Exploring the Future of Communities and Economies

December 5, 2018

Written by: David Stavros

Originally published in Middle East Architect November 2018 issue

Our skyscrapers are reaching new heights and as building technologies continue to advance, the next generation of towers might just stretch the limits of today’s imagination.

When the Jeddah Tower rises from the desert in 2020 in Saudi Arabia, it’ll be crowned the tallest building in the world – pushing the boundaries of what we once believed possible. As our cities grow vertically, how do they also remain safe, functional, and relevant to the needs of tomorrow’s citizens?

While the notion of vertical cities isn’t new, what is new are the intricacies of ever-evolving social and cultural factors that impact the viability of these developments. Communities the world over are experiencing the complications that have arisen from “business as usual.” Governments, the private sector and citizens alike are looking to new development to solve critical issues: economic disparity, equitable access to safe employment and clean resources, sustainable food production, over population, and so on. Now more than ever, we need creative solutions to ensure that building higher and higher, and denser and denser results in positive gains to humanity.

To support communities and bolster economies, today’s towers combine office, retail, residential and other uses. Who will occupy these buildings in the future and perhaps more importantly, who will own them? What does an office look like in the future? Do companies even have offices? What is the purpose of a physical environment when automation and AI become inextricably entwined with the human experience? Today’s mixed-use approach enables a more efficient distribution and use of resources based on current consumption but what is its potential as new energy systems, water distribution models, materials, and technologies emerge?

Can a tower be completely self-sustaining? Even regenerative – giving back more than it consumes? What if, rather than mining building materials we grew them, and we grew only as much as we needed? What if our towers produced all the food their inhabitants need? We believe the goals should be to create skyscrapers as viable and resilient organisms that fulfill the needs of people and communities while protecting our finite resources.

Computational design technologies like virtual and augmented reality, parametric design and 3D printing, along with big data from GIS and other sources have transformed the creation process allowing us to test a building’s responses to specific environmental conditions and push the boundaries of conventional form. We’re forging new partnerships between people and machines to co-design the future. What conceivable limits can we push when we blur boundaries and combine the expertise of materials scientists, biologists, energy companies, neuroscientists, and beyond to explore possibilities?

At B+H, we’re asking questions. We’re architects and designers, but we’re also business planners, organizational design and brand specialists, researchers, data analysts, and real estate professionals. We collaborate with our clients, helping them to dream big and to co-create a future where we can all be successful. We leverage our skills to explore and develop scenarios informed by the human experience, our clients’ business goals, and the art of the possible. The future is calling – join us.