When we talk about the future, we automatically envision improvement. Whether on a personal scale or a worldwide one, this is the image that we, as human beings, should focus on keeping. In the architectural field, the future can be perceived as a wide variety of options. However, regardless of the different ideologies and utopias of our predecessors, the evolution of architecture must take into its account two main entities: the wellbeing of the planet, and the wellbeing of the inhabitants of this planet. The future of architecture should therefore ensure a future for the Earth itself.
The Dilemma of Evolution: Two Different Utopias
Despite the various architectural movements and styles that have evolved throughout the centuries, the history of architecture itself has always been subject to one constant discrimination: it has not quite reached perfection. What is this “perfect” vision of architecture though?
Leaping back into the beginning of the 20th century, theologist Filippo Marinetti (1876-1944) and architect Antonio Sant’ Elia (1888-1916) introduce the utopic ideology of “Futurist Architecture”, a concept based on the concrete notion of destruction to rebuild. They primarily envision the future of architecture as big advanced cities, dominated by skyscrapers, mechanics, noise, speed, and movement, a quite violent image where the importance given to human well-being seems long lost and forgotten. The futuristic city inspires various artists, poets, and architects, who describe the future of architecture and its evolution as the age of the machine. The movie “Metropolis” by Fritz Lang (1927), a sci-fi drama depicts visually this ideal world. However, this utopic innovation that glorifies war ironically comes to an end due to World War II.
The Garden City Movement of Howard
Opposing the futurist architecture ideology, which can be considered as a negative utopia due to its lack of consideration to human’s best interests (for living amongst machines and destruction is, without doubt, a toxic environment for mental and physical growth), Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928), an English urban planner introduces the garden city movement, one which ultimately puts men and nature in the center, thus a positive utopia. Through this movement, Howard challenges himself to reunite the comfort and ease provided by the countryside, and the experiences and opportunities offered by the city environment into one, whilst avoiding the disadvantages brought up by either of these. Furthermore, to clarify his principle, he subdivides his concept into three magnets: Town, Country, and Town Country. For him, the future of architecture and the evolution of cities must prioritize nature and agriculture, through the creation of green and open spaces (which he refers to as green belts) as much as the residential and the industrial sectors. This equilibrium automatically creates a healthy and pleasant environment for humans, to grow and interact together while sharing the same rights and privileges.
Evolution VS Deterioration: The Challenge of Sustainability
We have all heard of it: Sustainability. This single word may seem intimidating at first. What is sustainability? How to achieve sustainability in architecture? Is the practice of sustainability expensive? The ways are multiple, but the goal is simple: Reduce the negative impact generated by buildings on the environment; in other words, generate an eco-friendly and self-sufficient architecture.
Sustainability: An Urgency NOT a Choice
With the ongoing climate change crisis, and the lack and exhaustion of natural resources, sustainability is not a mere choice anymore, but an urgency that needs to be addressed in the various fields. Many companies are shifting the way they work to become sustainable. For instance, Microsoft’s goal is to become carbon negative by 2030, likewise, Delta Airlines committed $1 billion to become the first carbon-neutral airline in the world. Even Blackrock’s CEO Mr. Fink declares his refusal to work with companies that present a high risk related to sustainability. The world is changing, and so are our values. As architects, one of our primary roles is to ensure the stability and safety of our planet. The future of architecture is therefore without doubt one that focuses on the various sustainable strategies of conception and buildings.
Sustainability: Living Without Compromising
Sustainability should become an unconscious standard in our architectural practices. Building sustainable does not necessarily mean investing more into the budget, therefore it is safe to say it comes with no additional cost. Sustainable architecture is more about knowing how to make the right choices ahead of the conceptual phase and understanding the consequences of these choices on the users and the planet. Many strategies can be relied on whether through the renewable systems of energy, the use of sustainable and local materials and finishes, the harvesting and recycling of rainwater, etc… These strategies come to shape our routine and the way we conduct our life. Therefore, the future of architecture resides in living in harmony with nature and the planet without comprising the needs and resources of future generations.
The Evolution of Cities: How to Break the Vicious Urban Sprawl
Despite the charming image we are shown on tv shows and in movies, the urban sprawl, that is taking over most of the American urban landscape is proving its negative impact more and more every day. The aligned sequence of housing that fools the eye is creating considerable damage in the commercial and residential sectors as well as in the wildlife and ecosystem sectors. Being poorly planned, this expansion is auto-dependent and high-consuming of water and energy. Moreover, spreading over big areas and distances, the reliability on cars is considerably high, thus increasing at alarming rates the pollution. This vicious cycle that seems to be taking over the future of architecture can be regulated through building permit limits and policies that control the clustering of units and the use of environmentally sensitive spaces that should remain untouched. A solution that can be thought of as well is the garden city movement of Howard that has been applied and relied on in many countries like Bournville Village in Birmingham, Gardenvale Neighbourhood in Quebec, Bedford Park in London, and many others…
The Post-Pandemic Evolution: A Change of Perspective
It is agreeable that the Covid-19 Pandemic that has turned the world upside down has changed a lot in not just our behavior, but also in our principles, feelings, and ethics. From that stage and so on, everything in the world from the industry to medical care to even architecture must adapt. Therefore, the future of architecture must consider this new lifestyle. Remotely working from home at one’s own pace and conducting virtual meetings from one’s comfort zone makes architects and investors reconsider the need for large offices in cities. Moreover, with a lot of people who struggled to quarantine in their flats and homes, the need for outdoor public spaces has been big leisure and relief. Architecture must then evolve while primarily dedicating green spaces even in residential projects, that can offer the peace of being out while staying in. Finally, another very important quality that the pandemic shed the light on is flexibility. Flexible spaces turn out to be more of a necessity than an option, for one’s living room can turn into a temporary office sometimes. Architects must then consider this evolution of imminent needs and create open spaces that can be divided temporarily according to one’s needs and situation.