Architecture decides its future II lifestyle
Five prestigious architects reflect on the evolution of cities and housing to find a common response to the challenges of tomorrow, centred on the concepts of sustainability, architectural restoration and technology.
The world is accelerating at increasing pace, with the instant – the ‘now’ – being seen as the only valid time: architecture is responding by reflecting and rethinking its classic principles, looking instead at ‘tomorrow’ as a priority.
This reordering of values and standards has plunged half of the profession into a relentless search for responses and solutions to cement the foundations of the future, with a focus on our proximity to, and dialogue with, the environment.
Sustainability, architectural restoration, artificial intelligence, the pedestrianisation of urban centres and self-sufficient housing are some challenges architecture will need to confront in the coming years.
We delve into what direction the discipline is taking with five internationally renowned architects, and analyse what role the industry’s professionals will play in making this urban and cultural transformation of cities a social reality.
First drafts here.
Carlos Lamela: “Technological development and humanisation are complementary concepts”
He understands architecture as a discipline capable of uniting new needs with old aspirations in pursuit of social development. This philosophy is at the heart of the latest and perhaps most titanic architectural work Carlos Lamela (Madrid, 1957) has embarked on in recent years: the Centro Canalejas development in Madrid. The development is home to Madrid’s Four Seasons Hotel, a luxury hotel complex comprising 200 rooms and suites, 22 commercial residences and a shopping centre.
This is precisely the circular vision of history and architecture the architect follows at Estudio Lamela. “Perhaps our studio is a little atypical because it’s a high quality studio where we’re seeking excellence in everything we do. We ‘do’ architecture, but much of the time society isn’t demanding architecture, but construction – and I’d say that 90% of what is built isn’t architecture”, he points out.
“We don’t need to think about what construction will be like in ten years, but about what it will be like in 50”
To reverse this trend, which requires “strong agreement between the authorities”, Lamela proposes strengthening industrialised architecture and increasing financial resources to improve building quality and services. “We don’t need to think about what construction will be like in ten years, but about what it will be like in 50. To do this we already need to be investing in the necessary financial analysis – today”.
And in this architecture of the future, where “technical development and humanisation should not be pitted against each other, because they’re in fact complementary concepts”, “common sense, wisdom and the study of history will be key to not repeating the mistakes of the past”, he predicts.
With more than 60 years of experience behind him, Lamela’s style can be seen as you walk through the streets and buildings of Madrid, the city he has dedicated much of his life – and of course his work – to. Highlights include Barajas Terminal T4, the expansion of Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and Real Madrid City.
Vicente Guallart: “Cities must be part of our natural history”
Eight years ago Vicente Guallart (Valencia, 1963) set out his vision of the cities of the future. He did it in a literary and architectural treatise, entitled ‘The self-sufficient city: Living in the information society’ (RBA, 2012). In it, he put forward some of the ideas being discussed in architectural circles today to address the climate and demographic challenges facing tomorrow’s cities.
Self-sufficiency, the use of new technologies to create neighbourhood networks for business and solidarity, the recovery of public space, smart housing and ‘supermanzanas’ are some of the new social and urban situations that the twenty-first century megalopolis must address. “I’m working on a new paradigm that I’ve come to call ‘biocities’, where the circular bioeconomy is applied to urban planning. The idea of combining natural principles, the principles governing forests, and applying them to cities is the next major challenge for the urban planning and architecture of the future”, the architect himself points out.
“This new paradigm is about building cities that capture CO2 but don’t emit it, marking the return of nature to cities”
For Guallart, “cities must be part of our natural history. Whilst the industrial revolution highlighted how urban planning and economic growth went against nature, the new paradigm is to build cities that capture CO2 but don’t emit it, marking the return of nature to cities. I always say that the form follows energy“.
His theory – which is now being put into practice in Xiong’an (China) with the construction of the first self-sufficient wooden houses with greenhouses, energy roofs and 5G networks – champions the circular economy from the perspective of environmental protection and digital humanisation. “Our project in China symbolises this idea that radical innovation must start in city centres. The problem is that urban planning is now focused on making rules and doesn’t provide a stimulus for creation”, he says. And he puts forward what we need to do to halt this urban paralysis. “The idea of making cities productive will be the big debate of the coming years, because if a city can produce the majority of the resources it needs to live, it will be able to develop the economy of life. There is a dual relationship between how we want to live and the level of freedom we want to have to see what types of infrastructure we want to build. The major issue is whether we are moving towards a shared and collaborative model, with buildings that can produce energy and food and recycle their water, or a closed and somewhat exploitative model”, he reflects.
“It’s about building cities that promote life at the pace it moves at”
This reformulation of cities, which is about nothing more than the lifestyles happening in it, should lead to a more autonomous society where individuals can produce the goods they need within their urban habitat. “It’s about building cities that promote life not at the pace of the economy, but at the pace of the movement happening in them,” he highlights.
From his architecture studio Hunasai, Hugo Navarro has responded to the challenges of the future from different angles (residential, hotel and healthcare) by using artificial intelligence and healthy materials. “We need to design spaces in which there’s interaction between users, with wellbeing and performance as the main objectives”.
“We need to design spaces with wellbeing and performance as the main objectives”
And urban architects will need to play a key role in this shift. “Urban architects play an essential role in our ability to analyse, assess and project these types of measures, which are crucial to cities that want to change in terms of mobility and the new functionality of public spaces”.
An architectural transformation in which technology must facilitate a healthier and more comfortable life. “We’re gradually introducing smart technologies which are shaping a completely different lifestyle. Smart TVs and mobile apps are kick-starting our route towards these homes of the future, which will be intuitive above all else”, he predicts.