Evolution is a process of continuous change. The pace of it, however, hasn’t always been steady. Remarkable instances in the history of humankind have brought about rapid flare-ups in how life functions. The story of architecture, through ancient times, gives an enthralling narrative of how humans have been interacting with their environment. Raising curtains to the many facets of the industrial revolution, the architectural industry has incurred significant impacts. These have been both positive and negative. While we continue to face uncertain times on our long-standing planet, the relevance of any industry becomes as strong as its kindness towards the environment. The future of architecture starts to evolve at an even eager pace!

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The Wild Imagination in Architecture _ ©Mykhailo Ponomarenko (2017). The Last Day – Annual Fairytales Competition

The Impact of World Events

In the summer of 2016, architects, designers, and other like-minded individuals discussed the latest splendid feat of technological advancement in architecture. They recited the spectacles of futuristic structures using artificial intelligence, generative design, and virtual reality; as the world’s first 3D-printed office building became open for business. Imagination had no bounds. At one end, there was some anticipation about an emerging crisis owing to the blooming standards of living and a subsequently growing demand to focus on green energy. However, its urgency and extent were way beyond expectations.

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World’s first 3D printed office, Dubai _ ©Design by Gensler (2016). Headquarters for Dubai Future Foundation (DFF)

Within the last few years, the world went through catastrophic events as it never did before. The definition of “future” has been in a state of limbo. Erratic and drastic events have already implanted into our minds, the might of our planet, and the impact we put on it. The increase in the frequency of natural disasters, blazing forest wildfires as a result of climate change, and the invisible virus that has caused a global pandemic – have changed the way humans see their planet within a short span. An architect’s wildest dream of becoming the lead designer as humans get ready to colonize another planet, changed to him wondering how he could save his own!

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The Changing Relationship between Humans and the Planet

While designing buildings and cities for humans and their all needs (and greed), our planet has been exploited and nearly exhausted of such natural wonders it offers. Environmentalists have spent years understanding the phenomenons that could lead to the complete exhaustion of its resources. Architects, understanding the need, strive to build an ecosystem where humankind can give back to the planet that has provided for them over centuries. Creating such an ecosystem takes into account the study of every organism that is a part of it and every detail that affects it.

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A Living Ecosystem_ ©WOHA, Design. 2013, Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore.

Architecture as a domain has always been multidisciplinary. In the coming future, we see an increase in the involvement of professionals from different educational backgrounds in the process. As the core team diversifies, it will only be a matter of years that it may even be led by someone who is not an architect by profession! However, the role of a traditional architect cannot diminish as it is given room to evolve and adapt.

Architecture for a New Era

The efficiency of a building remains no more limited to its functional prowess. The condition of the supporting environment it offers to nurture the growth of its users defines it. As we move ahead of smart buildings and smart cities, we let architecture enter into the era of a sensitive planet.

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What we see in our cities, our densely populated metropolitan cities, is an overwhelming concrete jungle. Processes at different stages of an architectural project affect the responsibility of the architects, the users, and the built structure; towards the unbuilt. This responsibility involves regarding the technological avant-garde as an enhancement technique rather than building a whole new system. Designers from across the world are hence coming up with innovative solutions that combine the marvel of technology with a low-carbon approach. Anything and everything is making its way into the construction industry as a building material! But that puts up a question. Do we need to go back to sustainable vernacular techniques? Instead of building upon the advances already made, maybe the future lies in something that we can forage from our past. The efficiency of living with nature back then can be proven when we read the history of architecture. 

Regenerative architecture as the future _ ©Eric Staudenmaier, Portola High School, Irvine, California

As we design and build for a greener future, it is also essential to analyze the damage done over the last century. A wholesome view of the problem can save us from reaching dead ends while we crave a solution. Therefore, the approach we need today goes beyond sustainable design, recognizing regenerative design as the answer. In context to the buildings, they should be adaptive, dynamic, and lead to the development of a resilient ecosystem. Further, the focus is on conservation rather than on preservation. Thus, the future of architecture should at first recognize the coexistence of humans and nature. Moreover, emphasize their co-evolution rather than independent elements. Therefore, this responsibility of building with nature and for all to grow with it lies with an architect.

Author

An architecture student who finds architecture to be a continuous process of pushing boundaries, to make the world grow around and about it. She strives to read and understand the dialogue that occurs between architecture and the lives of people connected to it.

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022