Human beings are in constant movement, and so is architecture. For many decades, centuries and millennia, humans have been occupied by going in unexpected and exciting directions, exploring new ways of living and creating new tools to build shelters, then towns and cities, and so generating technical and engineering achievements. And even if some of these innovations may seem very humble for us today, they once have changed the face of the architecture industry forever, and have been great lessons for our times. So the key question here is, are today’s architectures following the same timeline, or are we again shifting to a new direction, paving a framework for the architecture of the future?

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Are We Spoiling or Shaping the Future of Architecture? - Sheet1
Future Urban Heights_©Eagle Investors on Pinterest

The Future of Architecture: Are We There Yet?

Since the emergence of technology, humans have been experiencing the built environment very differently, and thus, contributing to the transformation of architectural thinking. This has inspired architects to be more occupied by the incorporation of high technologies and innovation into their designs, producing consumable and brandable architecture. 

And while there is a focus on the fast societal and economic growth that has gotten the least successful ones to be constrained by the standardization and globalization obligations, reducing their buildings to ordinary, commonplace, and mundane results of the aspirations of contemporary life habits; sustainability came to trace a new line in the process of planning and architecture, attempting to fix the mess that has unintentionally been caused by even the most insignificant innovations, and addressing important questions about the negative and irreversible environmental and social impacts of buildings. 

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Now, the vision of the future of architecture is therefore becoming increasingly blurred, and looking back to all the development we could achieve from the enlightenment till this era, we could unfold the setting of the notion of “future” and ask ourselves if we are already shaping it.

Are We Spoiling or Shaping the Future of Architecture? - Sheet2
Clockwise from top left: A central cylinder holds both a green wall and a tree motif. The top floor of the Spheres is lined with pendant lights. The largest green wall in the facility is 65 feet tall._©Cuberbe Seattle

Lessons We Learned From Global Pandemics Over Time

In addition to being influenced by the economic and social growth and technological advances, the way we inhabit buildings and cities could also be the result of some transformational moments in history that have slowly toppled our lives. Going back to the 14th century, when the bubonic plague inspired the Renaissance European cities that we admire today, and yellow fever that affected the 18th century when the United States established the first quarantine station, so-called the Lazaretto at Wanamaker Avenue, cholera in the 19th century that helped to improve the water systems in London, then tuberculosis, typhoid, Spanish flu and many other epidemics from the 20th century that brought changes to buildings and cities, and somehow reshaped our way of living till these days.

The 21st century was no different from the last one and has seen one of the most impactful and transformable events in human history. And as the covid-19 pandemic continues till this day, architects and urban planners have found themselves emboldened by the ongoing debate of resetting the status quo and look ahead to a post-pandemic architecture. 

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It is possible that not only our cities and buildings may be very different from how we recognize them today, but also the role of architects and urban planners. Other specialists in environmental and social sciences may be called upon at studios to contribute in the setting of experimentations to reshape our spaces and reconnect us to the true values of our existence. 

Are We Spoiling or Shaping the Future of Architecture? - Sheet3
NUS Business School_©Eagan Lim

Who is The Next Jules Verne of Architecture?

Even if you are not a constant reader, you may be familiar with Jules Verne’s name or works, or at least, have watched one of his movie adaptations of the science fiction genre (Around the World in 80 Days, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Master of the World, Journey to the Center of the Earth, A Trip to the Moon, etc. In times where technology was at its infancy, this genius science fiction author predicted technological inventions and tools ahead of his time that are today part of our daily lives through many sci-fi adventures of men exploring the darkest depths of the ocean and earth and reaching out to the stars. 

The line between imagination and prediction is too thin. This got me wondering if Jules Verne could once invent electric submarines, helicopters, Jukebox and Hologram, Newscasts, Solar Sails, and Lunar Modules for space traveling, etc through his imaginative mind, could architects predict shapes and tools for the future in our field? 

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Of course, this has already been attempted in the ’60s and ’70s, you would say, with the emergence of utopian cities imagined by some big architects and firms, that has seldom been achieved. But we still don’t know if we will be building man-made space stations or colonizing Mars anytime soon? Or are we bringing exciting solutions down here to our earth?

Utopian Cities_© Many authors

What About Going Back to The Start?

Architects could agree or disagree on their vision for the future, but most of us would admit that nature and people have always been our greatest inspirations. And even if we are at the urge of the technological revolution, and sometimes losing touch with our world, I truly believe that we are becoming more and more aware of our social values, and constantly attempting to reconnect with our natural environment. 

The growing appetite for preserving the natural resources, and renewing the relationship between mankind and their planet, raises new concerns among architects, and we may be going back to the start when humans mattered.

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References

  1. Online sources

Jolliffe, Eleanor. “A Short History of Epidemics and Their Impact on the Built Environment.” Building Design, 15 Apr. 2020, available at: <www.bdonline.co.uk/opinion/a-short-history-of-epidemics-and-their-impact-on-the-built- environment/5105528.article.>

Harvey, Ian. “Jules Verne’s Amazingly Accurate Literary Prophecies about the Modern World.” The Vintage News, 9 Mar. 2019, Available at: <www.thevintagenews.com/2019/03/09/jules-verne/.> 

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  1.  Images/visual mediums

Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. (2020). Quel futur pour l’architecture ? Nouveaux contextes, nouveaux paradigmes. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAp4SzZVNYA&t=3988s. [Accessed: 27/ 05/ 2020].

Author

Oumaima is an architect and a spatial planning student passionate about arts, cultures and everything in between. She is a constant learner and a striver for continual growth, who spends most of her time, gathering inspirations, writing rad thoughts, exploring stories throughout architecture and putting colorful poems on paper & canvas.

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