The Internet of Architecture Things

Architects in the adaptive city

Benjamin Bratton proposes that one half of all architects and urbanists stop designing new buildings. Instead, they should be focusing their attention on the design and development of new software that provides for better use of structures and systems we already have.
Bratton proposes the above as an ‘experiment,’ I would go further and suggest that in the coming decades, the architects and urbanists in Bratton’s proposal will have very little say in the matter. Architects will surely have to drastically redefine themselves and the entire profession if they are to survive.
For centuries, one person, or one group of architects, urban planners, politicians, whatever have been defining their perfect city, suggesting that their solution is the perfect answer to urban living. The daily living and working conditions of a city should not fall to one person or one small group. The city and its people are constantly changing, perhaps now at a faster rate than even before, both in population size and culture.
A population can quickly outgrow its city or region in the space of one generation. The people change and the city lags. It’s for this reason, the future city should be an adaptive, inter-connected, self-organizing network that can respond to users’ needs on a scale and at a rate not currently available. An adaptive city that can respond to change immediately, relieving the population of the short sightedness of politicians and urban planners.


The unoriginal manifesto

It’s a strange feeling when you realize that your ‘original’ design philosophy is anything but. When your personal “aha!” moment has been aha-ed long, long before you. What’s more, its one thing to be beat to the punch by your colleagues or contemporaries, but entirely another to be over 50 years late to the party.
My naiveté was made painfully apparent whilst reading the works of CIAM, Jacobs, Archigram, Chtcheglov and Constant in particular.
To give some context, let me quickly present what I thought was my personal contribution to centuries of Architecture:
A self-organized, inter-connected, digital city. One continuously in flux. Responding and adapting to the populace on a scale and at a rate currently unavailable to today’s technology. The city, (though, perhaps urban-organism is a better word (that an architect would use at least)) observes patterns in its people and responds accordingly. The city is a continuous feedback loop: the people shape, both physically and culturally the city and the city in turn shapes and influences its people. Interaction is encouraged, the collective efforts of the people mold the city, rather than one urban planner or one planning committee. Finally, and most importantly, the architecture profession will be a thing of the past.
Admittedly, the modernism critics of the 50s and 60s may not have been thinking of a “digital city,” but an adaptive, self-organizing, user defined city has made itself so clearly unoriginal that I cringe to think it was mine.