The world is facing an Urban Century. The world’s population is collapsing into city centers as manufacturing and agriculture need fewer humans because technology replaces the human hand with machines. The world’s urban population has grown from 751 million in 1950 to 4.46 billion in 2021 and will grow to 6.68 billion by 2050.
Architecture has long been a profession in aesthetic apartheid. The profession’s favored aesthetic, Modernism, has relegated all other “styles” to marginalized insignificance in laud, teaching and publication. The last generation has seen those following an aesthetic deemed “traditional” create an entirely separate system of schools, awards and publication.
Humans try very hard to make the inexplicable understood. Our spirituality becomes religion. Fairness becomes law. And what delights us becomes aesthetics, and aesthetics are dumbed down to “style” in fine arts and architecture. The description, then definition, of aesthetics enables us to judge, and hopefully, control what thrills us: “Styles may change, details may come and go, but the broad demands of aesthetic judgement are permanent”. — Roger Scruton
We deal with buildings every day. We sleep in them, work in them, live our lives using their accommodation. But like a song or a painting, a person usually helps create them, with those who use and build them, then the world receives that work. But before they are built, buildings are just ideas.
Almost no one buys an automobile for its stated price with cash on hand, so those looking to buy a car look to what the cost will be each month to own their automobile. Homes are our deepest investment, and most homeowners are equally as proud of their home as they are of their car and are terrified of its cost. So it is not surprising that “Net Zero” homes use the same sales tactic, proving their value by promising no monthly energy bills.
If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture. – Oscar Wilde
Some years end up being cultural pivot points. 2021 was one such year, with COVID-19 as the first existential threat to our culture since World War II. Architecture will change as a result, and may evolve in public perception to value motivations as a criteria for understanding it, versus valuing outcomes as the validation of any particular aesthetic.
When the 2008 Great Recession destroyed advertising revenue for all of publishing and limited the cash that architects had for PR and photographers, the established way of promoting architects and architecture was brutally compromised. That same moment saw the instant availability of smartphones, with insanely good cameras, huge memory, and soon 5G transmission. Those technological revolutions turned graphic duffers into artists. Anyone can now photo, video, and narrate any perception anywhere, instantly, free – and share universally. The cliché of saying that the internet “everything changed” is true in how the world sees architecture.