Speculative Design – Utilization of approach in design to understand Dystopian and Utopian future

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Beach House: Home of Steven Universe, Crystal Temple ©steven-universe.fandom.com

It is quite important to understand the two opposite terms, the Utopian future would preferably mean a perfect society where everyone is happy, cared for, and has empathy along with economic stability to account for all the individuals. It will be a fantastic and visionary world without the constraints of clients, budget, materials, and planning regulations. And dystopia is the opposite to it, it’s more of like a planet ruled by demons and sheer chaos would look like, with no structure or beauty or anything. Movies such as Marvel Series, Predator, Arrival, Interstellar, Matrix, Avatar, Independence Day, and Star Trek, are all part of speculation and are something which we fantasize that our world would look like this may be in 2050 or 2080. These movies involve architecture and buildings which are created in space or the sky, something which can only be dreamt of.

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Avtaar (2009) resembled floating islands and houses amid nature ©www.deseret.com

So here is a short narrative of speculative design in Architecture for both the worlds and can we as an Architect, build one world of Star Trek or Avatar.

Instead of creating buildings themselves, Architecture should narrate stories about cities. The dominant forces of the past that shaped our cities, buildings, and public spaces are now being displaced by technologies, systems, networks, and stacks. Thus, the architect must change their model of practice to stay relevant. The architect now must intervene in these systems beyond shaping the physical building. And that is really about telling stories about how they operate. Speculative architects mostly create narratives about how new technologies and networks influence space, culture, and community. They try to imagine where new sorts of agency exist within the cities changed by these new processes.

The speculative design may be a critical design practice that comprises or is said to a series of comparable practices known under the subsequent names: critical design, design action, future design, anti-design, radical design, interrogative design, discursive design, adversarial design, futures cape, design art, transitional design, etc. However, the speculative design approach takes the critical practice one step further, towards imagination and visions of possible scenarios It is therefore interesting to ascertain how new designers view their practice: they call themselves trans-disciplinary, post-disciplinary, or maybe post-designers, very often even simply – designers.

Most architects, whether they call themselves that or not, have been speculative architects for much of their careers. For example, most competition entries remain unbuilt, and the client never pays for them. These are speculative projects that have never been legitimized within the profession. But architecture features a long history of unbuilt projects.

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New urbanism with Speculative Architecture ©tactile-architecture.com

Architects have an innate ability to explore, synthesize, and to present complexity is visually evocative and powerful mediums. But speculative architecture revolves more around storytelling. A speculative architect should have skills to inform stories about cities and spaces to launch these narratives into the planet with such force that they find traction. An architectural model of visual expression should be stitched together with the mediums that film, video games, and documentaries work within. And, in that way, we can start to hijack these forms of popular culture, and, like Trojan horses, insert within them critical ideas about architecture and open space. That’s how we can disseminate these ideas to much wider audiences. This type of communication with people outside the discipline is what the traditional profession does extraordinarily badly. Fiction is a shared language that helps to disseminate ideas.

Fiction can present simple ideas in ways that ordinary people can start to connect with. By doing that, they can make active choices about enacting the futures that they want to live in. In traditional architecture, you spend years developing the fluency in reading and constructing sections and plans, but the rest of the world doesn’t know how to work with such media. So, speculative architecture moves beyond these codified languages into one of fiction because of people’s extraordinary ability to understand the ideas embedded within it.

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New way of storytelling in Architecture ©strelkamag.com

An important notion in speculative architecture is “megastructure”. It differs from an equivalent notion in traditional architecture, where it means an enormous, continuous, massive building. Here, a megastructure is a planetary-scale network. So, an architect making something now must cite their work within these megastructures and begin to style within them. It is a designing relationship that occurs across multiple sites and multiple temporalities.

Speculating through Design: an issue rather than a solution :

The speculative design may be a critical design practice that comprises or a series of comparable practices known under the subsequent names: critical design, design fiction, future design, anti-design, radical design, interrogative design, discursive design, adversarial design, futurescape, design art, transitional design, etc.

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A walking city for the 21st-century ©www.archdaily.com

For example, Ron Herron’s Walking City is one of the more recognizable Archigram designs from the 1960s and has been influential to architectural theory ever since. However, the design for the “Very Large Structure” expands on the Walking City by including strong proposals for energy generation onboard the city, where he decided to design a utopian city. Although almost 50 years have passed since a moving city was first proposed, when one considers how many western cities are currently experiencing devastating slowdowns, both economically and in terms of their population, Manuel Dominguez’s intriguing, fantastical proposal begins to seem far less absurd – and far more relevant – than it may at first seem.

Speculative practice opens space for discussing and considering alternative possibilities and options and imagining and redefining our reference to reality itself. By the creation of imaginary worlds, and by designing fictions, we question the planet we sleep in – its values, functions, its metabolism, also because of the expectations of its inhabitants.

The purpose of speculative design fiction shouldn’t be utopian or dystopian fantasy visions of the longer term, but dialogue on what the longer term is often. One of the goals of speculation is the inclusion of the general public within the re-thinking and dialogue on new technological realities and new social relations.

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Interstellar (2014) shows life on the moon and space beyond ©medium.com

Speculative scenarios are open-ended and offer the audience the likelihood of private interpretation. They frequently include humor, often of the dark variety, on the brink of satire, which activates the audience on an emotional and intellectual level. Speculative scenarios are often unusual, curious, occasionally even disturbing, but desirable and attractive to the audience. However, only concepts that successfully communicate with the suspension of disbelief, actually provoke attention, emotions, and stimulate thinking and discussion, which, after all, is the main goal of the speculative design of practice.

Author

Architect, self – taught illustrator with a significant interest in writing and blogging. The writer is a vivid reader of classics and loves to be a search engine along with being closet singer. Born and raised in the plains of Assam, but obsessed with French culture and cuisine, she is a travel enthusiast with wandering plans to Europe at the top of her bucket – list. Apart from all these, she has a keen eye on details and loves to talk and write about what she predominantly observes and seeks to learn.

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