As a 170-kilometre-long mirrored megacity in the Saudi desert made headlines last summer, global issues such as the housing crisis and climate change are galvanising ambitions for a new generation of high-tech cities. In the race to become a new tech-, garden- or smart city, our studios this year were challenged to slow down and reconsider the future of our urban - and natural - environments. What role do we as architects play in shaping these places and spaces and how bright can we paint these futures?
For our First Year students, we started to reimagine potential futures by exploring the past: The briefs ‘Seeding Memories’ and ‘Vernacular Investigations’ invited them to explore their personal memories of plants and their associations of local identity, materiality and tradition. These lessons were later translated into ways of caring, growing and reinvigorating a local neighbourhood in East London.
In Years Two and Three, the design briefs for a Future City were also formed around one of our core principles of community, circularity and craft. How could architecture for the future city create meaning for the ‘Homeless’ (DS2.6), be of ‘Public Service’ (DS2.7) or be a catalyst for radical social change for the community (DS3.1)? Seeing the future city through an environmental lens, could design develop novel ideas for ‘Urban Ecologies’ (DS2.1), create a new relationship between dwelling and nature (DS3.7) or form synergetic relationships with the wilded landscape (DS3.2)? Studios explored new ways of grafting buildings (DS2.5), crafting city fragments (2.4), and responding to material scarcity, developing social value through ways of engaging with communities (DS2.2).
The year allowed us the time to explore how the 5th industrial revolution might impact on our way of living (DS3.5), how ‘Dialogical Cities’ (D3.3) could adapt as needs change, and how the physical and digital boundaries might fundamentally change the very notion of cities (DS3.4), where they might start and what they may evolve into. With over half of the world living in urban settings and with five billion people living in cities by 2030, we hope that the ideas developed in our studios this year will create the seeds for collective memory and desire, and places for fresh cultural and environmental imagination.
Thank you to all Studio Tutors and the Course Team for taking on this year’s challenge, and a bigger thank to all students for their focus, dedication and continuous creative energy.