Imagine a world without concrete walls, glass facades, or any other tangible boundaries, only virtual reality establishing the not-so-real boundaries. Futuarchitecture, a composite term for the future of architecture, provokes several questions about the future of architecture. Which direction is it going to take? Does it have a direction or will humans force it to take a particular direction?
Will climate change cause the volcanoes to erupt, oceans to twirl into tornadoes, ground to crack open and the harsh unfiltered sunlight to melt the entirety of this planet? Will we rebuild our empires from this molten mess that we call the ruins? Cracks in the ground, suffused with an enigmatic material to embrace the beauty of nature’s power, just like resin-infused tables. But if this apocalypse were to not happen, what path would architecture choose?
Future of Architecture as a Binary
The future of architecture can be looked at as a varied set of binaries. But, do binaries exist in real life?
A digital era will be the first presumption to occur to anyone. The ongoing pandemic has emphasized the need to shift to digital mode. With augmented reality, 3D printers, fabrication technologies, and other technologies aiding creation processes, architecture has already made its way into the digital world.
On the flip side, a myriad of architects is designing and implementing groundbreaking sustainable solutions. Natural building materials, passive ventilation systems, harnessing renewable resources, and self-sustaining mechanisms are appearing at the forefront. Intending to alleviate negative impacts on the environment, these architects and designers are aiming for natural environments where humans can thrive and draw inspiration.
Visualize a bungalow with a warm touch of compressed stabilized earth blocks (CSEB) and a courtyard in the center with a flowing water feature, enveloped by a refreshing blanket of trees and plants. Would a house dominated by automated technologies, where multiple functions can be performed by a tap on a screen, be able to create a warm and serene environment like the previous home.
What does one thrive in, a predominantly digital abode or a nature-oriented abode? Does the future of architecture live in the blue spectrum of visible light? Yes, the digital world fascinates many minds but weren’t we all yearning for the outside world and natural environments during the 2020 worldwide lockdown?
As the concepts of ‘sustainability and ‘green solutions’ are gaining momentum worldwide, the concrete jungles are expanding too. Look out the window and check if you have any structures under construction within a one-kilometer radius. It’s tough to find areas devoid of active construction sites. The horizontal dimension of this planet’s surface is witnessing land clearance processes to erect buildings that add to the vertical dimension.
With the continuous release of new materials in this competitive market, it is getting tougher to consider an array of design requirements and integrate them into a sustainable solution. Moreover, the cost of recycled products is outrunning newly manufactured products in numerous cases.
A commodity market specialist, S&P Global Platts, reported that recycled plastic costs an extra $72 a tonne compared with newly made plastic. Hence, the probability of using recycled materials for construction, in cases when the budgets are tight, seems to be bleak. The installation charges of solar panels deter people from investing a heavy amount in one go despite the long-term benefits. This explains why architects and designers are torn between the two varied natures of construction.
The exploding population has compelled architects and designers to build skyscrapers to accommodate as many people as possible. These skyscrapers are built along one axis. Millennials are in the pursuit of breaking free from stereotypes and exploring the unacknowledged niches of the world around them. Will these skyscrapers continue to extrapolate or will they be creatively and intellectually exploded by the newer generations.
With the increasing popularity of architectural narratives, unique forms are turning into renowned landmarks. Unusual structures are beginning to intrigue people. Will we get to see a distorted version of conventional architecture? Twisted, inverted, unusual, mystic, planting a seed of awe in every pair of eyes.
The Crooked House in Poland is a specimen of a ‘crazy’ structure. It appears as a warped photograph and draws inspiration from fairytale drawings and illustrations. Its bizarre facade generates curiosity among its viewers as they’re keen to know how the internal spaces have been configured. Will we get to see more linear structures or will divergent structures get prioritized?
Starting afresh is always welcomed with enthusiasm. What if the earth is unable to accommodate more people? Extraterrestrial buildings will have to be constructed to alleviate this issue. As transporting heavy construction material to other planets would be expensive, the Swamp Works lab of the Kennedy Space Center designed robots that use regolith (local material available on Mars and Moon) to 3D print buildings.
According to Sherwood, an aerospace engineer, it would cost $500,000 to send a single brick to the moon. According to The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright is measuring Mars for inflatable homes and farms with moondust concrete.
Imagine structures built with meteorites and moondust. “The lunar surface is an open mine of potential building materials,” says Madhu Thangavelu, space architect at the University of Southern California (USC). Reduced iron is readily available on the moon. Does this mean that iron and rock structures will make it back? It is indeed fascinating to imagine architecture on a completely different planet. A different environment with distinct properties can bring about disparate architectural wonders.
Sustainable-digital, sustainable-concrete, old-new, horizontal-vertical, straight-crazy. It is easy to identify the blacks and whites. But does architecture have to choose a solitary path? Can’t it reside in the grey areas? With innumerable possibilities with humans guiding the future architecture and this architecture further impacting newer generations, architecture will always retain its multifaceted identity. Diversity is what gives it its vibrance. It is like a delicious dish. Food is devoured due to a compatible concoction of various ingredients, just like architecture.
Since this world has so many diversities, each structure is built by factoring in the context, people, traditional taste, and a plethora of other components. The consolidation of these tangible and intangible ideas gives birth to a suitable structure. Every built structure has tons of stories to tell, about itself and the world around it. Hence, it is impossible for architecture to choose one path. Let it branch out into numerous assortments and this imbalance will form the grey area.
Claypool, M. (2019). The Digital in Architecture: Then, Now and in the Future. [online] SPACE10. Available at: https://space10.com/project/digital-in-architecture/.
Ambrose, J. (2019). War on plastic waste faces setback as cost of recycled material soars. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars
Schwab, K. (2018). Here’s how NASA plans to build on other planets. [online] Fast Company. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/90210735/heres-our-first-glimpse-at-martian-architecture.
the Guardian. (2015). Let’s all move to Mars! The space architects shaping our future. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/mar/09/space-architects-shaping-plans-for-life-on-moon-and-mars [Accessed 14 May 2021].