore alternatives that would enhance city-life, there has been the creation of urban green pockets, vehicle-free zones and underground parking systems. These are proactive in rendering cities more pedestrian-friendly in the coming years, with the incorporation of more green landscaping and human interactive zones instead of roads catering to vehicles. 

Major cities like New York have incorporated these models as seen with the ground-breaking makeover that Times Square has gone through in the last decade to curb traffic accidents. So with the future, what can be expected architecturally are green roads that encourage pedestrian activity with electric vehicles that would bring down the usage of fossil fuels considerably.

Changes Made to Times Square, New York +ny.curbed.com

As implied from the solutions and trends used to cull the issues that we are to face in the future, it can be concluded that the architecture of the future is set to be heavily humane and eco-friendly. Awareness regarding climate change and the various issues posed by the same is brought to the public years through popular opinion and culture. 

Many architectural practices take it upon themselves to make environmentally sound and biophilic architecture the new internationally accepted facade of the 21st century and we have high hopes that this trend is bound to thrive for the years to come!


As an eccentric ‘arch-ling’ residing in Cochin that shares a quintessential kinship with art, architecture, literature and nature. She is an individual with an ever-present urge to streamline, decode and engross herself in information from any given field.