WGSN – Design Futures: Architectural Innovations

by Ofentse Sefolo
WGSN – Design Futures: Architectural Innovations

We live, work and play in an ever-changing world, and there can be no doubt that these changes will heavily influence the world of architectural aesthetics.

Sustainability, working from home and smart buildings have already become common cause in many modern-day designs, but what are the major future trends and where will they originate or take inspiration from?

In this edition, we feature green skyscrapers, container living, floating cities and recycled homes. One thing is clear: Architects are offering up innovative visions that will shape the built environment for decades to come.

A recent report published by WGSN, titled “Design Futures: Architectural Innovations”, has noted major trends that will become more popular, shape our worlds or perhaps even change the way we live in the future.

The report notes: “As an industry that literally shapes the cities of tomorrow, architecture is at the cutting edge of innovation, and developments here will impact many other fields, including transport and lifestyle. By tracking emerging trends in architecture, designers can get an early idea of how consumers will live in and experience future-built environments.”

According to the report, the main developments in architectural innovations are:

1. Organic futurism: Digitally sculpted buildings take on more organic influences, looking to natural elements for design cues which are evolving into a more organic design direction.

France-based Interstellar Lab’s aim is to learn from the challenges of living on Mars to build “space-inspired villages” on Earth – made up of closed-loop biomes called EBIOS.

2. Decolonising design architecture and special equity: As the world deglobalizes and decolonises, architecture spotlights pre-colonial traditions and local materials by creating more meaningful local narratives, creating a long-term shift in architectural approach.

Adjaye Associates Edo Museum of West African Art, Emowaa Benin City, Nigeria. Photo: Dezeen

3. Radically green: Verdant green cities and plant-filled skyscrapers are on the rise as many people’s ideas of the city of the future and post-pandemic city planners, countries and consumers plan for green recoveries, which is becoming a rising priority.

Koichi Takada Architects Urban forest planted housing, Brisbane, Australia. Photo: Dezeen

4. Modular and adaptive: Prefabricated components and reconfigurable houses offer a low-cost, sustainable solution for rising urban populations.

Julien de Smedt, Othalo plastic housing. Photo: Dezeen

5. Sea steading: New visions of floating and underwater architecture are igniting the cultural imagination – ala water-world.

Photo: Dezeen

6. Glass and mirrors: Statement-making buildings use glass and mirror-shine to boost light and create dramatic reflections. Award-winning architects, Zaha Hadid Architects’, 36-storey skyscraper in Hong Kong features a curved glass facade and will include two tree-lined balconies and a sky garden.

Render by Arqui9

7. Neo-decorative: Recycled materials and augmented technologies provide a new wave of decorative flair.

Architect Julien De Smedt has developed low-cost modular homes made of recycled plastic for Norwegian Othalo.

8. Timber constructions: Sustainable, tactile and low-cost, mass timber constructions are gaining traction.

Photo: Andrew Pogue

Learning from current projects

• Sir David Adjaye’s Edo Museum of West African Art, which is being built in Nigeria’s Benin City, will focus on enabling objects to be viewed in their pre-colonial context. “From an initial glance at the preliminary design concept, one might believe this is a traditional museum, but what we are really proposing is an undoing of the objectification that has happened in the West through full reconstruction,” notes Adjaye.

• In India, architect Bijoy Jain engages with traditional Indian masonry and craftsmanship, creating an architectural language that acknowledges his country’s pre-colonial past. “I knew that we could build like we used to build,” Jain told the New York Times in 2019.

• Local materials and ancient construction techniques are coming to the fore. French-born, Mexico City-based architect, Ludwig Godefroy, drew from indigenous Mayan techniques to create Casa Mérida. This concrete house’s fragmented layout is modelled after a Sacbe, a Mayan city road system. Álvaro Siza’s Casa Wabi in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, has a thatched palm roof made using traditional Palapa construction methods.

• Indian architect, Bijoy Jain, built Utsav House in 2008 in Alibag. His work balances multiple countries’ influences – particularly Japan – with traditional Indian craftsmanship and masonry.

• Portuguese architect, Álvaro Siza, used a range of local materials and construction techniques in Casa Wabi, an artist’s retreat in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, including a palm-thatched roof and Oaxacan clay.

What does this mean for the industry?
By 2050, two thirds of people will live in cities, and populations will need to move frequently – in part due to climate breakdown, which will make some areas of cities and countries unliveable. Modular, adaptive housing will be key to accommodating these long-term needs. Prefabricated components are increasingly important in architecture, offering a low-cost, adaptable and sustainable construction method.

Architects must move closer to the changing aesthetics and priorities within architecture, as it is a valuable way to see macro trends playing out on a large scale. As architecture gradually changes focus to tackle climate adaptation, building more sustainably and with greater equity, these shifts will become a much stronger influence of interior architecture and product design.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to www.wgsn.com for the use of the information from their report to compile this article. For the full report, please visit their website.

Main image: The Wave cultural hub

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