Architecture’s Future

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Architecture’s Future
affecting not just security systems but basic building design (including open space design). There will be a presently unknowable but fundamentally different technology for lighting.
I suspect most of the imaginable – and unimaginable – technology is a fair way over the horizon but I do not doubt that architects just beginning practice will finally be designing structures that are technically enormously different from those they conceive today. What will they be designing?

Transport and Travel
Renewed emphasis on railways (not necessarily wheel on rail) and shipping – so more ports and stations. The need for airports may be approaching its peak but massive reconstruction will result from new technology. Within the century, space ports – not just for people but conceivably for the import of resources. By the end of the century, our love affair with the car will be dying. Business travel demand will fall as video conferencing technology approaches virtual reality. Tourism as we know it may also become mostly virtual reality trips. That has huge implications for the hotel industry – perhaps hotel conversion will be a great opportunity for future architects.

Energy
Some fundamentally new way of drawing energy from the sun (redirected from space stations?) will be invented. In the meantime, energy production will be much more localised and big structures will largely produce their own. Windfarms, tidal power, etc., will remain marginal.

Water Recycling will become a major issue and, in the long run, mandatory – more building space for plant. How do we deal with that in building re-use? Dam construction will be a dying art.

Retail
Shopping centres will become largely entertainment and eating centres – meeting the human social drive – and display cases for goods largely sold via cyberspace. The corollary will be growth in warehousing and delivery functions. Security issues will impact heavily on the design of shopping/social centres. Many sporting facilities will be co-located with these centres – not least to rationalise transport. Also, the demand for particular sports will change as the population ages.

Education
Demand for schools and universities will fall substantially – due both to low birth rates and the growth of distance learning.

Health
An ageing population will dramatically increase the need for hospitals and clinics. In the long term, government’s role will be much reduced and many health facility clients will be in the private sector.

Housing
Social instability, low birth rates and the ageing population will further drive radical changes in housing preferences. A comparative fall in ownership and many more renters is likely – and the big investment institutions will return to housing. Ease of communication, via electronics, combined with new transport technologies will finally lead to satellite cities, halting the unmanageable growth of at least Sydney and Melbourne.

Offices
With the continued increase of services as a proportion of total economic activity, one might see new and re-used office buildings as a major growth element in the built environment. But will electronics, work at home, hot desking and other influences change that? In total I predict that the social drive will remain the most powerful determinant. We will still have offices but they will be smaller, on average, and more diversely located. By the end of the century, the skyscraper will be a dinosaur.

Public Buildings
More galleries, museums, concert halls and the like will be built and increasingly they will be co-located with shopping/entertainment centres. However, we will not see many more Parliament Houses – by the end of the century what we inaccurately call democracy will have collapsed under its own weight. The nation state will head towards its end, replaced by distant international governance anbd active participatory control at a very local level. For that to succeed, a critical need will be an education revolution, for which I fervently pray.

Final words:
The development of the built environment has been and is one of the greatest of all civilising influences. Architects have been in the past and should be now the prime drivers of that great human achievement.
This essay has been tailored for Architecture Australia from a keynote address to the ‘Beyond 2000’ seminar arranged by Australian Pacific Projects for its key building industry contacts in Sydney late last year. Jim Service is the principal of J.G. Service, a property consulting and project management company with offices in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. He also chairs the Construction Industry Summit

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Published online: 1 Mar 2000

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Architecture Australia, March 2000

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