How does one envision the future of architecture? How will our current responses to matters of climate change, energy efficiency, artificial intelligence, economic shifts and communal interactions become palpable in the built environment of the future? What will it bring – a colonized Mars or frequent travels to man-made space stations? Maybe not anytime soon, but the fast technological advances will surely change architecture as we know it. 

More recently, as covid-19 turned into a pandemic, it crippled health-care systems and punctured the global economy. Architects were hit no less, bolting clients, postponed projects, halted construction on sites – scrambling to remain necessary – they found revamping their entire work process quickly.

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Plant-based Utopia, a city overtaken over by plants_©Lucia Legarreta

Emerging Trends and Materials | The Future of Architecture

Over the last decade, the construction and architecture industries have been subjected to substantial modifications. Increasingly architects are involving collaborative BIM design systems, generative AI analyses and solutions, virtual-reality for immersing experiences and 3D-printing for quick physical models and as an ambitious construction technique. 

Additionally, integrating big data architecture for energy-efficient built environments is becoming vital to tackle the increase in populations and a relative decrease in resources. Sustainable energy cycles, construction methods, architectural designs and materials are progressively becoming part of most design briefs. 

Becoming environmentally conscious and responsible is the need of the hour to tackle the soaring climatic changes. Hence, balancing the economic, social and environmental parameters while designing and deciding on materials is a growingly essential paradigm for the future.

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A virtual trip to Wonderland, V&A Museum_©Kristjana S Williams

Timber is one of the prime material choices for most architects today. It is light – in terms of carbon footprint, weight and transportation costs. Today, glue-laminated timber can be bent precisely and safely while cross-laminated timber has the strength to substitute for steel. Using motion capture and 3D laser scanning technologies one can examine new wooden geometries and morphologies

New engineered building materials like newspaper wood – pioneered by Mieke Meijer, at the Design Academy Eindhoven – recycles and extends the life of paper. Cement accounts for about five per cent of global carbon emissions. For a balanced future of architecture, materials like Cemfree and Concrete Canvas that lower carbon emissions, provide low mass and save construction cost and time – are becoming a popular alternative.

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Steam-bent wooden pavilion_©Giovanni Angeli Design

Future Buildings and Cities

The world population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050 out of which about 70 per cent is expected to live in urban areas. Future buildings will aim to meet the highest energy efficiency standards and human-centric designs. With the help of artificial intelligence and information and communications technology, central energy systems will be integrated with local occupant devices to ensure apt energy consumption by learning user behaviour. 

A smart grid will be established that will be a decentralized circular system where power flows between the generation system, transmission distribution and customers. Most buildings will be designed modularly to reconfigure as per requirements. Walls, ceilings, windows and floors will be more responsive and intuitive to regulate indoor temperatures, filter air, collect wastewater and spare energy to recycle and re-use. 

Resources will be harvested onsite for electrical needs and the buildings and occupants will further become energy producers – resulting in a reduction of the overall environmental load.

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Semaphore, an Ecological Utopia_©Vincent Callebaut

Cities will grow both inward due to increased densities and outward to acquire new land or water. Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will be incorporated into the infrastructures. A city will have a mind of its own where its various components like buildings, traffic-monitoring systems and parks will interact amongst themselves. It will let rainwater percolate to recharge the water table and further let it collect from buildings for communal use. 

While feasible cycling and pedestrian spaces will become prominent, intelligent self-driven public transit systems will reduce carbon emissions and commute time in future architectural designs. Neighbourhoods will be designed to meet daily necessities within a 15-minute walk. 

Cities will rise vertically and float on water to lessen land use. In 2019, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) revealed a similar concept of a modular floating city that would withstand natural calamities and generate, re-use and recycle its energy.

Floating City concept_ ©Bjarke Ingels Group

The future of architecture envisions cities with efficient energy cycles, green infrastructures, intelligent structures, resilience and people-centric designs. It addresses the problems of overpopulation, sprawl, pollution and climatic changes. Many architects have come up with concepts ranging from floating self-contained modular cities to antismog towers that de-pollute. 

Practically, learning from and building on the existing infrastructure becomes important to start bridging the gaps in policies in place. In Europe for instance, a network of living labs and sandboxes has been developed to address the city as a site of micro experiments – from testing self-driven cars to centralized energy productions. 

Future cities will hence be powered by people and relying only on renewable resources will become pertinent. They will depend greatly on the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. Sustainable city designs thus must focus on evolving paradigm shifts in technology, economy, environment, societies and cultures. 


Having completed her BArch from Chandigarh, Asmita is currently pursuing her MSc in Architectural Design from Barcelona. She has worked in the architecture disciple for over two years, as a project lead and in architectural communication. She especially enjoys architectural research and working on briefs with demanding project statements.