Monday, December 31, 2007

The Future of Architecture: 2050-2100

The last 2 blogs mentioned the book 'The Philosophy of Sustainable Design' by Jason F. McLennan.
The last chapter, The Future of Architecture, summarizes what the author thinks may transpire in 10, 20 and 50 years from now.
Here are his predictions for the Next Half-Century 2050-2100

Despite the predictions of science fiction in the 20th century, humanity will not create new colonies on the moon or on distant planets. Indeed, the rising difficulties on earth will capture most resources away from space travel and the folly of human space conquest. The focus instead will be on keeping this planet safe for life. Population numbers will peak 50 years from now, kept in check by the availability of resources, disease and war. Almost every country in the world will see some sort of population stabilization or decline due to the enactment of population policy, mandatory education regarding birth control options and resource scarcity.

The effects of global climate change will be difficult for even the richest countries to adapt to. Great changes to society will emerge. The world will be a much poorer place from a diversity standpoint, both in the diversity of natural systems and species, but also in terms of cultural diversity and language. Future generations will scorn the excesses and arrogance of the people of our generation. And yet, finally, through it all will emerge a truly sustainable society, transformed scarcely 50 to 75 years from today. The level of the living building will become the baseline for all buildings in the future. Our communities will produce no pollution through energy use and no waste from things they create for use. A true eco-economy will have emerged that balances the use of resources with the earth’s capacity to handle its harvest. While we will continue to suffer from effects of the 19th and 20th centuries in a multitude of ways, in the end, despite hardships not seen since the middle ages, I believe we will endure. I think we will prove smarter than the bacterium, even though we have not yet proven so. Our true intelligence will be displayed, not by creating additional earths or crazy schemes to inhabit other planets, but by living peacefully on our own blue rock. And when we look back we will see the efforts of many great people, sustainable design philosophers and regular folks, an army of individuals who realized that they needed to do things differently. Perhaps this army includes a few who will read this book.

Along the way fundamental belief systems must change to reconcile with our true place in nature. We will finally learn that our economy is a subset of natural systems, not the other way around. People will make the shift from the short view to the long view of the world. They will shift from the promotion of technology for the sake of itself to technologies that enhance life of all kinds, for all time. They will make the paradigm shift to the realization that we are wholly dependent on an intricate web of life for our survival. They will even shift the metaphors and language that they use to describe themselves and their relationship to nature. They will realize once and for all that their place in the world is no higher, or no lower than any creature on the planet, and that all are part of the same act of creation.

Our biggest challenges will be to overcome the inertia of the status quo and the cult of inevitability. We will have to say no to certain types of progress, and insist, as citizens of a democracy, on other kinds of progress that benefit us. We must find ways to foster co-operation among the citizens of all nations and insist on ideals as important as universal standards of living and the rights of all species to survive in dignity. We must, as Linda McQuaig writes, rekindle ‘the notion that we can collectively achieve great things, indeed that we can achieve even basic things that were regularly achieved centuries ago – lke providing work, shelter and food for everyone in the community’. In this case, it must be the world community. We must also abandon the ‘cult of the individual’ that produces a race to the bottom for society, we must abandon our blind worshiping of the market just as strongly as the belief that some government can save us.

In other words, we must take responsibility for our actions, our appetites and our mistakes. We must push our leaders to set examples and hold them accountable, and find a way, a system that rewards us for self-restraint. We must push for the adoption of revolutionary ideas, not just slow evolutionary ideas. The future we desire requires a culture of peace and forgiveness, rather than a rhetoric of war and punishment. We must help the developing world skip over a century and a half of polluting technologies and industrialization that we created. We must fight for universal equality rights, for the disparity we have today is shameful and contributes to a multitude of problems for all of us. We must find ways to slow and stabilize population growth and promote the well-being and education of women and children. And from this day forward we must save everything we can through a system of conservation and stewardship un-paralleled in history. No small order. But we can do it.

And through it all our architecture will continue to be a critical part of what makes us unique along with other habitat builders. The future of architecture will remain the same as before in many ways, while being completely different in others. Architecture will continue to play its role as our protector, sheltering us from the elements and giving us comfort. It will continue to play its role as a manifestation and expression of our culture and ideals and inspire us to dream and create. But in the future our architecture will also reconnect us to the natural world and, indeed, become part of it, restoring and enhancing the places we build. The future of architecture is bound inextricably to the future of living buildings. The future of architecture is sustainable.