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Flexible Buildings: The Future of Architecture

The Future of Architecture with Flexible Buildings


In motion and the global dream of prosperity and a better future so pervasive never before has there been so much need for space we’re living in this period of extreme urbanization right now particularly when you see what’s happening in latin america and africa in india we need to build as many buildings in africa in the next 15 to 20 years as have been built in europe in the last 200 years that’s an unbelievable [Music] the biggest problem that we are facing are the issues of division the issues that come out of inequity [Music] we have to act now for the sake of our future architects urban planners and engineers around the world are looking for answers to some of the most pressing questions of our time how can we as citizens of our planet live together happily in the future where is there room for the future [Music] anyway [Music] [Music] the question of how and above all where we will live in the future inevitably leads us here to the city it encapsulates the modern world and all our conceptions of modern life it is where some of our greatest success stories begin where new opportunities await it’s a place of longing made of steel concrete and glass i think the attraction of cities is many fold the history of cities is about managing the surplus from the countryside so when agriculture surplus existed markets were set up and then when that became more more regular phenomena at whichever stage of their history people began to settle it was always a place that had opportunity because it meant the wealth got concentrated there in it meant that one service led to another and more job opportunities existed but really cities are condensers cities are where you can gain anonymity cities are where you don’t carry the bad baggage of any social dislocations that you might have experienced cities allow you to feel like you can start again from scratch on an equal footing [Music] the lights of the city they draw us in from far and wide even today more than half of us live in urban areas by 2050 it will be almost 70 percent every year the global population grows by 80 million people the issue of overpopulation is first and foremost an urban problem when many people dream of the same place the space for dreaming becomes scarce every condenser has an upper limit of how much it can actually produce productively both in terms of societal cultures but also in terms of economy and all of that we were taught by our teachers that there’s nothing like a city being too big that just wasn’t a problem cities got bigger they would have more facilities they would do more things etc but now suddenly three decades later i come to teach here and what i’m telling my students is cities have an upper limit [Music] boston massachusetts one of the oldest cities in the united states it is considered an attractive place to live partly thanks to its proximity to some of the country’s most prestigious universities one of these is harvard at the harvard graduate school of design the indian architect and urban planning expert rahul mehrotra teaches about the future of cities born in mumbai the challenges of metropolitan life have been at the front of his mind since his early childhood cities are no longer mono-functional it’s not just a port town the 10 things that happen simultaneously in a globalized world there are 100 things that happen simultaneously in the city so the the city becomes incredibly complicated in terms of the aspirations that it’s trying to respond to and therefore design becomes even more critical because those contestations mean you have to resolve them and space can be a very important aspect uh in terms of of resolving these yet urban densification in the modern era has traditionally looked like this countless high-rise residential buildings packed into a very small geographical space it’s the classic image of urbanization in asia’s mega cities but in the united states many cities are growing outwards covering ever more land the fact that urban space is growing primarily in these two ways results from two technologies the first is the elevator it has enabled us to live at previously undreamed of heights the other is the car it is precisely these technologies that many architects today see as a major problem the car and the elevator are forms of mobility technology that are more than 100 years old they are both one could say human isolation systems just look at los angeles this is the iconic car city it’s extremely flat extremely spacious here we isolate people as much as possible we separate them from each other in an extreme way we require them to consume a lot of fuel and in doing so produce a lot of co2 and other pollutants the other extreme is the idea of the vertical elevator city if we now look at hong kong for example where the average living space is around 15 square meters for me this is the moment from the matrix when neo wakes up and somehow pulls the plug we think it’s science fiction but now it seems closer to documentary we’re almost there [Music] and it’s driven by a technology like the elevator which allows us to stack space vertically and let people hatching it like chicken sex that can lead to social deprivation these are fixed ways of thinking in terms of what a city should look like which i believe we should free ourselves from i think that planners investors politicians at all levels should engage in rethinking the city as much [Music] an architect from berlin has numerous visions of what the city of the future could look like his designs have names like babel town instead of showing individual buildings they show entire neighborhoods parts of a city that appear lifted straight from the set of a science fiction movie [Music] that’s how futuristic his designs seem to be they ask what the city of the future might look like if we dispensed of conventional forms of mobility like the car and the traditional elevator [Music] some of these are provocative images that may look utopian at first glance but there’s nothing utopian about them the babel town was simply the idea of how the linear movement of a tram or a train could be turned into a spiral the same goes for the village the idea was to see what happens when we have a diagonal elevator a zigzag movement we wanted to show how the movement through the space is always the inspiration for the space itself just as it is flat in a car city and vertical in an elevator city that’s exactly the same only other mobility technologies serve as the input and inspiration for the design [Music] current concept was also based on this principle he calls it the urban shelf a neighborhood complex in which there are no cars taking up valuable space but where people move from place to place with the help of so-called micro mobility solutions which are extremely flexible [Music] instead of thinking in terms of finished architecture we’re focusing on the infrastructure that makes living together in a neighborhood possible in the first place this starts with the basic structure and includes the floor the ceiling and the load-bearing structures and the necessary infrastructure for water and electricity everything is built like a giant shelving system floors are stacked one on top of the other with the shelves filled in between them there are no individual buildings but rather a single superordinate structure the idea is that these shelves will be connected with ramps for e-bikes which can then easily ride up the hill providing access to pergolas and public spaces that are found on the different stacked layers and in between there is room for living and working that’s the basic idea it can be a very flexible way of building it’s not casting concrete so it can change over time material function size what happens between the shelves is completely flexible only the basic structure is built to last forever there are no high-rise residential towers here or multi-lane highways as glib as it may sound schwitala has created his design with people in mind the urban shelf seeks to provide solutions to the densely populated city of the future but aims to do so on a human scale it creates meeting places that we otherwise lack in cities today not just on one level but on different levels people can actually meet and interact on several different levels and that we believe is how we can and must ensure the social sustainability of a city of the future through social exchange we go to the city to meet and interact with others in berlin formerly home to one of the city’s airports it is the largest open space in the german capital this morning max vitale has converted this space into an experimental laboratory it is the first step in turning his design into reality via an app a virtual map is created that makes the urban shelf a livable experience all that’s required is enough space and the right vehicle max’s colleagues provide support during his test drive here you can see the path that you can follow you can also see some neighborhoods or buildings that you can’t drive through but the key thing is the path which is shown here in blue island if we now project the virtual designs from the computer onto the surface then we can literally experience them for ourselves by cycling through these neighborhoods and getting a sense of what it feels like then we can see if the curves are a bit too tight or if it’s a bit too long and straight and therefore a bit boring that way we can adjust and change the designs again after experiencing it out here in three dimensions every day sritala sees how the need for alternative forms of urban mobility is becoming increasingly urgent parts of the heavily congested leipzig strasser in berlin have recently seen a speed limit imposed due to rising levels of air pollution of course we don’t have the same traffic problems that we see in mexico city or in india or in other developing regions and the mega cities they have there but even here you notice the fine dust pollution so we have to ask ourselves how can we get the cars out of the city how can cities continue to grow we also need more affordable living space there’s enough for us to focus on here in europe schwitala’s architecture studio often works together with companies from the mobility sector itself these include car manufacturers and elevator builders such as audi and schindler the industry has long recognized that it can only remain sustainable by providing new [Music] solutions for sritala and his colleagues the future of our cities depends on our willingness to rethink established structures the urban shelf frees itself from the idea of architecture as a design spectacle and instead offers a system-based solution one that is individually adaptable to any location to any social structure it can be foreign the shelf contains space both for luxury apartments and affordable homes we studied the idea together with students in brazil and found that it would make sense to have the basic structure financed with public money to build the essential infrastructure and then have the people living there build the living spaces within it their neighborhood with their own hands a bit like they do in the favelas already but within the structure of the urban shelf that’s also what we were aiming for a certain versatility and visual diversity in the appearance of these living spaces [Music] in southern germany this dream may soon become a reality the first urban shelf has just been created here while not yet a fully fledged urban neighborhood offering micro mobility transportation options it will nonetheless provide space for people to meet and socialize students and refugees are intended to live here we don’t want to create the kind of architecture that separates people from one another or force people to be part of a but neighborhood believe that we should at least provide the opportunity to those who want it because if we really want to create sustainable cities and happy urban residents then i believe that neighborhoods are a measure of how we can support social interaction and contribute towards it [Music] no matter how rapidly they grow our cities must continue to be places of social interaction the strength of our communities is an important indication of how well we are able to live together the form of the city the space that we make and we occupy is critical to fostering the notion of the city as a condenser the place where there are social interactions that give rise to innovation and then they give rise to creativity and they construct and manufacture culture and you know the arts come out of it films come out of it which is what you and me and all of us thrive on and again here architecture can play a big role or it’s creating conditions where there’s more polarity build a wall do this keep people out there’s a polarity and that polarization process is accelerated seen from a distance the city skyline is full of promise but the closer we look the more it reveals a quite different reality the centers of our cities have long ceased to be places of community in many parts of what are called global cities of shanghai of dubai of new york and manhattan and hudson yards you have tall buildings huddled together with very few lights on in those apartments because these are this is just speculative people have invested from around the world tons of apartments that just lie empty five lights on on a 30-story high apartment um so it’s got no relation to people coming there its relationship is the capital that has arrived there what this does is two things one is that it creates a hyper importance for architecture the materiality of these buildings are materials that can be deployed very quickly this dry construction it’s metal cladding it’s glass which can go up very quickly because the more quickly the building can go up the more quickly capital can realize its value and then the other thing it does is it creates inequity because then marginalizes a lot of people because this capital then occupies usually prime space in the city which has got the best services which has got where the jobs are then you have a complete disjuncture between working and living and you have massive iniquities that play themselves out just spatially because the poor just get fled to the edges of the city for example a glance at some of the world’s largest cities show what when taken to their extreme such developments can lead to from the favelas in rio to the slums in mumbai and new delhi more than 1 billion people live in so-called informal settlements today this figure could triple by 2050 how cities grapple with this is going to be a challenge because uh cities are about people living together and working cooperatively and if you can’t live together in a city you can’t have a city the system breaks down you don’t have to travel to the developing world to see what this looks like this problem has long been part of western societies as well a stone’s throw away from harvard university is the massachusetts institute of technology known as mit more than 11 000 people study at this elite university but they can’t live here while there are plenty of laboratories and offices available there is nowhere for people to call home the decision about land use is captured by international companies or real estate developers that want to maximize their returns so as a result in this neighborhood we have no grocery store there’s no pharmacy there’s no daycare center except for mit people there’s no health care facility you would have to walk a long long ways to be able to buy broccoli or a toothbrush and very few people live here i mean what little housing is here is only for rich people so at night it’s completely dead here because it’s not it’s not really a functioning community it’s not that urban planners don’t care about these issues but they don’t really have the tools to have an impact on them now researchers at the mit media lab are building these tools the study group city science is looking for ways to make towns and communities more livable for their inhabitants through the use of new technology the group is led by kent larsen previously an architect he is now focused entirely on research one of the applications of technology that we are that we are most excited about is to reinvent the process using technology and the decisions about land use neighborhoods and entire cities can be simulated on one platform what happens when new homes and offices are built how does the flow of traffic change how many inhabitants are too many which parts of the city are busy and at what times this is kendall square where mit is it’s a one square kilometer district mit now has control of 14 acres this this area right here and they are going to be developing this in the future it’s the last opportunity to turn kendall square into a real functioning community so you can see most of the buildings here are represented by these codes so o is office r is residential so then when we run our simulations we’re taking into account the mix of people of different demographic profiles that might live or work in each of these locations and we can change those on the fly the model has been fed with data sets that allow countless scenarios to be simulated and urban planning to be carried out in an interactive way idea is to be able to predict the consequences of planning decisions the individual components of the model are like building blocks that can be exchanged which has an effect on the entire neighborhood lego bricks are used to simulate the construction [Music] with this kind of tool you can have lay people on the one hand who live and work in the community be involved in an interactive way in the process and you can have the mayor and the staff and the civic leaders be involved in the process so we think of it as a democratization of design of putting very powerful tools that are currently only available to experts in the hands of non-experts to engage them in the process this dialogue between urban planners investors politicians and citizens is an attempt to meet the needs of those who actually live in the city [Music] the first projects are already underway we’re working in hamburg we used a tool just like this to help them address housing for the refugees we’re working in helsinki to help them redesign the campus at alto university this model over here is a street in shanghai near tonji university eventually what we’d like to do is to turn this into an open source platform that anybody could use i’d like to see it in hundreds or thousands of cities all over the world [Music] and in this case this is the other thing is that we had cameras it’s really critical that urban design urban planning become more agile more adaptable in the future the notion that you can create a master plan that gets passed by a city and that’s valid for 10 or 20 years when technology and economic systems and social patterns are changing so rapidly i mean that’s just it’s just an invalid concept the old ways don’t will never be fast enough [Music] on its mission to improve city life the city science group is interested in more than just urban planning another innovation of theirs robotic interiors was also developed at mit the scientists are working to answer a specific challenge how flexible can a single room be [Music] you go back to roman times you still design the same way the idea is that a space is basically for a single function you have a bedroom with a bed where you sleep in a dining room with a dining table where you eat in a living room with a couch where you entertain and you end up with all these rooms and as you begin to shrink the apartment because there’s no choice in the city because land is so expensive that you get to the point where you can’t have single function spaces it’s just impossible for years the students have been working to develop a solution even breathing new life into office furniture their initial prototypes already show that a single room contains a whole lot of space [Music] by means of a light barrier and sensor the living room turns into a bedroom while the kitchen transforms into a bathroom [Music] a dining table suddenly appears where a desk had been standing and now the research project has turned into a commercial startup it’s called ori living from origami and it has already raised over 20 million dollars in investment capital [Music] the transformation and the design of spaces with the appropriate technology allows you to configure the space in an effortless way for whatever function is at hand and that’s a very hard challenge but you know we’re beginning to make that work and i clear i think that is the future i’m totally convinced that in 10 15 years every apartment will have this in the city urban space is too valuable to be static innovations help us to overcome the challenges we will face in the future and yet when it comes to building we are still not innovative enough to ensure we will even have a future the urbanization of our planet has led to an insatiable appetite for new buildings worldwide four million tons of cement are produced every year the construction industry is therefore responsible for a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions and the use of precious raw materials we’re running out of resources you know as buckminister fueler said we’re on spaceship earth you wrote a book called a manual for spaceship earth and what he meant by that is it’s got finite resources as gandhi said you know this planet is enough for our needs but not for our greed and i think we’ve moved into becoming too greedy there is such a demand for building materials around the world for example in china more cement has been used in the past three years than in the usa in the last 100 years if we are using our resources at a much faster rate than they can be replenished the same goes for sand we are consuming more sand than is produced through natural erosion sand is needed to make cement which is why it is so precious for the construction industry that it could ever run out is hard to imagine after all about one-sixth of the planet’s land surface consists of sandy deserts but this type of sand is unsuitable for construction [Music] for to make cementing you need the kind of sand where the grains interlock and thereby stick together this does not take place with desert sand and so it cannot be used and that’s why the city of doha for example despite being located in the desert has to be built with imported sand qatar imported 6 billion worth of sand into the desert last year the effects of this multi-billion sand trade are disastrous the need for building materials is so great that sand is being sourced illegally beaches are disappearing riverbeds are being dredged so much that their flow rate is changing all so that newer and ever more ambitious building projects can be realized in the world’s major cities we have to change our thinking we have to remember that this is the only planet we have and we want to ensure its continued existence and that’s why we have to consider how we can best use our available resources and in a small town in the german state of thoringia that is exactly what is happening a new building material called polymer concrete has been created [Music] these bricks could revolutionize the construction industry as they are made largely of the raw material that has so far been unsuited to building desert sand [Music] gunter are the inventors of this miracle substance together they founded the company polycare [Music] that seems to make quite a difference sand always contains dust particles which are of no use to us if i pour it like this you can see the dust rising we can’t use this dust the past few years of research have made the two men something of sand experts they know exactly which weight and size of grain are required for their specific purposes their time in the laboratory is spent perfecting the formula of their building materials sand is sucked into the machine and a polyester resin which is a liquid comes out of a tap the two are mixed together and this mixture comes out at the front towards an outlet pipe we add a hardening agent it’s a bit like baking a cake you add the baking powder to the cake mixture and the cake rises the polyester resin that is added to the sand is a plastic yet has similar properties to tree resin this is polyester this polyester resin moistens the sand and glues it together what’s special about our polyester resin is that it consists of 38 recycled pet bottles so basically we’re gluing desert sand together with recycled plastic bottles to form a building material that will essentially last forever the great advantage of polymer concrete is that once it has been applied and becomes solid it’s completely non-absorbent and releases nothing into the environment takes about 20 minutes for a brick made of polymer concrete to set this is unbeatably fast compared to conventional concrete and it has another clear advantage the production process requires no water at all and generates significantly less co2 the result a lego brick for adults that can be created quickly and above all easily [Music] the the idea of producing a construction material came to us after a natural disaster the terrible earthquake in haiti in 2010 my colleague gunther plutner and i got together and thought about what we could do to empower people to rebuild the island themselves and that’s what inspired us to produce polymer concrete using small machines on site and make lego bricks from it so that this would become possible but first the company is working in a completely different part of the world namibia a place more in need of a revolutionary building material such as polymer concrete is hard to imagine not only are there vast amounts of desert sand but the country also suffers from extreme drought gerhard dust is continuously visiting namibia to realize construction projects the humanitarian intention behind the material has not been lost when you’re here it’s hard to imagine that in other parts of africa things are quite different that there are problems with overpopulation and a severe lack of housing here everything is still spacious and free the whole continent used to be like that and the problems that you see today in lagos or in cairo will appear in namibia at some point are already people here who live in tin huts simply because there’s nothing else in a small village in the middle of the mount echo nature reserve the latest construction site is located here a church is to be built entirely from polymer concrete except for the site manager the workers are unskilled because the construction itself does not require any specialist training [Music] these bricks have the same opening at the bottom as they do at the top and that’s why you can simply put one on top of the other and it fits all of us played with lego when we were children i think that’s why the principle is easy to understand if children can do it why not grown-ups too the exact number of bricks that will be needed for a building is calculated in advance this helps reduce the amount of construction waste i believe this one is this one is a little bit too high not only that the plug-in system requires neither mortar nor any other binding agents [Music] to make sure the walls are completely stable the bricks are also screwed together using these long threaded screws [Music] in just five hours the entire facade is almost finished miriam chico doula is the good soul of this project miriam tells us that the community is only getting a new church at all because of the donations of tourists from germany and america their current church is merely a shipping container with door and windows it’s very small and it’s very hot and when it is cold it’s very cold there’s many people some they stay outside we open there and some people stayed outside there i i see the church is very important because if somebody gets sick or they have any problem they will come to church asking you for their prayer and you pray for them [Music] a few hundred kilometers further south near the capital windhoek a new supply of building materials is being produced for the past few months the first polymer concrete bricks made directly in namibia have been created here the first production facility outside germany we have a new team made up of 15 women and 15 men from the neighboring shanty town we’ve been in production here since february and are producing enough materials for one new house every day sand from namibia is turned into bricks that look different from the ones we produce in germany simply because the sand is a bit we different to see the houses that are built here how the people live in the houses and how it changes their lives we also see how the lives of our workers change that’s what’s so great about it right [Music] the shanty towns on the outskirts of windhoek more than a third of the namibian people is said to live in such makeshift settlements [Music] and yet a house made by polycare has already been built here previously a model house presented to the namibian government the company has since donated it to the philip family before that their living conditions were quite different it was small we didn’t have a kitchen like this so we mostly used to do our cooking outside the house when the render will come is going straight inside they destroy the tv wired everything is not good house [Music] so everyone just is dying to have a proper house as you were coming you could have seen on the road that most of the houses here are just made of iron these iron houses so they all want to have proper house a decent place to put their head and yeah a place where they can call it home [Music] with the help of government and private funding policare wants to offer many more people the chance to live in homes like this their initiative is finally off the ground and it’s now high time to scale up their building plans the moment is the power industry at the moment the construction industry is focused on the market for expensive or high-end building methods this makes no sense in every country in the world we have problems building enough social housing and if we don’t deal with this challenge our problems will only increase [Music] the challenges we will face tomorrow require new solutions and new ways of thinking especially in the fields of planning and architecture paris during its storied history the city has produced many important architects and buildings they have made the french capital one of europe’s most beautiful cities today a new generation of architects is emerging at the confluence institute they are learning why architecture must open itself up in order to change the world [Music] in architecture it’s important to think about philosophy politics business sociology geology geography all of these disciplines play a role in what the architect has to do and all these fields must come together to inspire the architect’s designs [Music] architecture is a culture that absorbs and transforms things to allow something new to emerge from them anyone who has studied architecture can design something but the challenge lies in bringing all these disciplines together and that’s what we’re focusing on here after all people who have studied architecture should be in a position to change the world various architecture schools and universities but she often found the way architecture was taught too rigid to conservative to theoretical so she decided to found her own school of architecture and pursue the questions that interested her what is the role of the architect and of architecture today and how can they solve the challenges of the future there are some architects who carry out data research they take data sets and use them to analyze the location the environment or the city and then determine what people in effect what the customer needs without ever bothering to meet the people they are designing for and getting to know them the human dimension has completely disappeared in architecture that’s actually what i regret the most and that’s why i think we need to bring the humanistic idea back into the training of architects when constructing a building you have to deal with the person you are working and designing for you have to understand their wishes because their wishes are the basis of our work unfortunately this is rarely talked about in architecture schools today [Music] how these wishes can be incorporated into architecture as directly as possible is the subject of josephine bora’s master’s thesis her concept allows the shape of a building to be determined by the brainwaves of its inhabitants in josephine’s thought experiment the architecture even changes as the brain waves change thus reacting to the inhabitants emotions and needs [Music] the idea was to ask what would happen if the human body and architecture had some kind of common technological dna we are rethinking how we will build and live in buildings in the future using a 3d printer the geometric shapes created by the brainwaves are translated into real models [Music] the prosthesis [Music] the principle works [Music] nowadays we can gather brain waves and transcribe them into geometry of course we’re not able to interpret brain waves and to say what someone is thinking or feeling at any given moment but we can collect clues about a person’s sensations feelings or impressions [Music] the idea of this project was to question our future role as architects it’s about bringing together a range of disciplines and realizing projects that touch not only on one aspect but on several aspects of a field from neuroscience to urban planning the students designs could sometimes be mistaken for modern art the young architects experiment dream find unusual perspectives often it seems less about the feasibility of a design than about the idea behind it [Music] what would it be like to live on the [Music] moon [Music] if our profession only requires us to follow rules and design buildings that comply with the regulations of the day then the job of an architect will eventually disappear if architects or as i prefer to say people who studied architecture because not everyone necessarily ends up becoming an architect have a vision of the world a viewpoint and are able not only to do their job but also to imagine the future then architecture will continue to play a role in the world [Music] we must start thinking about tomorrow today and act now for the sake of our future when i teach i always tell my students how much i envy them because they belong to a generation that is about to reinvent architecture for the next 100 years isn’t that fantastic [Music] designing how space will be used in the future has never been more important it’s a daunting task because so much is at stake [Music] how and where we will live together in the future will not only be decided by architects urban planners and engineers but they can play their part in ensuring that this where and how will continue to exist at all [Music] i think those problems come to us with every project but we choose not to see them we choose to make architecture the autonomous object we seem to take the brief only from the client while we also have the responsibility for society we are responsible to our patron because they are supporting us but we are responsible to society because we are going to make an implication for them so we have to expand our ambition as architects to expand the agenda be clever about it and be respectful and honest about it and i think pedagogy has to do this we have to teach young architects this and we have to demonstrate this and we will talk much more about it that’s a very good way to begin

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