What’s next for 2010?

On this New Year’s day, I visited the writings of my mentor in networked urbanism, Kazys Varnelis. Thanks to the interview in triplecanopy and his blog post 2009 in review, I’m feeling very dystopic and nihilistic about our future. But the academic pursuit of investigating our civilization’s pending collapse is a dead end. I’d rather pour my efforts into staving off this eventuality and originalgreen’s the Green Top 10 for 2010 lifted my spirits.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been immersed in developing my spring semester classes. So figuring out the emerging ideas/memes that are worth exploring in design studio has been very much on my mind. Okay, my perspective is as biased towards landscape architecture and sustainable urbanism, so feel free to disagree (in no particular order):

  • parametrics & scripting are almost dead and should have died 5 years ago. (you can’t design a building/city in flash, no mater what Winka says).
  • building simulation has some legs left, but only when symbiotic with bigger questions.
  • informal urbanism has it’s proponents but needs to be less about poverty voyeurism and more about ecological justice.
  • disaster urbanism/post-collapse/post-war urbanism is very apropos.
  • biomimicry seems pre-bubble, but might have some life left.
  • urban infometrics/networked urbanism has some juice, but Kazys has his doubts.
  • blobs are dead (hopefully) and should be buried 6 feet under – just witness the breakup of FOA.
  • living architecture, maybe. but only if this means exploring more about eco-technical systems then just grafting trees into the building’s skin or genetically modifying trees to become buildings.
  • vertical farms are still just an utopian pipe dream (but I’d love to be proven wrong).
  • agricultural urbanism is still fresh.
  • shrinking cities/dead malls/foreclosed suburbia will still be with us for another few decades and haven’t gotten enough attention.
  • housing for the next 3.5 billion isn’t getting enough attention.
  • media skins/cinematic facades seems very 90s tschumi, even as the technology is finally mature.
  • green buildings, well you better define what sort of green you’re into and don’t even bother greenwashing yourself.
  • metrics and benchmarks are the future, but I hope that nobody bothers to form a studio around LEED or the SSI ever again. leave this for something to pick up in practice, not school. those benchmarks grow obsolete and irrelevant as quickly as modeling software, so please don’t waste the students tuition on something they can only use for a year or two.
  • infrastructure is a dead end according to Kazys, but I still think that students need to be understand all these pipes and wires that are the life support of our cities.
  • landscape urbanism has been kicking around for over a decade, but I’m starting to see LUas a updated version of McHargian ecological planning driven design and just a chance to use big words.
  • industrial ecology seems to be off the radar, but worth exploring from a cultural perspective.
  • ruralism has been ignored by many schools, but many of the solutions to our urban issues are out in the hinterland
  • suburbanism should be blindfolded and shot, but to many folks like the status quo so we need to find a better approach.
  • eco-cities, something close to my heart, but Masdar & Dongtan are bust and seem to have just been a Potemkin Village or smoke and mirrors. There is real potential in figuring out optimal urban morphology for specific bioclimatic zones, but there isn’t any scientific justification or methods to go about validating the design/planning choices – this remains my current focus.
  • 2nd life architecture is dead.
  • facebook architecture ???? I hope not.
  • video game architecture – what’s the point of studying architecture/landscape if you want to play games – get a degree in animation or computer science.
  • starchitecture is dead, but hero worship has never died. studios by famous architects/’scapers (and their minions) will continue to be popular.
  • post-water urbanism and architecture is a topic that is urgently, urgently needed.
  • post-carbon/post-oil is a tasty flavor of pragmatic green architecture/urbanism that is growing in popularity (several symposiums on this topic have already fertilized the field).
  • sea level rise is another topic that I’ve seen several fascinating thesis projects explore and expect to become more common (especially in schools located on the coasts).

Overall, exploring/learning how to find pragmatic solutions to environmental/social challenges versus form-making is where I’ll place my money for the hot topics in design schools. If architecture and landscape architecture wish to stay relevant for the future, then this is where we all need to push the environmental design professions (and the AIA/ASLA/NCARB/CLARB/et al).

[related posts: 2009 in review, & fleeting memes of the fall]

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5 thoughts on “What’s next for 2010?

  1. i can’t figure out how we’re supposed to think about these things and also:
    work out flashing details;
    learn enough to specify floor coatings that work when exposed to brake fluid;
    predict underground springs and figure out how to keep the water from them out of elevator pits;
    understand school board politics well enough to stay out of trouble;
    keep a business running when doing good work means your fee gets reduced when bids come in; and
    plan routing, program requirements, and even a *business plan* (current rfp to which i’m responding) for an intermodal transit facility.

    this profession is crazy.

  2. there are two separate (but not mutually exclusive) modes of design – the critical and the technical. Most schools try to balance between the two, while practice seems to favor the technical. Maybe we arch/scapers need to acknowledge that there is too much for one person to master. oh yeah, we already hire consultants for everything from hardware to code. What most schools don’t teach (or teach well) are the business skills that define the longevity & profit of a practice.

    God is in the details, but somebody has to keep the big picture in their head. I’d nominate architects and landscape architects as being one of the best trained cohorts to engage in guiding the big picture.

    This profession is crazy (but teaching and practice are fun!)

  3. hm. maybe that’s my problem, barry. i’m not willing to divorce myself from the critical to embrace only the technical, or vice versa. typically i *don’t* hire others for code, and only for hardware when client says so. i seldom even allow interiors to go out-of-house.

    understanding all of the elements of praxis in which the architect has discretion seems to be necessary in order to both realize projects (maintaining some level of control over the results) and understand the larger implications of those projects.

    do we need to be willing to give something up in order to not drive ourselves crazy or is exactly this collision of numerous apparently conflicting considerations what makes this worth doing?!

  4. Happy New Year Barry! Hope all is well- Greetings from Iraq!

    Great list- very insightful blog you got here. Can you elaborate on what post-water urbanism is? As far as architects and the future, have you heard of Richard Swett? He was a Congressman and Ambassador to Denmark- wrote a really good book on the profession of arch.

    -Harry K

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