Architecture Trends – A Second Opinion

25 April 2016

Just a little over a year ago, Shaunacy Ferro posted a very interesting and insightful article to Fast Company about future architecture trends. We really loved how succinct yet broad each point was, and we still think their insights are still relevant. Let’s take a look and see how things have lined up since the original post:

1.) Starchitecture will dim.

Is this still true?

Still too early to say, and the answer will vary depending on who you ask. Some may consider “starchitect” to be a pejorative that applies mainly to garish and allegedly useless displays of bravado rather than creating an actually useful and timeless structure. With that in mind, would one consider BjarkeIngels, for example, to be a starchitect? His projects are eye-catching and fabulously useful, sustainable and in almost all cases relevant to the community in which they are built. On the other hand would be Calatrava’s Oculus, the stunningly grand transportation hub that connects the PATH trains to MTA subways at the World Trade Center site. While beautiful, the project has been criticized for enormous cost overruns, and the architect’s stubborn refusal to compromise on his design for the sake of practicality. So, will starchitecture dim? Hopefully; but probably not for awhile.

2.) Architecture will be more collaborative.

Is this still true?

As Ferro reported, NBBJ has high hopes for its innovative collaboration initiative, and so do we. In regards to public policy, an increase in official involvement stands to affect urban planning positively around the world. A study done in Sydney, Australia shows that increased investments in public housing, transportation infrastructure and business development will help bring the city out of what some refer to as its “lost decade,” the period of relatively sluggish growth between 2000-2011 that caused a lot of concern, especially for a city that provides 30% of the nation’s GDP. Last month, China’s urban policy unit met for the first time since 1978; this was an enormous milestone meeting, and plans for denser and more walkable street networks, expansion of mixed-use development, increased historic preservation and an expansion of energy efficiency in buildings will no doubt have sweeping effects on the urban landscape of the world’s most populous nation. Overall,it could be said that government legislation actually might be the most powerful form of collaboration for architecture that precipitates positive change for the future.

3.) The divide between public and private space will melt away.

Is this still true?

It depends. Ambitious urban planning projects have always captured the public’s attention and speak to the contribution to the greater good that every architect dreams about. Architects envision communities actively enjoying the beautiful and accessible public spaces they create, fostering better connections to their community and making the world a better place to live. The reality of thisdepends heavily on many different factors including funding, community opinion, and whether or not the project addresses problems the community actually faces, or if it instead creates more problems. A glaring example of shared public/private space gone wrong is the Centre Village social housing project in Winnipeg, Canada. Just a little over five years old, Centre Village’s grand plans seem to have been for naught. It was celebrated as an affordable housing solution that saved space, encouraged sustainability, offered modern homes to small families at a low cost, and created a space for community to thrive. The problems emerged quickly; the enclosed courtyard gave vagrants and drug users a place to hide from the police, and encouraged petty crime and looting. Residents found the apartment layouts to be cramped and inconvenient; in one unit, the kitchen is on a different level than the dining area, making it difficult for a family to eat together. Says Ross McGowan, former president of the building’s management company, “We could have done better… We all have a responsibility, as the owners, as the consulting team, as the province, as the city. Maybe that’s part of the issue: [we thought] ‘well, it’s just affordable housing, let’s not get too wound up about it.”

4.) Chinese architecture will be more subtle.

Is this still true?

Most definitely. In February, the Chinese central government made a formal declaration to end all “oversized, xenocentric or weird” buildings. China has become famous in the last decade for garish, enormous and overrun projects that plague cities across the Mainland. Famous examples include the new CCTV headquarters in Beijing, the New Century Global Centre mall in Chengdu and to a certain extent the many, many unoccupied high-end luxury condo parks and miniature cities that dot the landscape nationwide. According to the South China Morning Post, the new goal is to create architecture that is “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye.”

5.) You might work in a tower made of wood or mud.

Is this still true?

Definitely not, and it would probably only become feasible after, say, the collapse of society as we know it (half joking here). Still, in addition to the project reported by Ferro in the original article that referenced C.F. Møller as currently working on a skyscraper made with cross-laminated timber panels, two more wooden projects were announced; a 35-storey wooden mixed use tower in Paris, and an 18-floor student residence hall it the University of British Columbia. Says Michael Green of Vancouver firm MGA, “We’ve done technical studies that you can rebuild the Empire State Building in wood, 110 storeys tall. It actually is possible.”So, it looks like if there is ever a revolution in wooden buildings, it will likely be in the Pacific Northwest.


About the author

Belle Gallay

Belle has 25 years of experience working in architecture recruiting and has been with Microsol Staffing since 2003. She works hard to form happy, long-term relationships between candidates and clients.