The development of architecture has been a constant process running parallel to human evolution. From four walls and a roof for protection, we have come so far today. If we trace the past scenario, the buildings were very regional, speaking for their time, place, and culture. Rapid industrialization and technological innovations have made the world smaller, leading to significant shifts in trends and the process of designing. We have always thought of the future as tremendously advanced, technology-driven, and artificially controlled. The mindset for development has been good so far as we are reaching one peak after the other in technological advancements. But with the rapid change in our lifestyles is affecting us in multiple ways, more negative than positive, it is high time to rethink our strategies for the future.
Since the inception
Humans historically have been living close to nature as a part of the natural cycles. The fight for our survival against the wild species and natural calamities had given rise to the idea of buildings shelters, and the development has been happening exponentially since then. The initial growth, identified today as vernacular architecture were extremely sustainable and in complete harmony with nature and culture. With the lightning change in technology and lifestyle, the past few decades have thrown crucial challenges such as fast-growing population, waste generation, depletion of natural resources, climate crisis, and most recently, a globally spread disease.
Today we are living a life that was unimaginable in the past. Today we have buildings touching the sky, structures of massive scale, and awe-inspiring forms. The architecture from just a basic need of shelter has become a symbol of our lifestyle, culture, values, wealth, and status in society. The parameters we had set for our development in the previous years have shaped the world we live in right now. Similarly, the parameters we set today will decide the future of architecture. With all the positives we have achieved in the industry, the negatives were not well-speculated. If we had known that the development we were dreaming of would have such a large ecological footprint and would outgrow earth’s natural capacity to support us, would we have done things differently?
Setting the correct parameters for the Future
No matter how much we try, the future remains an ever-changing mystery. The least we can do to sustain is to set the parameters right. Do we want to build the world as fantasized in sci-fi movies? We are trying our chances of creating habitat on mars while struggling to maintain our planet earth as a liveable space! What level of alienation can we withstand? The global pandemic has brought a significant shift in our perception of architecture. The need has shifted from only beautiful-looking buildings to spaces that support health, wellbeing, and sustainability. If we have to choose between living in a completely automated house, with little to no human intervention required, within an isolated and artificially controlled environment and a one by the lake or by the woods, with sounds of nature and a serene atmosphere; what would we desire? Emerging technologies have been the focal point of architecture and construction for a long time, but now is the time to design human and nature-centric buildings while using technology as only a tool for implementation and innovation.
The Future is Multidisciplinary
The construction industry has been working in isolation for many decades, lacking the inputs from other concerning or concerned fields. The innovation of the internet and data science has made it possible to make the practice collaborative. The conscious effort of people equipped with knowledge of various disciplines such as environmental science, psychology, medical science, economy, anthropology should work together to find the net impact of the construction sector. It becomes essential to assess all the possible results to ensure the net effect is positive.
The technology has also given rise to many software which can efficiently evaluate the ecological footprint. The gap between society and architects has been reduced effectively by realistic renders, Augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. Other innovations like modular construction, sustainable materials, recycling, adaptive reuse, and 3D printing are game-changers in the field. But what would be the use of such advanced technology if we are ultimately in a self-destruction mode hitting head-on an apocalypse?
Though the movies and books have almost made us believe that the future world would have tall buildings, flying cars, and robots all around, the leaders in the construction industry need to make informed decisions. The future of architecture on earth will be responsive and responsible; quite like going back to our roots but with unparallel technical skills and knowledge. A few principles providing guide rails for future designs are sustainability, biophilia, biomimicry, and adaptability.
Achieving true sustainability
“If science could help the design profession justify the value of good design and craftsmanship, it would be a very powerful tool and quite possibly transform the quality of the built environment.”
Building sustainability consists of three main factors: Economical, ecological, and social sustainability. The world in the race of development has always given core priority to economic growth. We have constantly tried to find low-cost solutions to get greater returns. The cycle of economy-focused solutions has given rise to the next big challenge of the climate crisis. While some big players in the industry are significantly contributing to ecological sustainability, the small-scale building sector economy is still given priority over the environmental impact.
Climate change and global warming being a worldwide issue, conscious efforts are being made both on the ground and the policy level. We are constantly trying to develop new methods, technologies, and materials to lessen the environmental impact. Even if it would take many years to reverse the inverse effect, it no more feels like a far-fetched dream. With ecological sustainability gaining momentum worldwide, we get the opportunity to think about the next issue- social sustainability.
“Social sustainability occurs when the formal and informal processes, systems, structures, and relationships actively support the capacity of current and future generations to create healthy and liveable communities. Socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected, and democratic and provide a good quality of life.”
-WACOSS, Western Australia Council of Social Services
Social sustainability has had significantly less attention in public dialogues and policymaking. Our city development models have been more about ‘Where’ than ‘How’. The model of social sustainability depends on putting the ‘people first’ in the process of development. While technology has made it possible to stay connected with people anytime and anywhere, it is also crucial to not forget that humans are inherently social animals and need to interact with other people and places with all the senses.
We need spaces to relax, rejuvenate, and interact. The millennial era has reversed the proportions of the public to private. Moving a step forward in creating the world a better place, we need interventions to uplift the communities, upgrade lifestyle and create equitability. The successful future will be when we would not have to worry about the bare necessities of clean water, breathable air, food and security, mobility, and social infrastructure. The future of architecture lies in going beyond functionality and essentiality to designing amenities- innovative spaces to live, play, work, travel, and socialize. The future of architecture bears the responsibility of maintaining the physical and mental health of people.
Architecture for positivity
The fast lifestyle, increasing competition, and technology changing every second as we speak have put immense pressure on the people. As we spend almost 90% of our time indoors surrounded by structures, it becomes essential to recognize the positive impact of designs. The essence of design has to shift from being a visual pleasure and functional model to engaging all the senses to achieve the best results on our health and wellbeing. Psychology and behavioral science have not been effectively influencing architecture and construction in the past years. The ongoing research has developed many sub-fields like biophilia, biomimicry, and neuro-architecture to trace even the slightest response of our mind and body to design elements. It has become the most trending and active niche in design development and will set a new framework for future architecture.
Biophilic design is a concept used to increase and reinforce the connection between people and nature through direct and indirect interventions. The unhealthy consequence of the developed lifestyle has created a big gap between humans and nature, leading to adverse psychological and physiological impacts. The biophilic design uses elements like plants, water, textures, organic shapes and forms, natural materials, colors, natural air and light, fire, and landscapes. Biophilic designs can reduce stress significantly, enhance our creativity, clear our thoughts, provide a healing space, and improve our overall wellbeing.
Biomimicry is another emerging field to establish an indirect connection with nature. While biophilic elements demonstrate direct interaction with nature, biomimetic designs use the research and application of natural patterns and principles of establishing alternative design solutions. There is no better teacher than nature itself. The studies in this field have and will keep shaping construction methods and design processes to generate sustainable practices.
Adaptive reuse and adaptable designs
Another idea to move forward with is to make the best out of what we already have. Just as we stress the recycling of artificial materials, it becomes essential to consider the potential of built spaces and make the most use out of their lifecycle. Using old structures for new purposes can reduce the load of generating new materials, disposal of the debris, and energy used behind the whole process. While designing the new structures, the same principle can apply with a vision for the future. Creating adaptable and multipurpose spaces can ensure that the building serves its purpose to its full potential. Generating mixed-use typologies can facilitate resources at walkable distances and also generates opportunities to adapt to new functions.
To conclude, the future of architecture can only be speculated based on theories, and it is impossible to predict what the future holds for us. But based on the current issue and experiences, we can effectively work out what we do not want our future world to look like, make reverse calculations and start changing our practices here and now. Moving forward in the process of evolution with mind-blowing technologies and resources at hand feels like an exciting ride ahead. But at the same time, it is unavoidable to protect our nature and personal wellbeing on the way to dodge any possible breakdown.