The future of architecture

The New Architect(ure)
TU Delft, 13 March 2015

The new assignment?

1. Where will the building be located in the future?
2. What is the building of the future?
3. How will the building be made in the future?
4. Who will make the building of the future?

1. Where will the building be located in the future?
The theme for the future is densification and dilution. The densification will take place in the city now that the urbanisation is set to further continue in the coming period. The city is the place for renewed building typologies of the future and will be a melting pot of different functional uses as a result of complex densification. Moreover, existing and already existing structures and parts of buildings are used, or not used as the case may be. Many buildings will undergo a transformation within already existing infrastructures. Building volume and complexity of constructions are increasing, and integration and a good connection to the infrastructure are unavoidable. A new urban landscape is arising, in which the composition of the building volume to be added plays an important role.

Voorbeeld: TivoliVredenburg Utrecht

Example: TivoliVredenburg Utrecht

The demand for homes in the city is increasing considerably. Every cubic metre of building volume will have to be examined and optimised within existing structures and regulations. Intensive building in high densities requires clever plans with a good used of the existing space: small is beautiful.

Flexibility and optimal use of energy are an integral part of the assignment. Accessibility and orientation require clever design solutions with which the consumer is preferably able to choose how his or her own residential environment is defined, according to his or her age and mobility. You should also not forget that the Dutch government is looking into how it can add hundreds of thousands of homes in an existing urban area of the Randstad conurbation.

Example: Casco loft in the Houthavens area of Amsterdam

Example: Casco loft in the Houthavens area of Amsterdam

At the same time, dilution is occurring outside of the urbanisation. What kind of future does the building still have there and what should we do with the high vacancy levels that are arising there. A large-scale selection of empty buildings that are of value, or simply need to disappear, is taking place there. How can we make small clusters of new, interlinked living environments, and which mechanisms and architectural interventions are necessary for that?

How should we deal with the heritage that is present there or has disappeared? This is the challenge set by the international architecture exhibition IBA Parkstad in Zuid Limburg. One assignment could be to choose the erased mine landscape as basis for identity, innovation and cohesion.

Voorbeeld 3: IBA bakens

Example: IBA Parkstad, recreational production landscape, landmarks, geothermal study, cycle infrastructure, hotspots (AnnA)

And you can argue to an extent that the building of the future in the Netherlands already exists. Those are the existing structures that were recently made and for which another use is requested as a result of the economic crisis. They are the countless peripheral landscapes which we, among other things, created in the 1980s and which we need to raise to a higher level by means of meticulous surgical interventions. No large-scale demolition, but transformation that contributes to a better coherence and living conditions of such desolate areas.

And if we begin to consider how to deal with such renovation of existing buildings, we will at the same time have to reflect on how to densify such a sprawl and provide it with a new use. How can problems relating to sound, particulate matter and the barrier effect of infrastructure bundles are integrated in the new programmes of buildings?

Example: the outskirts of Los Angeles

Example: the outskirts of Los Angeles

2. What is the building of the future?
We have recently made many icons, buildings which can provide the city with new cultural life and economic growth. Time will tell if we will still love such buildings, or perhaps better, if we will become attached to these buildings. An object which the public becomes attached to is a good example of sustainability. The clear beauty which many understand, not only from a monumental status, obviously needs to be protected and accepted by society. The renovated Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is, of course, an outstanding example of this. The Shell Tower on the shores of the IJ in Amsterdam North has not managed to survive as an icon and will be radically adapted. However, the monument status of a building is increasingly often not the only condition for meticulous transformation. Citizen initiatives also contribute to the placing of existing objects, which add new life to the city, on the agenda.

Example De Hallen, Amsterdam-West

Example: De Hallen, Amsterdam-West

High line New York City

Example: Highline New York City

At the same time, the building of the future is where we will live happily. However, these homes do not often fulfil the requirements of the modern age. Moreover, this involves our own housing stock. All kinds of adjustments are necessary for improve energy demand, sound and adaptability to living requirements without us switching to large-scale demolition and new developments. Herein lies a very great architectural challenge. It is the great post-war housing stock which was largely built at the edges of the existing city from the 1950s.

Example: Prêt-à-Loger, TU Delft

Example: Prêt-à-Loger, TU Delft

A similar type of challenge lies in wait for the vacancy levels of the Dutch state real estate. Everyone feels that writing off the costs is not the only problem. But can we simply crush this large stock into demolition waste? The challenge lies in anchoring such objects, to give them new life, even if only for temporary use. The existing building as stimulus for inventive reuse and impulse for the surrounding area puts the new coherence of existing volume in complex urban environments on the agenda. Will the building become the trigger for renewal or is it an interplay with the approach of the total urban district where these vacancy levels are situated.

And in the case of those buildings which cannot support renovation, there is the trend to dissect and reinterpret this to the very core. For example, the Superuse-Studios already makes catalogues of existing building components of vacant buildings, so that an exchange market of used building components can arise via internet.

And there are the buildings that are of cultural and historical value and important to our memory. These buildings must be preserved intelligently
without a direct user being ready to use the object.

Compare it to the long-term storage of a valuable restored old-timer, which is waiting safely in a parking garage for a new owner and, in the meantime, is becoming more valuable.

Example: Porsche 912 from 1965

Porsche 912 from 1965

3. How will the building of the future be made?
The Porsche from 1965 no longer has the same technology as that from 2015. And not to mention the Porsche from 2030, now that the self-driving car has become a reality.

In terms of building in the future the following applies: if technology is the answer, what is the question? The necessity is for us to be able to integrate our technical ability into architecture. I would like to mention this: INTECTURE, integration of technology in architecture. It is the permanent search for the material that can do everything, the material that does not exist, but that is sought time and time again in the building industry: stimulate where possible the search for zappi.

Intecture brings spatial, functional, social design and technical possibilities and developments together. Subjects like product design, material research, building physics, structural mechanics, computation and model and production techniques all play a major part in architecture. In fact, architecture and engineering are irreversible connected with each other.
Intecture is about the integration of technology in architecture. Besides that, Intecture is about the position of the architect. Is the architect of the 21st century an architectural engineer? Intecture wants to present examples that can be used for inspiration, integration, innovation and industrialization.

And in addition to material development, there have been new methods in preparation for a long time of which you can imagine that these will influence the thinking and actions of architects, builders and consumers. A second industrial revolution is also coming.

That will be about the digitalization of new production methods, in which we make use of everything that is now being developed in the field of 3D printing, CNC milling, robotics, etc.

As a result of integration and digitalization of such technology, a great freedom arises for designers and for consumers. By linking this technology to the wishes of users and designer, we can develop (open) platforms that will ultimately offer us many more options.

3D printing and digital manufacturing of building components are still at an early stage, but in terms of potential you feel that an enormous advance can be made here in terms of process and production. A big advantage to this way of working is of course: flexibility and tools that can help give users the greatest possible design freedom. This can, for example, be the guide for arriving at mass customized building systems.

Example: MaCuBs (TU Delft)

Example: MaCuBs (TU Delft)

4. Who will make the building of the future?
Many people are now asking themselves: will the architect disappear, or to put it less resolutely, what influence will he or she still have in the future? Who will be the master builder of the future and will the profession not definitively tip towards being an architectural stylist employed by the creative or construction industry?

And if the architect no longer has a dominant position, will we not slide into ‘the middle of the road’: making buildings and environments with a dull, mediocre quality, mostly only obliging the feeble wishes of consumers, and where experimentation and progress can no longer be found as recognizable design themes.

Example: row of homes house front.

Example: row of homes house front.

In the 1980s, a similar sort of discussion occurred within industrial design. The industry made boring products, where the design was, in some cases, poured over it like a type of sauce. We called that styling. Take, for example, jazzed up toasters and tea kettles, but also ugly-looking coffee machines. And the car industry also has examples of this. When the industry began to understand that the design of the product’s form and technology could be forged together, sales were suddenly considerably better. Marketing, production method, but also the appearance were derivatives of an integral process, in which form, material and construction method became a whole.

In the 1990s, there was subsequently still the boom in Dutch Design on top of that, self-producing designers who managed to get their own products on the market and came up with new ideas conceptually in terms of how to treat material, processes and use differently. They gave an enormous boost to product design culturally, economically and in terms of use. Dutch design has become a global brand. It is a lesson that the building industry, but definitely also the Dutch architecture world, can take extremely seriously. It briefly seemed that Dutch architecture, at the time of the publication of the book Super Dutch, would experience similar international progress. That was in the 1990s, the time that the building, the environment and the design of the city was also an administrative assignment: architectural quality as assignment for the public administration.

Nowadays, the question is how Dutch politics views the quality of architecture. Is the architect still the most suitable person to bear the responsibility first? Following the real estate fraud and crisis, people also started looking differently at the quality of architects’ work. There is a tendency to see the architectural component as a part that you cannot manage. The position of the Dutch architect has been eroded in recent decades and has suffered even more serious blows as a result of the recent crisis.

That brings me to the heart of the question: Who will make the building of the future? The architect, the real estate owner or the society by means of participation? Who has final responsibility?

There is hope. Nowadays, you see young, mostly newly graduated architects designing and producing their own buildings or building components through trial and error as their own boss. A very interesting trend in which the architect appropriates his or her traditional core task in essence and experiments with new methods and technologies.

At the same time, the engineering firms appear to be experiencing good growth again and there is an opportunity for architects as seasoned designers to enclose themselves in an environment of strong engineers. And that is what we need to arrive at a good design: integral design and engineering.

Well educated and professionally experienced architects must be the pioneers of good buildings and urban structures, which also have an added value from a cultural perspective. This must be stimulated. We are not finished building, as the former chief government architect stated last year. We have only just started and the complexity of the assignments is enormous. Large architectural questions relating to urban and landscape environments are waiting for us, in which it is eminently important that these can be taken on by the right talents with the right attitude.

Moreover, we must not only focus on the results, thinking that there are advances within universities. The new architect must also be optimally trained by inspired teachers, a few of whom also know the ropes from practice. If that is approach, there will still be a future for architecture as added value for our society.

These are new times, and they are about new content and searching for innovations, and creating new value to make progress. However, the building industry in the Netherlands could well be the next Vroom & Dreesman (V&D), the large Dutch department store that latched on to online shopping and other innovations too late. Falling sales and tighter margins have led to the retail sector not making room for investments in innovations.