Countries around the world have urban, suburban, and rural problems- and it’s all connected by the problem itself. There are too many highway systems. In some cities that are notoriously known for their traffic jams, like Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Atlanta, there are almost five miles of road per every 1000 residents. This has also impacted how some forms of public transit, like rail cars and busses, operate, significantly reducing their efficiency. So why do we build these superhighways, and how can we fix their congestion?
B.S. in Architecture and Master of Architecture from Ohio State Knowlton School. Senior Contributor at ArchDaily. New York, NY.
Almost one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, life is starting to feel like it might regain its sense of normalcy. With promising vaccines being slowly rolled around the globe, the focus is shifting away from the immediate, and into what the future looks like- including where people want to live. At the beginning of the pandemic, stories all across the media claimed that cities were dead, people were leaving as a permanent measure of safety and well-being, and that the real estate market would experience a long and slow recovery to the boom it had experienced in the pre-pandemic world. But there’s been a shift, and it’s happening fast- people are returning to cities almost as suddenly as they once left them.
It’s true that all trends are circular, and what was once seen as old and outdated becomes new and modern again- in fashion, music, art, and especially architecture. From the mid 20th century, brutalist architecture rose in popularity before reaching its peak in the mid-1970s, when it was disregarded for being too stylistic and non-conforming to the needs of clients who wanted their buildings to feel timeless. But the love for these concrete beasts is facing a resurgence, and a renewed appreciation for this architectural style is on the rise.
You might be surprised by this, but the days of shopping in stores are long from over-, in fact, they’re experiencing a renaissance, and are creating a whole new type of design and experience to bring consumers back through the doors. The rise of e-commerce and the pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have served as a perfect catalyst for creating a whole new type of experience through unique design features, technological advancements, and customization that will revitalize physical stores in the future.
Understanding what drives economic, social, and educational disparities between communities is one of urbanism’s most critical and highly-discussed topics. It’s an increasingly complex issue, with many factors at play- one of them being the design and location of desirable urban green spaces. While sometimes they are a tool that helps to bolster underserved communities in terms of health and economic benefits, safety, and climate resistance, other times they can actually drive out the residents that they are created to serve. Now, the challenge lies in how to design these recreational sites to create better futures for all.
As long as cities have been around, there’s been one pressing question central to their future: “What makes urban areas desirable?” Over half of the world’s inhabitants live in cities and that number is projected to climb over the next decade with more than 5 billion people inhabiting urban cores globally. To prepare for this demand, cities are finding ways to be more desirable, draw in talent, and entice both big and small businesses, all while finding more ways to create equitable living opportunities for all.
Architecture is never an accident. It is a carefully planned out scheme of patterns and styles that respond to natural surroundings, celebrate materiality, and/or are referential of stylistic movements throughout history- all a means of understanding why things are the way that they are. There are different ways to understand how to analyze architecture, through the use of diagrams, patterns, relationships, and proportions to name a few. To both architects and laypeople alike, there’s a subconscious desire for a decision-making structure in design. As a result, architecture has become an exercise in self-positioning- a microcosmic reflection of the world around us as seen in the designs we build.
A new film by OMA / Reinier de Graaf titled “The Hospital of the Future” has been released as a part of the exhibition, Twelve Cautionary Urban Tales at Matadero Madrid Centre for Contemporary Creation. Dubbed a “visual manifesto”, the 12-minute short film questions the long-standing conventions in the field of healthcare architecture in terms of the methodology behind how hospitals are built and also why they are built in certain ways. Through an exploration of the role that disease has played in shaping cities, the film offers a lens into the future of what we might expect for healthcare design, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Think about the city or town where you live. How long does it take you to get to the grocery store on foot? Is your school or work close enough to walk to? What about a public park, a doctor’s office, a daycare, or any other places that you visit on a daily basis? While some cities have already considered what it means to live near all of these necessities, others are revamping their urban planning strategies and designing their neighborhoods to be more pedestrian-friendly with the concept of a “15-Minute City”.
Suburbs as we know them are changing forever. Partially exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic, residents are leaving cities in droves in search of more favorable living conditions where more space, privacy, and affordability offers what some consider to be a more comfortable lifestyle. But as time goes on, and development sprawls, it’s harder to tell where cities end and suburbs begin.
A home is one of the most significant architectural typologies that we experience throughout our lives. Largely serving as a significant private space, a home represents safety, ownership, and a sense of respite away from the rest of the world. It’s also historically been a place of routine, where we both begin and end our day, following the same patterns through different rooms of a home that we utilize. We can expect to sleep in our bedrooms, relax in a living room, cook in a kitchen, and eat in a dining room.
In a world that was once so obsessed with architecture that was “for the ‘gram”, the rise of TikTok is creating a shift in how we experience and consume architecture. It's no small trend either, nearly 950 million TiKTok videos utilize the hashtag #architecture, frequently to describe buildings in various cities or a specific architectural style that the video creator is familiar with. Does this mean that the era of the "instagrammable building" over, and is TikTok the new way to connect across generations and locations to explore the possibilities of architecture?
Cities would be nothing without the sense of experimentation and the future-forward push to always break the status quo in demand of a better urban life. As many successful urban designs and strategies as there have been, the world has also seen some not-so-successful ones, that have been pushed to the sidelines becoming a forgotten memory over time. While we look ahead and speculate about what the future of cities could and should be, maybe it’s time to take the lessons learned from these failed projects and pay homage to their misfortunes, so that history’s mistakes aren’t repeated in the present day.
Architecture, and all aspects of the design world, has experienced numerous movements throughout time that have defined the way we express ourselves through buildings, art, and other mediums. Created out of a dissatisfaction with the status quo or the emergence of new technology, there have been particularly notable design shifts and emerging ideologies over the last 100 years. This leaves us to ask the question- what design moment are we in now, and what characterizes it? How will we retroactively reflect on this moment of time in design, and will the COVID-19 pandemic accelerate innovation to bring us to our next design era?
With the promising news of a potential vaccine that could soon return the world to a semi-normal way of life, questions are being raised about what the future of public transit might look like. While some predict that it will be years before we revert back to the muscle memory ways of packing like sardines into crowded subway cars during rush hour commutes, it’s not just about how individuals feel being within close proximity of one another while moving about the city. It has more to do with how our other daily habits, which have been reshaped as a result of the pandemic, might change the overall goals for public transit systems around the globe. What strategies might be implemented to bring ridership back to normal levels and to bring the mobility landscape back to where it once was as society continues to undergo major fundamental shifts?
In the 1960s, Cristiano Toraldo di Francia and Adolfo Natalini, two Florence-based architecture students in their twenties, decided to undertake the substantial task of designing a new way for the citizens of the globe to inhabit the earth. Driven by the possibilities laid out in science fiction novels and the desire to prescribe design to solve the problems of their era, the duo, who dubbed themselves as Superstudio, sought to continuously reinvent their role in what it means to be an architect. Their solution was the creation of an “anti-design” culture as a means to provide commentary on politics, capitalism, and urbanism, by creating ideas in which everyone is given a functional space that frees itself of time, place, and the need for excessive objects.
This past summer, the nonprofit design practice, PennPraxis, in partnership with The Fresh Air Fund, piloted a new program, Virtual Design Studio, that sparked the imaginations of nearly 150 students to show how design has the power to change the built environment. Their courses, which were taught by University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design graduate students, generated multiple designs for a nature center operated by The Fresh Air Fund and public spaces in New York City and offered children an introduction to explore future careers in design that could have a lasting impact on their communities and the design professions for years to come. Over the course of seven weeks, these students committed over 150 hours to the program while also receiving a stipend.
Europe in the 1960s was an incubator for emerging provocative architecture radicals who defied traditional architecture dogma in favor of counterculture that transcended time and space. Coop Himmelb(l)au, a Vienna-based faction of this movement, questioned the clean lines, rigidity, and literal nature of modernist architects of the time. While the firm is known for their rebellious spirit and aggressive forms that are generated through state-of-the-art 3D software and technologies, it’s important to acknowledge the work that the firm did shortly after their inception in 1968, and how their early oeuvre still relentlessly breaks the status quo of modern-day practice and academic discourse.