A glimpse into our collective crystal ball: What do you hope architectural media will be like in 2043?

Looking Forward

A glimpse into our collective crystal ball: What do you hope architectural media will be like in 2043?

(Joshua Sortino/Unsplash)

As The Architect’s Newspaper turns 20, we’re reflecting on two decades of operations. But because architecture is about the future, we’re also thinking about what’s next. What will the scene be like in another 20 years? AN started in 2003, so what about 2043? To help with this vision, we invited a range of architects, writers, and scholars from around the world to speculate with us. They responded to two questions: What do you hope architecture will be like in 2043? And: What do you hope architectural media will be like in 2043? Their responses to both questions, filed with hope in mind, are a cause for cautious optimism.

Read responses to the first question on the future of architecture, and check out the full anniversary section in its print format now via AN’s digital issue.

If architectural media exists in 2043, I hope it pushes for architecture that is symbiotic with nature’s forces and beauty, rather than hubristic. Frances Anderton 

By 2043, the audience of architectural media is no longer strictly architects. People (i.e., not architects) look to architectural media to understand what is happening around them. This means not reporting on “best” (or, as became trend in the age of social media, “worst”) practice, but on whatever practice does. To aid architects in their efforts to discover new space, architectural media has become more comprehensive and systematic in reporting on every activity of the building industry. It has finally become a wire, one that inevitably publishes too much for any one person, but one that publishes something for everyone. Nick Axel

I hope that by 2043 architecture writers and the publications that employ them will stop repeating claims made by architects and their clients about how “green” their buildings are without first doing some investigation, or at least a few back-of-the-envelope calculations. (Will there still be envelopes in 2043?) Terms like net-zero, carbon-neutral, and climate-positive, which in 2023 mean anything people want them to mean, will have specific, agreed-upon definitions. And all those definitions will take embodied energy into account. Calling a building net-zero without considering embodied energy will seem ridiculous in 2043. Fred Bernstein

I hope and trust that architecture criticism will be a constituent part of the development by which the discipline will have given up its focus on the production of new, stand-alone buildings, as well as the focus on their production by supposedly genius designers. Instead, criticism and the discipline both will understand that the act of architecture as the gathering, upcycling, recycling, and assembly of what already exists in such a way that the spaces and places we already have are more sustainable. And, in a deep and fundamental manner, more open to all and just in their configuration, and more beautiful. Aaron Betsky

Human. I mean this in two ways. Firstly, rather than always reacting to what is trendy, I hope it looks at architecture as a way to understand the phenomenon of human life. Secondly, not written by AI. Giovanna Borasi

More reporting-based. Too often today, in a time of tight editorial budgets and byzantine grant-funding infrastructures, critics write about buildings they have never seen in cities they have never visited. The result is architecture writing that privileges form over function. A building that is beautiful but not functional is just a sculpture. By 2043, I hope that architecture media will have the stable funding infrastructure and the editorial integrity to only feature buildings their writers have visited. Daniel Brook

By 2043, I hope the architectural media helps to determine success and failure in architecture by fully evaluating its cultural, social, and environmental impacts in the world, as well as upon the profession and all those who labor in it. Vishaan Chakrabarti

I don’t have personal hopes or desires, but I can provide some insights into the possibilities and trends that people in the field of architectural media may anticipate for 2043: virtual reality and augmented reality, digital collaboration platforms, AI-generated content, interactive and personalized content, sustainability and green-design focus, global collaboration and cross-cultural exchange, accessible and inclusive content, data visualization, virtual architectural exhibitions and events, and ethical considerations. The evolution of architectural media in 2043 will likely be driven by technological advancements, societal needs, and the changing landscape of architecture itself. It’s important for the architectural media industry to adapt and innovate to meet the demands and expectations of architects, designers, and the public in an ever-changing world. ChatGPT

Twenty years from now, I hope that we will be looking at an architectural media landscape that is less focused on serving the needs of society’s most privileged, be they architects or clients. Because architecture media is largely controlled by the dominant culture, we urgently need editorial perspectives that can provide relevant critical outlooks that don’t have a strong platform in the current environment. To deepen our collective understanding, funders and advertisers must provide financial support to enable this work. However, this support should not require the approval of the dominant culture, as they aren’t well-positioned to determine what is relevant to the communities they marginalize. If architecture wants to genuinely diversify its media space, we need more conversation and education around this particular issue. Erandi de Silva

I hope that it will more completely recognize that there are more ways to practice than producing objects and more places to be tracking than the developed/Western world. Peggy Deamer

Today there remains an interest in perfection by architectural media. This often neglects the influence of clients, commercial interests, insurance, education, and legislation in the development of a project. Furthermore, perfection is a stand-in for a utopian dream, unattainable, like slinky fashion. Let’s hope the representations of design in 2043 are less empty of people and other forms of life; let’s hope the writing will more often explore lesser represented directions even if messy; let’s hope history will not be forgotten. Finally, as with the built world, I hope we will see a less Eurocentric understanding of what design should or could be so that tone and style will be more diverse. There will be more critical assessment of critical theory and academic frameworks. This is already happening in other forms of media. Craig Dykers

Architectural media will need to engage deeper in mixed-media (XR) approaches and curation. As users transition closer to digital media and their digital devices for learning and leisure, the accessibility of information will require an active engagement of providing a feedback loop between architectural and design journalism <> printed matter <> physical activations, and vice versa. It is my belief that architectural media should be an interchange between physical and digital media, merging the phygital space. Wendy W. Fok

In 2043, I hope that architectural media will engage with general media outlets to bring provocative stories about the places that shape our world to a larger audience. I also hope that architectural media will embrace new platforms and technologies for deeper storytelling and place depictions—new kinds of video content, imagery, etc. Finally, I hope that architectural media continues to expose those harming our people and planet, and celebrates those working towards climate and social justice. Julia Gamolina

Vibrant, competitive, ubiquitous. I hope somehow newspapers fund full-time architecture critics again; that the magazines don’t need to sell themselves 50 times over; that writers can make a living; that architecture coverage is seen as a necessary part of cultural, political, social understanding. I hope The Architect’s Newspaper will still be thriving, along with 50 other broad and niche publications, all of whom pay their writers and photographers and editors. Eva Hagberg

Photographs carry more content than words in most mainstream architectural reporting today, a trend prompted, well before its internet apotheosis, by the rise of inexpensive color lithography. But architectural photographs are notoriously weak at explaining anything about a building beyond form. What can “head shots”—Mary N. Woods’s pinpoint characterization of conventional architectural photography’s upper limit—effectively communicate about a building’s environmental performance, say, or its social equity? I doubt we’ll ever return to more words to broadly communicate and consume architecture. So I hope for a new architectural photography that utilizes the pliability of digital technique—and our evolving intelligence in understanding images—to expand the stories a picture can tell. David Heymann

I hope architecture media in 2043 will be more reflective and philosophical, less commercially driven, and more concerned with social potential and artistic intensity. Steven Holl

Architectural media will need to find a way to better link with the public. It will be critical to promote architectural awareness and the role of architects and how they shape the built environment. The hope would be that media will be more than print and digital formats and move to immersive experiences that allow general and professional audiences the ability to touch, smell, hear, and see projects through technology that can bring the architecture to them. As an architect I am much more interested in the ability to understand the techniques and technologies of architecture. An emphasis on AR/ VR technologies and highlighting bespoke details as well as precedent typologies, or even immersive digital sets that can allow architecture to further build upon its past epistemology, yet be forward thinking and innovative in regards to how that information is delivered. Jeffrey Huber

Playful, smart, provocative, and refreshing. Wonne Ickx

I hope there will actually be well-moderated and informed conversations by real people. Florian Idenburg

Anything that corrodes the current PR-ification of architecture would be progress. Maybe it’s a universe of zine-like things that make private obsessions public, that collectively stake out multiple positions and possibilities, that reveal amazing new potentials in the everyday. Is it print, a blog, a tweet, a post? Maybe the medium is also multiple—from photocopied sheets to screens to banners and tote bags and newsprint, to shows, musicals even. Maybe it’s time to understand media—after print, after Twitter, after whatever else is next to fail, whatever it is as the conduit of message. Maybe the era of “the medium is the message” is over. Maybe the message is now the medium. Maybe even architecture itself might be the architecture media of the future. Sam Jacob

Architectural media is architecture made visible. For 2043, I would like an architectural media that enables humans to feel, sense, and discuss how our entanglement with other humans and more-than-human forms of life is designed. Andrés Jaque

Honest. Phyllis Lambert

I am quite sure it will be in crisis, because architectural criticism is always in crisis. I do hope and expect the printed word (written by actual humans) will remain an essential form, although I’m not sure exactly how it will be delivered. And it would be nice to still be paid. Mark Lamster

I hope that in 2043 there will be a viable place for several carefully edited—that is, moderated—web platforms, with clear cultural identities, that fill in the hole that is left after the larger classic architectural magazines will probably have disappeared. This is crucial to generate discourses that people can share. These new platforms should be Zeitschriften again, as magazines are called in German, instead of the depots—the other meaning of magazine in German—they have become, developing their identity over time through assembling different, clearly moderated, publicly accessible, positions. I hope that new technologies, such as VR and AR, will not only be used to highlight architectural highlights but will also be used in interactive maps and process simulations on an urban, regional, and maybe even global scale. Bart Lootsma

I would like to see a focus on the impact that architectural work generates, on the human body and behaviors, animal life, as well as on economic and environmental conditions. In other words, equal time given to performance as well as aesthetics. Elaine Molinar

Recognizing the hard work that bringing about a healthy and equitable future will entail, and not taking for granted the entrenched interests that must be overcome, I hope 2043’s architectural media—and media that cover the built environment more broadly—speak both critically and clearly about the concerns of working people. Jacob R. Moore

I would like to witness a transformative shift away from the conventional portrayal of buildings as mere static and autonomous structures. Instead, I hope to see architectural media evolve into a dynamic medium that portrays buildings as integral components of the human experience and weaves them into the fabric of their surroundings. This evolved architectural media would offer a more authentic representation of the symbiotic relationship between architecture and its environment. It would foster a deeper understanding of how architecture shapes and is shaped by the world around it, providing viewers with a more profound and holistic perspective on the built environment. Lorcan O’Herlihy

I’m not sure what the anti-Instagram is, but it would be that. My super-savvy teenage daughter deleted Instagram last year! No photos, please, no pithy captions. Just as in my book Petrochemical America, where I unpacked Richard Misrach’s photographs to tell stories of extraction and portrayed landscapes of energy, technology, and environmental justice, landscape media in 20 years needs to be locked into sharing stories of the people and communities that made them, about carbon embedded and captured, about sand mined from Cambodia, about ipe dragged from the Brazilian rainforest. Can media do that? What will landscape architecture look like if we actually fully halted oil and gas production, and exploitation of the earth’s resources? Again: for me, more fun and more rewarding. Kate Orff

I first typed the word existent. But truly, I hope that architectural media, in 2043, will be cooperatively owned and operated by authors and critics themselves. Traditional media is in constant crisis—god help me if I have to hear “the crisis of X criticism” one more time—and perhaps we need to be building alternative models for how media is produced and funded. We need fewer Anna Wintours and more Defectors; a model that builds careers for writers and changes the stakes for publishing could keep us afloat. If not, at least it will keep things exciting. Anjulie Rao

Architecture critics historically have had the most impact in posts at publications outside of architecture, primarily newspapers and magazines. The media landscape is so fraught now that those positions are disappearing as soon as their posts are vacated, as we can see with the Chicago Tribune. Notably, there are some bright spots, such as the founding of the New York Review of Architecture, which, through a combination of subscriptions, sponsorships, and grants, has been able to find a way forward (and pay writers well thanks to their work with the Freelance Solidarity Project!) despite the relative paucity of the post-internet media landscape. However, in my opinion, I think the best model for starting an independent architectural press lies in predecessors in sports journalism, a field I also work in. So far the Defector model, successfully replicated in cycling’s Escape Collective, of self-sustaining subscriber funding without corporate sponsorship has borne fruit.

My dream is an architectural media that is not undergirded by the AEC industry, whether that industry sponsorship takes the form of HGTV or ArchDaily. Furthermore, my dream is that, by 2043, we will have an architectural media that is public-facing above all, because the public deserves local, accessible, high-quality journalism and criticism about the built environment on a scale we are not presently reaching, especially if criticism positions continue to vanish. We all live in the world. We all deserve to participate in it. We all also deserve to see our own lives reflected in architectural media, not just the spaces of the rich and famous. That requires reshaping everything, even vernacular or popular design media culture. I think it’s possible, and we are moving increasingly in that direction. Kate Wagner

In their walled and surveilled enclaves, award-winning groups of trained designers will continue expanding their operations, designing beacons of luxury funded with planetary-scale destruction. Produced by AI, all media outlets that didn’t join the revolution will continue re-producing pompous slogans that hide behind smokescreens of ecological and sustainable newspeak, the ultraviolent modernization unleashed by more than 500 years of uninterrupted spoliation. WAI Think Tank

Architectural media in 2043 will dissolve distinctions between print and digital and merge to become an immersive combination of the two. Presently people choose one of the two or opt for both. Digital has the advantage of speed and can include links and images/video. It is more wholesome. Print has the solidity and ageless physicality with which many of us have an emotional bond as creatures of habit. It imparts a sense of permanence.

Given rapid digital advances, the news media of 2043 will create devices that will combine the best of the two. There would be small, compact high-tech printers that would be linked to the online publications with the paper of choice already stacked at the subscriber’s end. As soon as the new edition of a “print” journal is out, the reader would automatically receive the copy at their desk. The other innovation will be that the digital copy will provide immersive experiences of the project covered, not just text and images. Rajnish Wattas

Bill Menking and Diana Darling launched AN, the fitting acronym for Architects Newspaper, 20 years ago with a radical idea: that there was an audience for insightful, relevant, and engaging articles about architecture and the built environment. That initial, prescient idea took off spectacularly and now its trajectory over the next 20 years will arc towards an even broader, more urgent context – one that sees interconnected potentials intrinsic to social, economic, and environmental challenges as central to shaping our increasingly fragile built environment.

If AN has become an acronym that has come to mean the most timely and impactful news about architecture, we hope ARCHITECTURE in 2043 may become an acronym noted for the following potentials yet to be imagined:

A: Accessible: from affordability in the broadest sense to an architecture that transcends the limitations of strictly building

R: Resilient—physically and socially—utilizing the fewest resources to offer impact and efficacy to communities impacted by poverty and environmental degradation

C: Collaborative across disciplines, interdependent connections between conceptual and concrete realization

H: Holistic

I: Interdisciplinary: because all our globally pressing questions—ecological, infrastructural, and social—require overlapping lenses to be understood and acted upon

T: Tactile: with the ubiquity of the virtual, the tactile presence of architecture is ever more valuable

E: Ecologically informed, equitable in its access

C: Carbon Neutral

T: Technologically Informed, with an ethical eye towards the most appropriate applications

U: Urban: concentrating resources

R: Restless: transcending the improbably disconnected vectors of constraints to invent something new

E: Ethical: offering enduring value for generations yet to come

We believe the diffuse ubiquity of design media will continue to oscillate between stimulation and distraction, yet if the trajectory AN launched in 2003 is any indication, over the next twenty years, AN will continue to be the succinct and impactful source for information, insight and inspiration. Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi

In 2043, architectural and design media will be central to the political fortunes of progressive urbanists and environmentalists who have become elected to lead across the globe for their creative vision for the cities, buildings, and infrastructure that in 2023 their baby boomer predecessors were wasting. Now demolishing buildings, widening highways, parking on streets, using fossil fuels and plastics for building construction is seen as the dark ages.Claire Weisz

Independent architectural media will have an increasing role to play in guiding the new urban renovation and revitalization priority. The climate crisis must be more front of mind, with asset recycling and building to minimize carbon impacts. Housing and transportation for the masses must again be prioritized in this new milieu to create a far more sustainable and equitable world. Clive Wilkinson

Architectural media is indebted to the critics and reporters who are dedicated to a sector that is ambivalent in valuing their service. In an age of increased automation, sustaining a writing practice will only be more difficult. It would be great if architectural media takes clues from the new contract negotiated by the Writers Guild of America, which according to Dani Anguiano and Lois Beckett of The Guardian, “does not outlaw the use of AI tools in the writing process, but it sets up guardrails to make sure the new technology stays in the control of workers, rather than being used by their bosses to replace them.” Mimi Zeiger