Architecture of the Future – In the fast-paced, ever-changing world of today, we are constantly on the lookout to explore opportunities and possibilities that lead us towards a better future. We believe that by taking action today, we can create a better reality of tomorrow, but what if the actions we are taking are in reality destroying the future rather than creating it? 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “This planet is enough for our needs, but not for our greed.” 

Gerhard Dust, Founder of Polycare, says “We have to change our thinking. We have to remember that this is the only planet we have and we want to ensure its continued existence and that’s why we have to consider how we can best use our available resources.” 

‘Architects, urban planners, and engineers around the world are looking for answers to some of the most pressing questions of our time- how can we as citizens of our planet, live together happily in the future- where is there room for the future?’

How can we make sure that the buildings we build today are designed efficiently to cater to the needs of the population of the future?

How can we make architecture more inclusive? 

How can we make sure that we don’t destroy our planet in the name of development and progress? 

Architecture of the Future- Development or Destruction? - Sheet1
View of new high-and mid-rise housing developments in Downtown San Diego_©Flickr user Tony Webster

The Purpose of Architecture | Architecture of the Future

In retrospect, architecture has always been a service to the society and community at large. It provides a space to live, eat, sleep and engage with the community and surrounding environment. Its sole purpose has been to provide man with the necessary commodities he requires in order to sustain- comfort and security. 

As people began moving to cities, from their villages, towns, or countryside, the cities saw a rapid change in their growth as they began catering to the surplus population in a lesser time, thereby depending on the technology that in turn advanced quickly to cater to the need of the hour. 

Architecture became a tool to create a space that fulfilled the basic requirements of the modern home, that could be easily built using machines and technical expertise, rather than being a key factor in the process of designing a space for the people who will inhabit it. 

‘When many people dream of the same place, the space for dreaming becomes scarce.’ 

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Aranya Low-Cost Housing, designed by Balkrishna Doshi, 1989; in Indore, India_©John Paniker

Architecture Today

‘Every year the global population grows by 80 million people. The issue of overpopulation is an urban problem.’

For example, in China, more cement has been used in the past three years than in the USA in the past hundred years- that is how tremendous demand for building materials has increased around the world. 

As the population increases, the cities densify, the urban sprawl rises, architecture faces a continual challenge to cater to the growing needs and demands of the community it serves- that ranges from creating ambitious, landmark projects to creating all-inclusive designs, from building using technologies like 3D printing, virtual reality, to limiting its use to create simple yet compact and functional designs, stepping into the future by exploring fields like biomimicry, biophilia, or neuro-architecture to taking a step back into the past and reflect on the choices that were made in a manner to live in harmony with our environment. 

The need to design according to the demands of the massive population creates an unimaginable pressure on architecture to perform efficiently in terms of being modern, adaptable, and noteworthy, while at the same time remaining cost-effective and energy-efficient. Centuries later, architecture still seeks the right balance between the proportion and functional use of space against the aesthetics that create its visual appeal, while battling against some of the pressing issues of today’s time- overpopulation, climate change, and depleting natural resources. 

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City view of Dhaka, Bangladesh_©UN Photo/Kibae Park

The Potential of Architecture | Architecture of the future

The tradition of Redo in Architecture- How can it help?

Redoing or reworking our ideas is a core principle of the architectural design process. Every time we revisit our ideas, we are essentially trying to find a deeper and original meaning behind the concept, in order to create something new. Considering how many buildings of the past lie in a state of decay or are abandoned- as remnants of a time long forgotten, wouldn’t it be wiser to apply the expertise and tools of advanced technologies to rework on the ideas of the past to reuse those structures and make them adaptive to suffice the needs of the community, rather than building new structures which aren’t even occupied by the residents of the city, but are majorly occupied by investors around the world to gain capital?

Understanding the larger problem 

‘Four million tons of cement are produced every year globally. This shows how the construction industry is responsible for a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions and the use of precious raw materials.’

Max Schwitalla, an architect from Berlin suggests that planners, investors, and politicians at all levels should engage in rethinking the city. He also states that the need for alternative forms of urban mobility is becoming increasingly difficult. The two major technologies that led to urban densification in the past few decades are the elevator- enabling the creation of high rise structures and therefore the idea of vertical living, and the car- which offers opportunities to commute long distances, thereby increasing land coverage. 

In the current scenario, natural resources are being used at a much faster rate than they can be produced by nature. Several innovations in technology and inventing new construction materials are taking place around the world to make better use of the resources at hand, but there’s still a wide gap between the creation of the materials and its practical implementation.

For example, Doha or Qatar have large desert areas, which means the sand is the most abundant naturally available resource, but they still import sand to create cement for construction, as desert sand is not suitable for construction. On the other hand, polymer concrete has been invented by Gerhard Dust and Gunter Plutner, founders of Polycare, which uses desert sand as a raw material for construction, which could practically transform the future of the construction industry. Imagine if the same material was available for use by builders of Doha or Qatar

Micro Mobility Neighborhood II_©Studio Schwitalla

Current trends in Architectural innovation

People around the world have different perceptions of the future of architecture. A wide spectrum of ideas and proposals at varied scales, from building sustainable neighborhoods like the Urban Shelf to creating functioning communities using technology that simulates entire neighborhoods on one platform, from creating mix-used spaces like coworking or co-living spaces to marginalizing people of different communities or sectors by providing the opportunity to become residents of a whole other planet, from creating open space plans with multiple uses to creating statement projects for clients that essentially showcase their wealth and luxury, from creating sustainable materials to using technology that in turn consumes a large amount of energy, has been explored. 

Moreover, the new trends in architecture like using virtual reality, 3d printing, Big Data, and Smart cities, and even the most recently emerging trend of using robotics in construction are paving their way towards making the design process more seamless and less time-consuming. But what one needs to remember is that they are but tools used for designing and that it may seem very compelling to produce designs quickly. But we need to make sure we know who we are designing for.

What we need to remember is that – Architecture has the power to create, but if exploited with more than necessary luxury, it also has the power to destroy. 

Architecture of the future- Architecture for the people? | Architecture of the Future

Architecture has always been an interdisciplinary subject. It can incorporate the knowledge of various subjects within it- right from biomimicry to neuro-architecture, from parametric design to extraterrestrial architecture, from adaptive reuse of buildings to create net-zero buildings, architecture never shies away from collaborating with other subjects in pursuit of its own advancement and progress. 

Interpreting the use of technology in a manner that we use it for its potential and the opportunities it creates rather than overusing or misusing it to create projects for identity, that would create a negative impact. Imagine creating the tallest structure in the world to increase monetary gain and uplift the tourism of the city, but being questioned for its sustainability from critics afar? 

This leads us to the primary question- is architecture of the future development, or destruction? Considering the effects of climate change and global urbanization, the positive and negative impact of technology and the varied perceptions of visionaries and creators around the world, architecture, first and foremost needs to be an architecture for the people, before being anything else. Architecture, in time, will provide answers, if it addresses the right questions. 

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Shaymi Shah is a published author and an architectural content writer by profession. Through keen observation about architecture and life around her, she weaves narratives through her writing as she wants to make people, even outside the fraternity, realize the importance and fundamental need of design in our daily lives.