Architecture has always been molded by the technology that makes its construction possible: steel construction and elevators enabled building heights that were taller than the average person could climb via stairs, air ducts enabled more closed-off rooms in lieu of a plan centered around a fireplace for heat, and even consumer electronics have in some ways replaced the hearth as the place for family gathering. Instead of changing the way we construct new buildings, advances in consumer technology offer new ways of using current spaces, both in the form of reuse and in applying a new layers of information to the built environment.
Consider the number of parking garages that currently exist to house our vehicles when not in use. With the rise of autonomous vehicles, firms are beginning to imagine a future where your car, truck, or minivan is not stationary and gathering dust while you are sleeping or at work, but offering trips to others. LMN Architects proposed a parking garage with flat floor plates and a car elevator for project in Seattle, keeping maximum flexibility if personal vehicles became less common. The changing landscape of personal transportation and car ownership poses a massive question of how to retrofit and reuse parking garages for more human-centered activities, a new problem for designers and architects to help solve.
As phone manufacturers are packing higher quality cameras, faster processor chips, better software, and more sensors into our phones, companies are finding ways to supplant physical interfaces and objects. The newest releases of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems come bundled with augmented reality software letting you drop virtual objects into your physical space. Home phones, digital cameras, and portable music players have been merged into a single, portable device in a relatively short time. What other interfaces and devices may go this way, and as more aspects of the home become digital interfaces on a screen, how will architects respond? It’s hard not to look to science fiction (think Tron or Minority Report) for possibility, but groups like MIT’s Media Lab are already exploring augmented and connected physical interfaces.