Imagination is a powerful tool. It helps one explore beyond bounds, find creative solutions to problems, and sometimes helps us escape the reality we exist in. People envision different timelines, intrinsic interpretations of how things will turn out to be.
Architecture, being something that’s an inexplicable part of life, is very much a part of this wild imagination for many. From the societies we are introduced to in movies and books to the future we can potentially see through the various scientific discoveries being made, the future is a potent spectrum of possibilities.
We’ve come a long way in terms of science and technology in the last decade. There has been a major shift in the workings of the world in the past decade due to the technological advancements made. The global climate crisis has been plaguing the Earth and sometimes it seems as though nobody saw it coming, despite knowing the innumerable reasons as to why it’s being caused.
The recent pandemic has been a bizarre experience for everybody and it has been compared to the apocalypses in science fiction narratives. Some of the built environment and lifestyles that we see only in science fiction are becoming an actuality. For instance, as a solution to escape their overstimulated lifestyles, people are wanting to immerse themselves in sensory deprivation pods filled with Epsom salts and such.
How we imagine the future to turn out oscillates between a wide spectrum of probabilities. In the spirit of hope, a utopian reality is not far beyond our reach when we see scientists, architects, and designers trying to solve the present-day problems plaguing the planet. It also seems likely the innumerable novels and movies made by writers and directors speculating a dystopian reality, wherein the downfall of human society because of the political, economic, and sociocultural differences—and unrest may not be too far either, given the current societal happenings.
The future of architecture is viewed and imagined in numerous forms including but not limited to the following scenarios. The following are not distinguished archetypes and may tend to overlap.
The Road So Far
The many controversies of the “supposed” sustainability by technologically trying to solve a problem by greenwashing, etc in the place of using vernacular sustenance methods like passive techniques is an ongoing discourse in the architecture communities. The present and the very near future of the urban fabric seems to be peculiar, with many cities turning out to be more of an amalgamation of heritage architecture and modernist buildings.
People generally associate dystopia with futurism. The dystopian societies we see in various fictional worlds, although imaginary, have stemmed from the deeply rooted real-world socio-political problems and are generally Anthropocene in nature.
Dystopian worlds often tend to be depicted as consisting of “alien” architectural entities, where the unfamiliar territories seem to be out of sync with human biology and functionality. Take, for example, the streaming service adaptation of the novel Altered Carbon with its message on the perils of capitalism and segregation of society, portrayed buildings inspired by various post-modernist structures that exist.
The cyberpunk streetscapes depicted in the series, with their dark brooding themes and neon punk lights are reminiscent of the urban fabric of metropolitan cities.
Technological advancements made to improve the quality of life have found footing in architecture. Neuroarchitecture is a novel concept used in understanding the relationship between human life and the built environment and is progressing in improving lifestyle through spatial design.
In the climate crisis era, firms like BIG have been propagating the need for hedonistic sustainability and pragmatic utopian buildings. For instance, the new waste to energy power plant dubbed ‘Copenhill’ with a ski slope on the roof designed by BIG has opened in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Idealistic societies we see in utopian fictional worlds like Wakanda with towering skyscrapers, while also incorporating effective pedestrian paths and transit systems, are a stunning inspiration to the present-day and future architecture.
An issue that needs immediate addressing is inclusivity, which the current built environment lacks terribly. Inclusive design is a direct fragment of the Utopian future we envision and requires incorporation into every design practice that’s done, especially in the public realm.
Architects and designers as community workers are striving to create better environments for minorities and the marginalized from developing prototypes for non-binary and wheelchair-accessible public restrooms to the effective inclusion of gender minorities in smart cities.
Realizing the public realm as a comfortable environment for everybody should be an integral part of how we see future built and open spaces and it’s a not-so-far utopian reality to make it so.
Image 6_Prototype for public restrooms by Stalled_https://www.stalled.online/
Contemplating on the above-mentioned aspects of the future, architecture plays a massive inextricable role in how the future of societies will turn out to be. Not sure if we found the answer to whether the future will be better off or worse. But imagining a future, whether in awe or abhorrence isn’t something unrelated to any of us.