Towards a Future Architecture

3 Revolutions & 9 Ideas reinvent architecture & design v 13.08.15

OA | Open Architecture

Architecture sits at a nexus point of change, the tipping point of a new era; this era demands not that we change our design style (though that will be a resultant effect) but more fundamentally how we work both individually and as a professions — it demands an equivalent revolution as when the profession was conceived and we seed our current institutional infrastructure. It demands a systemically redesigned institutional infrastructure.

In the wider world this transition has already begun — from the birth of Outcome financing in public service procurement, social network tuning, Hippocratic oaths for MBA, design studios for entrepreneurs, Predictive & prescriptive in urban data science driven analysis, behavioural economics in the field of policy intervention and co-design and co-production to unleash the collective intelligence and belonging of stakeholders .

These changes will almost certainly reconfigure our cities, towns, suburbs and villages and intern drive change into the profession whether we are prepared or ready to embrace it or not — and make no mistake, there will be no “back to normal”; we are at the dawn of an entirely different discourse on architecture.

This will be a paradigm shift, in which societal usefulness [the performative impact] of Architecture becomes both quantifiable, comprehensible, comparable and communicable. It becomes a new viable lens for comprehending valuing, affecting bankers to public servants, and architecture. This therefore presents a moment of critical reflection for us as a profession. A moment to rebuild & redesign our selves and most importantly ask ourselves some questions.

Have we helped design places that deliver the best possible social and economic outcomes, or were they simply the most substantial ROI for short term financial instruments? Were we swept away with the moment, celebrated creators of cultural accoutrements in a glamorised global media? Did we relinquish our professional duty to uphold the public good, in service of the few and superemacy of short term capital?

In a decade where government policy started to understand the relationships between place and genuine well-being, where were we in terms of building, contesting, and manifesting this reality into local strategies? In a decade where Web 2.0 has revolutionised the capacity of citizens to engage, map, mobilise, and co-produce, why did we still focus largely on proprietary CAD systems and corporately bounded BIM to arrange “dumb” matter. In an age where the value of design is so systemically being recognised in across so many fields from business innovation, coding, services development — how come the architectural profession struggles to justify its existence?

These are some of the reflections that we are facing as both citizens and practitioners, and as a profession and they are driving the birth of a new architecture; an architecture which is embracing democratised production, an open source culture, the behavioural economics of place, the new meta-materiality of architecture and finally the reality of an impact and outcome driven world.

The 3 Revolutions of Architecture

  1. Unleashing the collective intelligence of architecture. Unleashing the collective intelligence of architecture. We are in the process of recasting our means of production of design from the visionary architect, to being built on unleashing, synthesising & growing the massively collective intelligence, knowhow and design participation of multiple stakeholders — from users, citizens, to supply chains, engineers, to financiers.
    We are increasingly become designers not just of the buildings but of the beautiful massive process — focused on collectively hearing, synthesising, and empathetically involving the everyday vision, mission, intelligence of all stakeholders to create design — from users, employees, citizens to supply chains to create a discursive architecture for the public good.
    This is architecture that cannot be predicted but is an emergent truth and adoption of many participants.
    This is the beginning of the massively open & democratised revolution of architecture. This is a shift which seeks to unleash the potential of a mass open collaboration both globally and hyper locally. Organisations like Wikihouse.cc is only the beginning and already they hosts possibly the largest collaborative architecture R&D ecosystem in the world. When this global means of open collaboration is fused with the democratisation of production where organisations like the opendesk.cc, are creating platforms where anyone globally can both upload designs and modify and print manufacture them locally — giving us a glimpse of a plausible future — which is both hyper global and local.
  2. Impact Architecture. Increasingly we have begun to recognise & document the deep power of the architecture beyond the self congratulatory reference of star architects and industry awards- unleashing a newly recognised instrumental power of our design — for both good or ill [see http://darkpatterns.org] . Design practice is starting to comprehend and metricise its capacity to affect change driven by a variety of fields like behavioural economics, econometrics and cognitive psychology. These disciplines are shedding light and driving a data driven proof of the intuitive knowledge of architects on the factors, tools and design tactics that impact human decision-making and “nudge” our behaviours. This is a comprehension that design and architecture are powerful mechanism of affecting and influencing behaviours, interactions thereby empathy and culture. All in world where “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
    Knowledge from these fields is helping us understand why people behave the way they do, helping us use design interventions to reinforce, change and affect decisions, behaviours and interactions; along with helping us make more informed predictions and impact analysis about how people will behave when faced with new choices.
    This is a transition that puts architecture on the verge of unleashing a data driven future. An architecture which can metrically justify its impact and thereby align to a new generation of outcome and impact based financing from Social Impact Bonds to Impact Finance as whole. But also an architecture which needs a new 21st Century professionalism and a new social contract in order to legitimately support the democratic choice architecture of citizens.
    With new metrics of impact and new forms of outcome financing we can drive a systemically different economy of design built on the 1:800 lever effect of investment in design to human outcomes — and thereby driving a systemically different “architecture” judged on its performative effect. This is an architecture that moves beyond the media shot to the long term impact and influence over human behaviour — this an micro massive architecture — many micro interventions driving massive affect.
    This is an architecture focused on driving positive performative impact at the level of citizens.
  3. The Architecture of Place not Building. Architects, architecture and most importantly clients are quickly realising the creation of place needs design to embed, accelerate and choreograph the multiple frameworks of place simultaneously — shared language, cultural norms, social networks, products, services performative metrics, matter (yes, it still matters) and ecological systems.
    This is a form of practice that has realised the massive missing performance gap attributable to architecture, born by the miscomprehension of architecture as act of organising matter not place, and the wider frameworks which seed place.
    This practice is building a new typology of architecture — one which curates and designs a multitude of flows to build systemically different architecture be it — Scale Free Schools, The Impact Hub, Open Institute or The Library Lab. This is architecture not as noun but as a verb — an architecture that is iteratively evolving through participation and use.

A Bright Tomorrow

This is not a anti design argument — in fact the reverse — it could be argued design innovation is the highest order of innovation — the ability to firstly resolve and synthesise to a combinatory value higher than the discrete technological, social, economic and organisation requirements/innovations whilst placing the citizen at the centre — is for the challenge of design.

We are entering a world rich in opportunities, and more than ever needing of our skills. Together these new realities are driving a new typology of architect, architecture and new profession. This is a profession which will need to build fundamentally new capabilities, tools and process and adopt new ethical positions — a new 21st Century Professionalism.

This is Open Architecture — open source at core, data driven, radically democratic and impact focused built by design.

We have a unique opportunity to synthesise these new capabilities that increasingly shape and reshape place, harnessing their potential in service of a better world. To do so will require us to abandon the certainties of the past, and embrace the unknown of an emergent future. Such a path will challenge us to reboot our profession systemically and our institutional infrastructure — in order to make it fit for purpose for the challenges of the 21st century.

8 Interventions to reinvent architecture..

Any true transformation of the profession cannot in this age be led by few small, new “young” practices sharing ideas and evangelising — it will require a systemic institutional evolution.

The following are 8 institutional infrastructure propositions focused on driving systemic disruptive innovation of architecture and it’s institutional infrastructure.

1. Introduction of an Hippocratic oath for architects with ensuing liabilities in reference to the long term social and environmental performance of the built environment they design.

2. Shift the Business model of architecture from its current base as percentage of cost of constructions towards being priced on basis of the Outcome Performance. Image Social Impact Bonds for Architecture.

3. Reimaging the process of architecture to be focused on unleashing the collective knowledge, intelligence, innovation, and belonging of all from users to citizens.

4. Driving a new field of data/evidence & hypothesis driven architecture/urbanism — by both establishing new demand using public procurement requirements & supply by investing in growing the open source evidence base (funding 100 new PhD in data & evidence driven design & behavioural economics) — focused on the use of architecture & built environment)

5. Seeding the creation of a data commons for all registered architects and their design data/ information — with the introduction of new open cooperative licensing and GitHub typology of platform

6. Establishing a viable open source file standard for design data — with smart open version & variation control

7. Redesigning performance metrics of architecture & the built environment focused on the performative effect & their social and environmental outcomes I.e how does a piece of school design optimise learning per ¥€$ invested or accelerate innovation per ¥£$ invested as opposed to sq feet developed

8. Seeding 3 new 21st Century schools of architecture — as advanced polytechnics — built around on a studio “learning in the wild” framework delivering a curriculum — focused on a systems approach to the design of place — big data driven design, behaviour economics, social physics of place, econometrics, politics of change, impact analysis, ethnography,

Let’s start this revolution

Like many things this will need to be built by many people — the above is contribution and an invitation to radically edit, challenge & evolve this future.

Indy Johar on behalf of Architecture 00 http://www.architecture00.net/