Architecture has changed a lot throughout the years and the events of human history. Scientific advances make us wonder what the future will be like. The technological revolution, globalization, and the increasing need to protect the environment are some of the main points that people state to speculate on how buildings and cities will fit in this new era and what that will look like. Although within this subject, most people focus on two central elements – technology and sustainability – there is another point that we should also draw our attention to the welfare of human beings. The future of architecture and urbanism will likely have a more human-centered approach.

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People_©Timon Studler

The Future is Green

In fact, sustainability is one of the main concerns regarding the future of buildings and cities, but we should know that environmental preservation is not only about animals and trees; it is also about people. Researchers from Denmark’s University of Aarhus found that there is a positive connection between exposure to green space and mental health. Most people find green spaces relaxing or creatively stimulating, but studies like that have shown that it goes beyond these benefits. Places that provide green space can contribute to the reduction of a person’s risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. Architects and urban planners must take this into consideration in their future designs.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought some issues about green spaces into the discussion. While remote work, limited socialization, and the fear of COVID-19 put people’s mental health at risk, green spaces seemed crucial for our well-being. Many petitions were made to keep parks and gardens open for public use, as they represent places with a relatively low risk of contagion. Therefore, it started to become more evident that the availability of green space varies depending on where you live. If someone’s access to these places is difficult, they will not gain some benefits that the exposure to green space provides. Considering that in most cities, the wealthiest areas are the ones with more parklands, the pandemic brought a wider awareness that funding for public services should take poorer communities into consideration so that the access to green space becomes more equitable. This is another point that planning and design will need to take into account in the future.

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Central Park_©Alex Simpson

The Future is Human 

In the future, with a human-centered approach, architecture will be more and more aware of the psychological and social needs people have. Le Corbusier’s modernist architecture, for example, considered that houses were “machines for living in”, but that concept was overthrown over the years as designers became more concerned about comfort and well-being. Efficiency was not taken as the main goal of architecture and urbanism anymore. Postmodern architecture started to understand that people should not be seen as machines because they have feelings, emotions, and perceptions, and that has to be considered when designing a building or a city. Since 1960, studies in environmental psychology have reinforced this idea. The ability to create spaces where people feel good is a goal that architects and urban planners of the future will continue to seek.

Sci-fi movies tend to show the cities of the future dominated by technology. High-tech skyscrapers and robotic designs are all through the sceneries. But the truth is that though technology will continue to play an increasing role in architecture and design, it does not have to look as robotic as we see in films, and it probably will not. Aesthetics should be appealing in order for people to enjoy the place, and the appearance of high-tech buildings can feel distant, confusing, and intimidating, as we see in movies. Besides, there are a lot of cities with architecture from past centuries that have heritage preservation regulations, attract several tourists, and are very crowded. This indicates that people value the aesthetics of architecture from the past, and cities like Paris and Rome are great examples of that. Technology has already provided many benefits for architecture and urbanism, and it will continue to do so in the future. However, most places will not look like futuristic sci-fi movies.

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Futuristic City_©Denny Ryanto
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Paris_©John Towner

The Future is Better

Although there can be a lot of speculation about how the architecture of the future will be, there is one thing that it undoubtedly has to be: better. Humanity is always going forward in knowledge, research, and innovation, and technology makes it quite easier for us to store and access information. The amount of knowledge we have access to today makes responsibility even greater for urban planners and architects. Designers have to learn from the mistakes of the past and the present days to make better buildings and cities for future generations. The future of architecture must consider people’s welfare, and places must be pleasant, not only efficient. By doing so, we will be able to say, some years from now, that architecture did not simply change; it evolved.

References:

  1. Voegeli, A. (2020). Human-Centered Architecture: What is It and How It Makes a Difference. [online] EN – dormakaba Blog. Available at: https://blog.dormakaba.com/human-centered-architecture-what-is-it-and-how-it-makes-a-difference/. [Accessed 24 Jun. 2021].
  2. Kennicott, P. (2020). The pandemic has shown us what the future of architecture could be. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2020/07/13/pandemic-has-shown-us-what-future-architecture-could-be/. [Accessed 24 Jun. 2021].
  3. Nasa.gov. (2019). Green Space is Good for Mental Health. [online] Available at: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145305/green-space-is-good-for-mental-health. [Accessed 24 Jun. 2021].
  4. World Economic Forum. (2020). Our parks and green spaces have an inequality problem – we need to tackle it. [online] Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/parks-green-spaces-mental-health-access-equality/. [Accessed 24 Jun. 2021].
Author

Roberta Inglês is an architecture and urbanism student at University of Brasilia, Brazil. She is passionate about urban planning and architectural history, and loves to observe how buildings and cities can influence human behavior. She believes writing is a very effective way to develop critical thinking.

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