Buildings of the future
Entrepreneurial minds never settle. They always search for improvement, which – before it becomes mainstream – is considered avant-garde. We spoke about the trends in modern architecture with Hani Rashid, a visionary thinker and one of the most important specialists on digital architecture.
As a person who is constantly exploring the limits of the feasible, you're accustomed to working with avant-garde materials. What does the future of construction materials look like?
People are taking two approaches. First is the current trend toward stronger, more affordable and more versatile synthetic materials – increasingly relying on nanotechnology to achieve greater rigidity and develop better adhesives, paving the way for revolutionary structures. The other approach emphasizes organic, sustainable materials, such as those derived from mushrooms or microorganisms.
This must require a total mind shift!
The construct of organic systems – which are characterized by growth and decay – poses major challenges to our thinking as architects. Of course, the visions of architects are confronted with the deeply rooted traditions of a global construction industry that tends to be conservative and focused on economics.
Cement production is responsible for nearly 8 percent of global carbon emissions. Recently an "eco-concrete" was discovered that produces 30 percent less carbon dioxide and consumes 15 percent less energy. Will such environmentally conscious materials have an impact on future construction projects?
Absolutely. I'm also thinking, in this context, of advances in glass technology that are making it possible to convert solar energy directly into power. As I noted, however, all of these things are subject to the laws of supply and demand.
Multidimensional printing, combined with high-tech materials and new types of construction, could trigger the biggest revolution in our industry.
From pistols to pizza, there are few things that can't be produced with the help of a 3D printer. Apparently entire houses have been manufactured using a printer. What does that mean for architecture?
Multidimensional printing, combined with high-tech materials and new types of construction, could trigger the biggest revolution in our industry. It has the potential to produce a paradigm shift, much as the introduction of one-point perspective into the world of painting did during the Renaissance.
In what sense?
That brought about a radical change in our perceptions of space and time. For instance, we may be able to print wall elements whose translucency changes in the course of printing – allowing us to depart from the wall/window paradigm that has remained unchanged since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Visions notwithstanding, certain requirements still have to be met when a structure is designed and built, for example with respect to cleaning. In the United Arab Emirates, sand can be a major problem with photovoltaic glass. What solutions can you envision?
In a word: robots! While designing the Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi, we discovered a newly developed glass surface that literally repels dirt. It would be even more efficient to use microrobots programmed to travel across glass surfaces. I think microrobots will be used to buff self-cleaning glass that is coated with transparent solar cells. And if I might continue to fantasize, I'd predict that chemical processes within the glass, controlled by artificial intelligence, will regulate the amount of shade when the glass is exposed to direct sunlight.
Elevators, the main arteries of a skyscraper, are reaching their physical limits. How realistic are the new cable-free designs that various companies are developing – electromagnetically powered capsules that transport people through curved tubes from the street to the building's hallways?
I'm enthusiastic about these new approaches to mobility. These new elevators can transport people, but also goods, waste materials and entire building components. These systems, coupled with artificial intelligence, will have an enormous impact on our work as architects.