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

Looking Forward

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

The Globe of the Captive City, a drawing by Davide Tommaso Ferrando submitted with his response to AN’s prompt. (Davide Tommaso Ferrando)

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.

Keep your eyes peeled for a second round of responses about the second question, on future of architectural media. And: Read the whole anniversary section in its print format now via AN’s digital issue.

What do you hope architecture will be like in 2043?

I hope architecture will be symbiotic with the forces and beauty of what’s left of nature, rather than hubristic. For example: less A/C, more passive cooling, and saying no to new buildings that don’t need to exist. Frances Anderton

By 2043, building new buildings has become politically untenable, and destroying existing ones equivalent to social excommunication. Thanks to nationwide lapse occupancy clause laws that the Future Liberation Party government put in place, the entire field of architecture has shifted from a projective mode to an investigative one. Architects now scour dusty building permit and certificate of occupancy archives in search of empty and unused space. As a result of this new “land” grab, the interior has become a domain of radical imagination. The horizontal realm of use, play, and love has overcome the vertical abstraction of property ownership. Nick Axel

I hope that by 2043 architects will design only buildings that produce more energy than they use. More, because buildings in 2043 will not only meet their own operational energy needs but will offset their embodied energy in a reasonable number of years (20 or fewer). There can be no “accounting tricks,” like calling buildings net-zero because their owners promise to plant trees somewhere, someday. Net-zero is not zero, and by 2043 everyone should understand that. Fred Bernstein

My sincere hope is that architecture will by then 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, it will understand 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—in a deep and fundamental manner—more open to all and just in their configuration, and more beautiful. Aaron Betsky

My hope for architecture in 2043 (and hopefully before) would be that the discipline sheds the myth of a social or ecological project not also being a formal project and vice versa. Integrating social and ecological issues alongside form, organization, and aesthetics would reinvigorate our disciplinary agency. For this, by 2043, I hope we will have better tools to see, understand, and intervene within the abstract systems that implicate architecture—allowing designers to take a more holistic and informed approach on how we build and maintain form. Neeraj Bhatia

Attuned to the real needs of society; understanding of the fact that what it can provide the public is determined as much by legal and political frameworks as by site and project constraints; and always pushing the boundaries of practice. Giovanna Borasi

More global and less global. More global in that groundbreaking projects will be more evenly distributed throughout the world, and less global in that they will be more culturally, urbanistically, and ecologically attuned to their sites. Daniel Brook

By 2043 I hope architecture is directly relevant to the largest challenges society confronts, including climate change, social inequity, and technological dislocation. Much of our political and technological discourse is about division and disillusion, but architecture can instead be about connectedness… It can be about an architecture of urbanity. Vishaan Chakrabarti

I don’t have personal hopes or desires, but I can provide you with some trends and possibilities that people in the field of architecture have been discussing for the future of architecture in 2043: sustainability, smart cities, modular and prefabricated construction, adaptive and resilient design, mixed-use spaces, cultural sensitivity, health and well-being, advanced materials, accessibility and inclusivity, and collaboration and interdisciplinarity. These are some of the potential directions that architecture could take by 2043, but the future of architecture will depend on various factors, including technological advancements, societal values, environmental concerns, and economic considerations. ChatGPT

The pandemic panic that began in 2020 may be over, but among its dubious lessons is that long-distance travel and face-to-face human interactions are largely avoidable. If these are permanent sociological shifts—conversations mediated by masks, social gatherings represented by grids of faces on computer monitors, city marketplaces replaced by home-delivery networks, virtual workplaces and classrooms infesting our homes—then which architect has given us the most prescient urban image of our collective future? Probably not the intensity and incessant movement of Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse, but perhaps the relative dispersion and stasis of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City. Wright predicted a world covered with low-density sprawl—to him, a vision of rugged rural independence, but in all likelihood only an exacerbation of suburban isolation and anomie. Let’s hope he was wrong. Thomas Daniell 

Twenty years from now, I hope that we will have moved on from the dominant culture’s conception of diversity and inclusion as manifested by Western architectural institutions and media by embracing a more authentic and nuanced understanding of anti-oppression. This would necessitate the architectural discourse to engage in a serious interrogation of its relationship to race, gender, and class, enabling it to diminish its own hierarchical systems, thereby allowing the scope of who can participate to widen. Only then can we fully realize a socially progressive industry that can support those who presently go unseen. Erandi de Silva

  1. I hope that in the U.S. it will be governed by a body that:A, takes an ethical stand on:1. bad labor practices
    2. unsustainable construction practices
    3. energy-consuming buildings

    B, espouses degrowth and promotes rehabilitation/ renovation whenever possible 

  2.  I hope that it will be a profession that is accessible/affordable to all who want to enter it.
  3.  I hope that architecture will no longer be seen as a series of singular, isolated, nationalist institutions but, rather, a union of all architects.
  4.  I hope that architecture is no longer forced to distinguish itself from planners, landscape architects, or interior designers. Peggy Deamer

Beyond practical changes such as availability of new tools and technologies, I suspect we will see diminished material resource availability, alongside less access to fresh air, natural light, and water. Habitat will also be dwindling. The positive outcome here is that we may see a trend in reuse of materials and buildings. We will also see greater interaction with the natural world around us to provide more connections between humans and the flora and fauna. Because of this, landscape architecture will assume a stronger role in the development of the built environment. Finally, on a positive note, I believe we will see a trend toward diversity in cultural and ethnic approaches take root around the world. We may see less Eurocentric methods of design. This will be refreshing and help with all peoples discovering positive perspectives for change around the world. Craig Dykers

In the late 1990s, botanist and psychedelic thinker Terence McKenna commented that those in privilege await and prepare for the coming of the apocalypse, while for the majority of the planet the apocalypse has been here, depending on where one is looking. In the past 20 years, apocalyptic, manmade, and natural disasters have devastated the region of the planet known to outsiders as the Middle East, and architecture, ancient and modern, has been affected, mutilated, demolished, wiped out physically and even from memory. Twenty years ago, today’s unfolding premeditated, intentional, and catastrophic destruction of some of the world’s oldest and most culturally layered cities was not on the horizon, even as unjust imperial war machines ripped through Iraq and Afghanistan. Looking into the future, while optimism is needed, realism is more urgent. One hopes architecture in 2043 will follow new models and preserve old ones that have accumulated meaning for communities, not just tourists and voyeurs; that it will learn from the devastating experiences of the recent past; and that it will be equitable, fair, affordable, and reflecting of diverse communities living a wide range of lifestyles that are not determined by cultural or economic hegemony. However, that possibility seems unlikely if it is to be built on a foundation made of today’s heaps of rubble. Mohamed Elshahed

I would like to answer by summarizing what I think, rather than what I hope for architecture. With the risk of being cynical, I believe that the kind of economic and political frame that characterize contemporary architectural production are not going to substantially change in twenty years. After all, twenty years is just a bit more than what it takes to conceive and bring to life one big civic building, such as Herzog & de Meuron’s Hamburg Elbphilarmonie, which was completed 15 years after its initiation. Architectural form, in this sense, is always a late manifestation of its recent past. More presumably, in twenty years from now, current dynamics are going to manifest themselves more evidently, which is why I imagine that, in 2043, cities all over the world will be colonized by buildings covered with trees. The so-called “vertical forest,” a global trend in contemporary architecture initiated—alas!—in Italy, is in fact the perfect rhetorical answer to the state of ecological stress that we are experiencing today, as it summons the collective image of sustainability (nature) in order to legitimize real estate operations that would otherwise be difficult to support. The vertical forest is the architectural version of Slavoj Žižek’s “hypocrisy of beneficence”: in spite of the reassuring eco-narratives attached to it, covering a building with plants does little more than reproduce the unsustainable urban model that its architect claims to combat—by pouring more concrete, consuming more water, and privatizing more soil. From the moment in which ecological commitment has become a structural element of the building industry, the remedy has become part of the disease. And so, the city of the near future will be the very same of today, with the same (if not more) problems and inequalities, but with a lot more potted plants. Davide Tommaso Ferrando

If data is the new oil, architects, urban planners, and city officials have a responsibility to engage with a more robust engagement with digital property and data infrastructures. Architecture will need to explore new modes and impacts of data collection that affect the future of urban living and architecture. Hidden infrastructures—digital and fossil fuel—and their deleterious effects on the environment are easy to hide when they are at the bottom of the ocean, but much harder when the infrastructure is part of our cities, part of our urban experience. Both oil and tech industries have long sought to do this, frequently via architectural means. I hope architecture will engage more robust forms of urban reuse and renewal of infrastructural buildings serving the data (tech) and fossil fuel (oil) industries. Wendy W. Fok

In 2043, I hope architecture will be more seamlessly integrated with and more like the natural world around us—regenerative, performative, bio-based, colorful, joyful, and healthy for all living beings. I hope that our architecture and place-making is a source of pride for not only the design community but for all of those who love their homes, neighborhoods, cities, and our planet. Julia Gamolina

I hope that the field will be demystified and that architects will be seen as professionals who did a lot of school and training and also provide a valuable and necessary service—like doctors, lawyers, accountants. I hope there’s less mystique around this figure of the lone genius architect, less forgiveness of terrible behavior, and more understanding of the actual skills that architects bring to the world, which I understand as: organizing space so that we have nicer lives. I hope the actual architecture itself will be climate-conscious, interesting, as-yet unbuilt but not yet unimagined. Eva Hagberg

By 2043, architects will be grappling with two main choices: to restore or reinforce the environments of the non-human species anticipated to survive climate collapse since we will not, or to design disaster typologies that will mitigate but not avert our demise, which range from heat centers and climate refugee camps. It is a profession-implicating tragedy that climate collapse has become the ultimate starchitect, expediently and irrevocably melting 750 billion tons of polar ice caps each year while the entire global profession of 3 to 4 million architects hasn’t mustered more than 2,500 zero-carbon buildings worldwide, accounting for a miniscule portion of the world’s total. To hope for an alternative reality would require a radical overhaul of our accreditation system and curriculum to be deployed as a State Of Emergency mandate, with immediate effect. Harriet Harriss

Will we still be practicing today’s revival-style modernism in two decades? Or will the sum of the new technologies arising from the desire for environmental sustainability finally engender a revolutionary new architecture, as the rise of some technologies—arch, concrete, flying buttress, steel frame, air conditioning—has in the past? I pray for the latter. But it’s pure faith, as the calculus of success is daunting. So many buildings have to perform, all over the world, soon. Which, short of an unlikely political awakening, means architecture will have to embrace, co-opt, then rewrite the market-desire-based populism it has long scorned. David Heymann

I hope architecture in 2043 will be free of fossil fuels, full of natural light and natural ventilation, in urban forms or protecting natural landscapes, unprecedented, and full of inspiration for future generations. Steven Holl

The architecture of 2043 will be similar to architecture of 2023, albeit digital fabrication, creative and generative AI, robotics and smart sensing will be highly integrated into the process. The hope is that this is a time where technology rapidly advances to continue, as it has over the last 100 years, to find workflow, material, and operational efficiency. Furthermore, social and ecological factors will continue to play an important transformative role. Whether architecture is solving for components of climate change and future proofing, or building our communities and neighborhoods to serve a more equitable and just future. Design, and more specifically architecture, will be more democratized within the built environment, thus leading to greater desire for design excellence. The role of the architect is as critical as it was over history, and we will need to be thought leaders at all scales within the built environment. Jeffrey Huber

Playful, smart, provocative, and refreshing. Wonne Ickx

9/11, an urban catastrophe provoked by hubris, changed the perception of architecture in New York City. Despite the initial notion that the city was dead, New York flourished, and with the help of AN, the architectural conversation became more mainstream. Most likely, the theater of environmental events will become increasingly dramatic. Architecture and urbanism will affect all. It is unfortunate that it takes crises to bring architecture to the fore, but we’ll take it if it increases its relevance. In two decades, our work should be inclusive acts of resilience, restoration, and regeneration. Florian Idenburg

I hope—against perhaps all the available evidence—that architecture might be organized around collaboration and cooperation rather than competition. Perhaps projects might begin by working together rather than pitching one against another. Collaboration as a default, with projects as a nucleus around which architects, clients, users, and people might orbit, and that draw skills, knowledge, and imagination into their gravitational field, that materials might even circulate between. It might mean not just a richer and more pleasant way of producing the world around us, but it might also forge new and unlikely alliances: AI and weaving, robotics and handcraft, clay and carbon fiber, history and speculation. In other words, a kind of architectural commonwealth connecting how things are produced, what they are made from, and how they are used, reused, imagined, and reimagined. Sam Jacob

Through buildings; through the organization of how activities unfold; through the regulation of water, energy, material flows—architecture articulates societies and ecosystems. For 2043, I could imagine trees, air, earth, humans, mountains, pipes, walls, windows, ants, butterflies, mice, virus, bacteria, clouds, and more coexisting in a state of mutual support, and architecture as the form of articulation that makes that coexistence possible and durable. I celebrate architecture’s capacity to operate transscalarly, facilitating alliances across species, materialities, and human and nonhuman intelligences. Andrés Jaque

Three principles of design that define the context of architecture in the city (a riff on Hilberseimer): Everybody in the city must hear the birds sing; everybody must be able to smell the odor of the earth, trees, and flowers; architecture in its broadest sense must be understood to be a public concern. Phyllis Lambert

Above water. Mark Lamster

My hope for architecture in 2043 is that urbanism, urban planning, urban design, housing, and landscape architecture will have gained in importance and dominate the discourse. In a world in which an absolute majority of the explosively growing population will live in cities, and a majority of that will still live in shanty towns if they’re not completely homeless, the improvement of both should be the most important task. This would involve the improvement of affordable housing in unprecedented quantities, public transport, connections to public facilities, as well as a greater importance on ecological issues through governance. As the growth processes accelerate, I hope AI can help in the simulation and steering of these processes. Bart Lootsma

I hope that valued examples of our architectural history and city fabrics are taken care of and valued for their contributions to our communities rather than sacrificed for the economic potential they often represent. I hope to see the icons of today and yesterday still thriving in 2043. 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 architecture—and the built environment more broadly—is designed and built to be accessible to and in service of the working classes. Jacob R. Moore

It has been very interesting to see the early seeds of union organizing within the architecture profession. I hope in the next 20 years we will see that movement come to maturity. I’m curious what practitioners will do with strong union power and how that organizing will impact the working life of architects. I hope it will become so much more expansive and understood as socially interconnected with the concerns of daily life in the built environment. Jess Myers

I would hope to see the architectural landscape marked by a heightened consciousness in the field of architecture in 2043. It is essential that we engage in work that yields meaningful consequences, by viewing architecture as a social act, and to strive to create work that is accessible to all socioeconomic levels. It will be of utmost importance to acknowledge that this commitment should permeate all typologies in our daily practice. Lorcan O’Herlihy

I hope landscape architecture will be much more integrated into public life and policy. During the pandemic, the science of mRNA vaccines was front and center; likewise landscape architecture should be visible, effective, and in the service of the public good in the climate emergency. I’d like to see landscape architects heading the Department of the Interior, on the President’s National Climate Task Force, serving as mayors and city managers in cities and towns across the United States, and leading the newly launched American Climate Corps. The profession emerged from private gardens, from industrialization, as a form of leisure, and from a culture of consumption, but we have to pivot towards a radically more public and civil service approach. Maybe something closer to inspired permaculture or farming. Honestly, I think this will be more fun and more rewarding. Kate Orff

Not in ashes, at the bottom of the ocean, or owned by Blackrock. Anjulie Rao

We have to chill out. We have to find a balance. We have to get rid of our myopic obsession with craft and zoom out to see what unfettered growth and endless construction is doing to our planet. As architects we have to understand that the biggest obstacles to human flourishing aren’t architectural problems. No matter the good intentions or spatial innovations, architecture has to engage politically to make a dent in the compounding crises of ecological destruction, housing scarcity, and neocolonial land enclosure. Architects need to push for housing decommodification. We need to advocate for the re-commoning of land at home and resource sovereignty abroad. We need to fight for #LANDBACK and undo centuries of theft and genocide on Indigenous peoples globally. The way I see it, whatever architecture looks like is an emergent property from the conditions of its development, not an individual imposing their creative genius on a sandbox world. If you can’t walk to get groceries within 15 minutes, what is the difference if your postmodern dwelling contains witty references or lacks 90-degree angles?

In 2043, I hope to walk down the street to the local commons where my neighbors are tending to the crops they planted in the spring, grab an apple off one of the trees we all share, and touch grass on the decommodified open space between our mid-rise garden city apartment buildings. I won’t be thinking about indexical deconstructivism, sketchup contemporary, or recursive post-digital skeuomorphism. I’ll be with my loved ones, surrounded by a community that supports each other, and I’ll be happy. @societyiftextwall

First off, I hope that architecture in 2043 has, by this point, solved the question about the division of labor in firms in favor of laborers. I hope to see a unionized architecture across the board, because I believe that this is the starting point for everything from greater diversity of formal ideas to diverting energy and money away from wasteful, harmful, or just plain bad projects and towards projects that uplift communities and genuinely make the world a better place. Furthermore, I hope architecture does revolt a little bit against the BIM-ification of everything—the reliance on similar forms and claddings because they are prespecified and less vulnerable to liability. While these technologies can save a great deal of time, that time isn’t being redirected back to doing the real thinking and form-making and exploring of architecture but rather towards simply taking on more and more projects.

Architects leave school with a set of skills that make them feel empowered and energetic about using architecture to improve the world we live in—or at least the built environment, which is a huge part of the world, one that is entwined with political questions such as climate change, housing, and migration, often interacting with those issues on the intimate level of the everyday. By the time they get to firms, they feel less like people with agency and more like drones, their work less about shaping space and contributing to real change and more like simply managing different parts of capital. This is a great shame, a great squashing of creative and human potential. So in my opinion, rather than gamble on a future of flying cars or floating cities, the practices of architecture are what need to change. With greater democracy across those practices, as will hopefully be achieved by 2043, we will see a flourishing of creativity and a bolder, more inclusive, and more forward-thinking architecture. Kate Wagner

One group (of Indigenous, antiracist, anti-imperialist, anticolonial activists) will instrumentalize their skills to design both spaces of resistance and anticapitalist propaganda. In their fight against colonial time and capitalism, they’ll work to protect, de-privatize, and dismantle an encroaching ecocidal fascist regime that threatens slight challenges to their domain with annihilation. WAI Think Tank

We would love to see architecture evolve to play a broader, more valuable, and supportive role in society. For too long architecture has served the wealthy and the ego, embellishing both clients and a star-architect syndrome. This has spawned the society of the spectacle, serving the goals of the elite. In an increasingly more equitable and diversified world, one hopes that this transitions to more profoundly community-focused work: architecture as truly social work for our globalized world. Clive Wilkinson

If the last two decades have taught us anything, it’s that architecture progresses more slowly than the culture it inhabits. Let’s hope that by 2043 the field has found a way to embrace equitable labor practices and ditched the “sole genius creator” mythology. Ground-up construction of buildings will be more rare, but architectural expertise is expressed in retrofits of outmoded typologies (like high-rise office towers) and adaptation of existing structures for climate’s new normal. Mimi Zeiger