Facing the current and accentuated global challenges, we ask ourselves: What should we address first?
2020 was a tremendous opportunity to focus all our efforts and attention on the most urgent issues of architecture. Through articles, interviews, debates, and projects, ArchDaily's Topics presented each month an in-depth response to the most relevant problems - from the climate crisis and emergency architecture to artificial intelligence and How Will We Live Together.
Providing inspiration, knowledge, and tools, we have generated hundreds of publications. In order to sum up this past year, we present a selection of articles that had the biggest impact on our readers. Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021!
"Forty percent of the human population lives within 100 kilometers of a coastline, with one in ten living under ten meters above sea level. As climate change induces more volatile flooding events and long-term sea level rises, it is estimated that coastal flooding could cause as much as $1 trillion of damage per year by 2050. We cannot escape the reality that cities, and their populations, are more vulnerable to flooding than ever".
"Two-thirds of the world’s energy and 70% of global carbon emissions are attributed to cities. This leads to the question of how the evolution of public policy, and urban design, can strategically combat these two growing issues. Around the world, cities are looking to mobility as part of the solution, and in particular, asking a simple question: what if public transport was free?"
"According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the construction sector is responsible for up to 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions.....As architects, one of our biggest concerns should be the reduction of carbon emissions from the buildings we construct. Being able to measure, quantify, and rate this quality is a good way to start".
"Concrete, the most widely used construction material in the world, due to its versatility, resistance, ease of handling, accessibility, aesthetics, and other factors. At the same time, its manufacture is also one of the main polluters in the atmosphere, mainly due to the fact that the cement industry emits around 8% of all global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). In addition to its intensive production, concrete is an extremely rigid material, heavy and composed of cement, water, stone, and sand. Thus, would it be possible to continue to use concrete sustainably after demolition, eliminating its disposal as mere waste and overloading landfills?"
"Though interest in rammed earth declined in the 20th century, some continue to advocate its use today, citing its sustainability in comparison to more modern construction methods. Most notably, rammed earth structures use local materials, meaning they have low embodied energy and produce little waste."
"Humanity spends more and more time inside, whether at work or at home - with studies showing that we now spend 87% of our lives indoors. Pleasant environments positively influence the mood and well-being of its occupants, just as poorly lit, uncomfortable places can make lives miserable. That is why the craft of interior design is so important."
"Psychology of space is in fact “the study of human relations and behaviors within the context of the built and natural environments” according to Dave Alan Kopec, a specialist in the field and professor at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego. Having a direct impact on your subconscious, contributing to your emotions and perceptions, through that special part of your brain that reacts to the geometry of the space you occupy, interior design became an inherent part of people’s psychology. Though it is not the only factor involved, interior space has big implications, and it is the architect’s responsibility to shape tangible solutions for users and incorporate these ideas into the structure.
"As we approach a time when the broad intelligence of AI exceeds human levels, existential questions arise. What should you study when any job can be programmed or replaced? Will universal income be adopted as a result? Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates believes so. “AI is just the latest in technologies that allow us to produce a lot more goods and services with less labor,” says Gates. How we work, and what we can work on, will begin to change at an increasingly faster rate. If half of all work can be done by robots or machines in the next 15 years, it's likely that all work will be shaped by AI before 2050".
"Generative Design combines parametric design and artificial intelligence together with the restrictions and data included by the designer. According to Celestino Soddu, a researcher at the Politecnico di Milano, “it is a morphogenetic process that uses structured algorithms like non-linear systems to obtain unique and unrepeatable results, executed by an idea code, as in nature” . The analogy with nature illuminates some important parallels. Taking the example of a tree, a large trunk that is wider and stronger at the base resists all the pressure and tension caused by the wind and its own weight. From there, several other increasingly thin branches emerge, culminating at last in the leaves. There are no leftover materials, and the forms adopted are the most suitable for their habitat. In places with a lot of wind, the composition of the tree will be very different from that of another in a sandy soil, differentiated by a process of natural selection occurring over millions of years. This same reasoning can be used in art, design, and architecture".
"While damage control and preparation is an ever increasing factor in how we plan our cities, certain extraordinary circumstances, like natural disasters, remain outside of our ability to plan and demand quick architectural responses that offer instant aid to the people affected, often being the difference between life and death... By comparing the two approaches to emergency construction, it is possible to study how well they respond to different circumstances, and, consequently, to mix the two approaches as a way to facilitate a quick and efficient construction process that involves the communities that they are benefiting".
"One-third of the entire continental U.S. are at risk of flooding this spring, especially the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and Deep South. Last April, deadly floods decimated parts of Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Iran as well, resulting in a low estimate of 1,000 deaths while tens of thousands more were displaced. While architecture cannot solve or even fully protect from the most deadly floods, it is possible – and necessary – to take several protective measures that could mitigate damage and consequently save lives".
"In a world centered on visual communication, as explained by Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa in his book The Eyes of the Skin, 'architecture has adopted the psychological strategy of advertising and instant persuasion' where it seems that graphs and hand-drawn plans are increasingly making way for "striking and memorable" visual content. For the untrained eye, for example, exact measurements are not as significant as the lighting, the quality of materials, the textures, the shapes, the colors, or any of the other elements that create the image's atmosphere: the implicit content that communicates beyond the image itself".
"Recycling and upcycling of materials and structures have become more and more popular in architecture as alternatives to the production of components in construction, typically associated with increased energy consumption and high levels of pollutants released into the atmosphere. The main difference between these two methods is that, while the former uses a certain amount of energy to process the material before it is reused, the latter does not require this process, but rather reuses it just as it was discarded".
"Our society is flooded with campaigns to recycle paper, plastic, and metal- so much so that it feels ingrained in our nature to properly dispose of our soda can or plastic cup in the right bin without a second thought. But what about how we recycle the buildings we tear down? If a building can’t be repositioned for adaptive reuse, how can we transform its materials and give them a new life through initiatives that help reduce the number of obsolete materials that we pile into landfills?"
"despite the most recent health concerns, economic disparities, and environmental and social calamities the world is still heading towards dense urbanization with more people moving to cities and requiring safe and healthy housing, which is not always easy to come by. In fact, a recent UN report suggested that “nearly one-quarter of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or encampments, most in developing countries but increasingly also in the most affluent. Living conditions are shocking and intolerable. Residents often live without water and sanitation, and are in constant fear of eviction.".
"Denise Scott Brown once said: “Architecture can’t force people to connect; it can only plan the crossing points, remove barriers, and make the meeting places useful and attractive.” Although it cannot control the outcome, architecture holds the potential to set the stage for chance encounters and social interactions, thus nurturing community building and influencing the fabric of our social culture".
"The tiny home trend has been hard to ignore over the last several years. There's an increasingly saturated market of TV shows and Pinterest pictures dedicated to the topic of exploring micro-dwellings where your home is reduced to the size of a walk-in-closet and each room takes on a triple-duty programmatic role has only increased its popularity. What looks enticing on reality TV is often much less desirable in real life, and as people continue to long for a lifestyle that frees them of material goods and the ability to travel, what does this mean for the actuality of tiny home construction? Is it just a wanderlust fantasy that no one actually lives and was there ever any promise to its realization in the mainstream world?".
"Sheltering is a fundamental issue in Architecture. The ways of living and interacting with the space in which we spend our daily lives is an everlasting debate in the field, which is committed to providing a better quality of life, but also to developing new ways of living. By adding other aspects such as real estate speculation, high housing density in urban centers, the pursuit of nomadism, or even the sheer desire to follow a trend, the debate around small-scale houses becomes even more relevant. And so, we ask ourselves, what is the smallest area required to live in?"
"Human impacts on Earth are a common issue nowadays, and many people say that there is no turning back. Climate crisis, greenhouse gases, exploitation of natural resources, production of solid waste and atmospheric pollution are some of the most pressing issues that the global community must address if we want to ensure a sound future for the next generations. These topics can be viewed in full-color and high-definition in the new book Overview Timelapse: How We Change the Earth, by Benjamin Grant and Timothy Dougherty, which compiles 250 satellite and drone photographs of places on Earth that are in constant transformation".
"Although most guides, norms and theories start to include peculiarities, seeking to cover as many people and realities as possible, it is not difficult to observe how many of our architectures and cities remain resistant to the different possibilities. Would it be a modernist, shaping and even oppressive heritage hanging in the air? Is this an architecture shaped by the proportions of man or an attempt to shape its inhabitants? Most immediately, readers should remember – don't worry if your proportions didn't resemble those of the Vitruvian Man".
"ArchDaily is proud to announce the 2020 Young Practices selection. This premier edition highlights emerging offices that are providing innovative approaches, proposals, and solutions to some of the main challenges Humankind is facing right now. From climate crisis to racial and gender issues. From technological disruption to social cohesion. These challenges are shaping the evolution of architecture, leading the discipline towards a new society and a new economy.".
"As the forces shaping our built environment have shifted, engaging technology, networks, and complex systems, architects need to envision more than the physical space but produce narratives on how to best operate within this new societal landscape. In this context, speculative architecture seems to have never been more critical."
"With more than 5500 different projects published during the year, our curators are excited to share this collection of the 100 most visited projects of 2020. This selection represents the best content created and shared by the ArchDaily community over the past 11 months".
"Despite all the hurdles and the pain, 2020 did not fail us in terms of content. Reacting to the global situation, ArchDaily's team of editors has tackled all the pressing issues that occurred this year and influenced the worldwide state of turmoil. While the whole planet was on pause, these writers were in search of critical substance, seeking to produce exclusive editorial pieces that highlight present-day topics and concerns”.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: 2020 In Review. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.