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Future of Architecture – Looking at architecture in a crystal ball.

Arts & Culture

Imagining the Future of Architecture

What does the future of architecture look like? Will we toss out everything and be living and working in an entirely different system? Or, will the field evolve more gradually? Board & Vellum principal, Jeff Pelletier, looks 20 years ahead to explore how – and where – the profession may evolve in the years to come.

April 10, 2017

What the heck will I be doing in twenty years?

Much has been written about how the design profession has been shifting and trying to evolve over the years, but the promised revolution never quite happens. So thinking about what the profession might look like in a few decades makes my head hurt a little bit. (I'm going to assume it will look pretty similar in just one decade, for the sake of simplicity.) I'm not necessarily a brilliant predictor of change (unless I am? Only time will tell, right?), but when tasked with thinking about the "architecture of change" and how the industry may evolve as part of this month's ArchiTalks blog post, I thought I would dive into five predictions of what my career might look like in twenty years, based on nothing more than my whims and observations.

  1. Successful firms will embrace fully what it means to be customer-service-oriented. In many ways, how we treat our clients and present our services will, I think, be far more important than what actually gets designed. I can see this evolving into a friendly and approachable retail-type environment occupying space at higher end "lifestyle centers," like University Village in Seattle.
  2. Our documentation will finally fulfill the promise of coordinated, 3D, data-intense models that are easy to use. Our office uses Revit, and it has been promised that'll it'll do the trick each year. I still think it is decades away from actually really doing all that we want it to. What we have to work with now is good, but what's possible is incredible.
  3. Most design firms will hopefully have integrated a science-based approach for sustainable and intelligent building techniques. While so much of architecture is art, so much of how a building performs is science. We are now diving into the benefits of that in big ways with strategies like Passive House, but I think there is so much more potential.
  4. This is likely more controversial, but on the custom residential side of projects, I think that the design-build approach is going to fade away. There's been a big push for this over the past few decades, and yet I've seen the pendulum start to swing in the other direction. While I know that an integrated practice with landscape, architecture, and interior design has a lot of shared benefits, I feel that the skill of building is often distinctly separated from the art and science of design. There are firms that do it well, but I believe that in the end, an assembled team of specialized professionals will win out over a design-build firm that attempts to handle both sides of needs to be a balanced equation themselves.
  5. My fifth prediction will perhaps be a little sad to hear for those that love hearing about our magical future. Honestly, I believe that in 20 years, the profession is going to look much the same as it does now. After hearing 20-years-worth of talk of how modularity, sustainable building techniques, and 3D BIM software was going to drastically change what architects do, the reality is that it has helped the profession evolve, but it hasn't revolutionized it. In 20 years, I'm going to be using better tools to work with my clients on well-designed and intelligent projects. There will be data behind the building details, immersive 3D models documenting the design, and a client-friendly approach to our process, but in the end, it'll still look and smell like the job I do today.

Architects will always take on custom projects that require unique solutions – it's the nature of the profession, and where we excel. We can (and will) evolve and improve upon the process, and there will always be aesthetic trends that come and go, but my bet for the future is on that architecture and the architectural profession look pretty similar to what you see today.

The architecture of change is going to look a lot like the architecture of evolution.

This post is part of the ArchiTalk series organized by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect. Historically, he has selected a theme and a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s posts. This year, the themes have been selected by a variety of contributors. This month’s theme is “architecture of change,” as selected by Lora Teagarden of L2 Design. To read how others interpreted the theme, please explore the links below.

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks : Architecture of Change

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture for change

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architect(ure) of Change

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
architecture of change: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Change -- The Document Evolution

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
The Architecture of Change

Brady Ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
The Architecture of Change: R/UDAT

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Architecture = Change

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
My Architecture of Change / Hitting Pause to Redesign My Life

Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@architangent)
Architecture of Change: Building a Legacy

Samantha R. Markham - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
3 Things I Hope Change in Architecture

Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
The art of Architecture of Change

Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
The Architecture of Change

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
The Architecture of Change

Would you like to read more from the team?

If you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy writing it, that just makes our day! You might also enjoy a few of the related posts below. And, if there is a topic that you wish we would cover, let us know!

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Works by Daniel Ash & Julianna Karr in the “By Others” Gallery at Board & Vellum

Ready for a new show in the By Others gallery? We’ve been on hold for construction, but we are back! For November’s Capitol Hill Art Walk, we are hosting works by two artists: Daniel Ash and Julianna Karr. Read their artist statements, here, ahead of the November 14th opening reception.

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