With society's needs and aspirations shifting, spatial typologies and architectural programs are continually being questioned, and this re-evaluation creates the premises for innovation. The following is an exploration of how architecture is metabolizing society's fundamental changes throughout several aspects of everyday life, challenging the existing assumptions regarding program and space.
For the past months, most architectural typologies have fallen under scrutiny, with the profession analyzing not only how these aspects can adapt to the pandemic in the immediate future, but also how they could embody prospective technological evolution and changes in lifestyles. Looking further down the line, past this health crisis, but still acknowledging it, this article features trends and projects that hint at the future of housing, retail, education and office spaces, highlighting the significant forthcoming changes to these programs.
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In recent years, numerous collective housing projects have embraced the inclusion of shared amenities, shifting towards more community-oriented models. Moreover, sustainability and a move towards a collaborative economy are aspects informing the new spatial typologies of collective housing.
Based on modularity, flexibility, and shared services, Space 10's and EFFEKT's design, The Urban Village Project, is a response to the increasing social isolation and lack of affordable housing. What is striking about this project is that it takes the service-oriented ethos of contemporary society and transcribes it into a long-term housing model, with subscription-based amenities and (in theory) a reversible construction system.
Even before the health crisis, housing developments were increasingly becoming mixed-use schemes, creating autonomous parts within the urban fabric, with a strong focus on outdoor space. The current situation seems to have exacerbated these ideas, as shown by Vicente Guallart's proposal for a self-sufficient community in China. The design defines a new urban typology, informed by the experience of the pandemic, with a highly diverse program, as well as energy and food production systems, that turn the development into an almost self-sufficient environment.
The office space was already changing even before the health crisis hit, as the pendulum swing from cubicles to large open-plan spaces was facing some reconsideration, with studies showing the latter as having negative effects on mental health and productivity.
Co-working represents a departure from the common office typology, providing all the amenities of a traditional office, as well as the fertile ground for social interaction and networking. Selgascano's design for the Second Home Hollywood Office stands out as a unique co-working spatial model through the close intertwining of office space and nature. The small-scale pods benefiting from natural light and cross-ventilation, scattered within a garden-like space make for an innovative office typology, one robust enough to potentially function within the limits of a pandemic.
The future of the office has already been speculated at length, and there is a largely accepted belief that the flexibility of work might be here to stay, transforming the office into a collaborative hub, with the bulk of tasks carried out through remote work. Redefining the office might mean including it into mixed-use typologies, having multiple companies share the same space on rotation, and creating easily customizable spaces. Tapping into the latter is Stephan Hürlemann's flexible Dancing Office concept for Vitra, a system of partitions allowing for fast layout changes in open-plan office spaces.
With retail increasingly moving online (more so during the pandemic), brick and mortar retail spaces become more a question of experience, presence and consumer connection to the brand, as Nayan Parekh, principal at Gensler, points out in an interview for the Wall Street Journal.
With an emphasis on engagement, rather than transactions, experiential stores, like the House of Vans in London designed by Tim Greatrex, might become ubiquitous. An embodiment of the brand's culture, these new retail spaces need to account for an entertainment factor, giving customers a reason to access the physical store. As an example, the Harman Experience Store in Munich designed by Gensler, provides a social experience, through the possibility to host lectures, concerts, even car launches.
Large retail centres would also need to integrate within the leisure landscape, shifting towards a mixed-use typology, as is the case of OMA's Wollert Neighborhood Center. The project brings together retail and community spaces such as a public outdoor theatre, childcare and education facilities, creating what the practice calls a "social condenser".
For the past two decades, educational environments have shifted from being places for knowledge dissemination to spaces of collaboration. Communication, flexibility and connection with the outdoors have become essential aspects in designing new spatial typologies for schools and higher education buildings.
An extraordinary example of that is Tezuka Architects' Fuji Kindergarten. With an interior space that can be opened up to the outside for the majority of the year and an accessible roof as the main play space, the project encourages socialization and independence. On the same lines, but in the context of higher education, Diller Scofidio+Renfro's project for the Stanford Art & Art History Building has all major functions opening towards an outdoor space, while also allowing for outdoor teaching.
Community is essential when designing for learning, and while virtual access to knowledge continues to evolve, the experience of the place remains critical. Thus, the possibility to access higher education online will most likely not replace in-person learning, and post-pandemic education might see the coagulation of a hybrid between the two. The Columbia Business School, another project by Diller Scofidio+Renfro, currently under construction, is already prepared to host this educational model, through the digital technology and large projection walls integrated into the design of classrooms, as Charles Renfro explains in this Design Disruption episode.
These examples illustrate some of the trends informing the architectural typologies that accommodate most of our everyday lives, with hotels, museums, hospitals and many more still to reconsider. A challenge to rethink how we live, work, learn, shop and consume culture is always present, but the current crisis might be a catalyst for innovation in typology and program.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: How Will We Live Together. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics here. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.