The Shape of Things to Come

‘The Shape of Things to Come’ was the title of the 1971 Newsweek article which explored the role of the architect to help shape the built environment for the future. Coming off the heels of the World Exhibition in Montreal in 1967, there was the message that we must aim our efforts towards solving the challenges of humanity. The writer Douglas Davis wrote in the piece “Today for the first time in history, we are at the point where we can build exactly what we want for every human and social purpose. In that sense, architecture is now at the very frontier of our consciousness, at once the most practical and visionary of the arts.” Expo ’67 was the first World Exhibition to transcend pure nationalistic promotion with national pavilions and the like, and rather positioned focus on humankind and the planet and how we could make it better, through our collective use of innovative modern technology and design. To follow Expo, there were many speculations and built prototypes tackling this challenge. Examples included works by Team 10, Buckminster Fuller, Paul Rudolf and Kenzo Tange, and the continued study of the Habitat building system, setting a career-long interest on the topic of an industrially produced housing design with the mission for everyone a garden.

A few years later, in 1974 the Saturday Review published “The City in 2024 A.D.” The premise- a probe into the future- what will the city, the environment be like in the year 2024?

In this studio, we will engage in a thought experiment which will position us into the future, with a commission to design a mixed-use high-rise development in downtown Boston on the waterfront. The client has requested that the project represent the latest in ‘all season design’ in that it must transform completely for the hot summers and frigid winters. In addition, the designs will follow the latest Boston Planning and Development Agency Resiliency and LUSH greenery incentives programs. What will be the lessons learned from the Pandemic of 2020 where we learned to work from home and improve archaic mechanical ventilation systems? How will we uphold the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals and related professional design guideline circulars? How will our life be transformed by the move to compulsory electric and shared-car usage?