Evolution of architectural practice
Architecture as I consider it is the mother
of all art & science, because at its core it’s about the necessities and
future of all humans alike. Architecture tends to problem solving for the
community, innovation driven by technology, merging political and cultural
trends & building the foundation for society and communication.
Digitization of architecture has been an
ongoing process for a long time, because it involves so many little processes.
In this article I want to focus on the future of architecture via the route of
digitization of an entire country. For that, we need to focus on a futuristic
model of a city or a country in the process of digitization or claiming to be
completely digitized. Hence, gaining insight into the difficulties and
differences from the current standard.
Secondly, I will be focusing on the affect
of advancements in all other fields on architecture, for e.g. how advanced
VR/AR technologies will change the design methods of architects or how the
advancements in computer/mobile applications reduce the work of the architect
and involve the public more than before.
I am writing this article to identify the
flaws/ disadvantages or the benefits/ advantages of the future of digitization
of architecture as well as the world. My first argument would be the ongoing
lack of jobs will increase in percentages if digitization continues or will it
decrease? also, will digitization solve our problems or open a Pandora’s box?
Digitization has changed the entire field
of vision for humanity, for some more than others and for few by choice. First
the definition of digitization:
Wikipedia – Digitization, less
commonly digitalization is the process of converting information into a digital
(i.e. computer-readable) format, in which the information is organized into
bits. The result is the representation of an object, image, sound, document or
signal (usually an analog signal) by generating a series of numbers that
describe a discrete set of its points or samples.
Oxford dictionary – The
conversion of text, pictures, or sound into a digital form that can be
processed by a computer.
Dictionary.com – to convert
(data) to digital form for use in a computer or convert (analogous physical
measurements) to digital form.
But, digitization is so much more, it
incorporates every field of study or work in some way, hence it is a huge
topic, but I am going to focus on a very particular aspect in the whole
digitization scenario, the change in process of architecture with respect to
time and area of focus for the architect.
The architects play a vital role in both
the communities of art and science, they focus on various aspects of the building
from start to finish which include:
aspects of the process of architecture are tense and time consuming, even in
the 21st century an architect undertaking a big project will plan
for the next 7 years of his life, for this very reason many leave the field for
pursuing other talents. This is a drawback for the entire system of a country,
to get a good building which is climate friendly and aesthetically sound
everyone must wait 3-7 years? No way! That just doesn’t bode well, hence many
people don’t even approach the architect and get the job done with contractors
by showing photos.
digitization of construction field, materials and design, to understand this we
need history of the last 25 years in architecture.
First few talks
about 3d printing came around the end of 70’s and the first 3d printer was
tested successfully by Hideo Kodama in 1981. 2017, we can make entire houses 3d
printed on spot and even thinking of putting 3d printers for projects on the
moon and mars.
solutions to everyday problems have been developing since the early 1900’s, at
that time we actually believed to all these solutions to be a pipe dream. But
currently it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
In 2014, an
article published by Huffington post, said that 47% of all current jobs will be
automated or handled by a computer/AI by the year 2025-2030. That means the
already growing numbers of unemployment throughout the world are just going to
increase, but since I am not the only one thinking about this, I believe there
is a solution to everything and it is in the digitized era, not Anthropocene.
So, what is in
store for the next 25 years? Research currently shows development in various
digital formats such as:
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
These are only the big names in the field
of technology, but their actions and process run deeper and is widespread into
almost every field. For e.g. 3D printing (Additive manufacturing) it was initially
used for rapid prototyping of industrial products and designs and it offered a
lot of promise as we can see now, but as of today it is used in fields such as
healthcare, education, construction, industrial design, interior design,
inter-planetary design (Foster+ Partners) and the list will probably go on for
a couple of pages. Probably, one day a 3D printer will be in our kitchen taking
commands from our phones, this is reach of today’s technology. I also know for
a fact that people in the mid 1900’s would also have thought about lack of jobs
and lack of a strong government to handle all the incoming innovations in
technology, but we are doing ok so far strictly in terms of creating jobs.
Digitization isn’t a small process as I
mentioned before, it involves many small processes, to understand the
implications of those processes and digitization, we need to study the status
of a digitized system, for e.g. Estonia, it’s the only country which has a
digitized system for majority of processes and amenities for public, private
and government sectors. Estonia is the only country in the world which is
offering e-Residency and e-Governance patterns and a fully functional digitized
system for all services in the country which include health care, construction,
logistics and much more. This is where I found answers to my questions of the
I was informed of the development happening
in the small country by an article by The New Yorker titled the digital
republic. The systems include (as mentioned of e-estonia.com):
These are the existing policies in the
country, but the future is very different. These systems mentioned above have
been in effect from 1997 starting with X-Road, this is the invisible yet
crucial environment that allows the nation’s various e-service databases, both
in the public and private sector, to link up and operate in harmony, and saves
more than 800 years of working time for the state and citizens annually. That
is 8 times more than the maximum life span of a human. As I said the future is
very different for a country like Estonia and other EU countries who wish to
incorporate these systems.
Systems in planning and development stages:
e-Security & Cyber security
Real time economy (RTE)
Now, how do these systems affect the
process of architecture? it’s affects vary on these levels:
Logistics & supply-chain
3D modelling (both physical and
Time consumed & time saved
Above mentioned points are affected at a very
fundamental level. Logistics & supply chain management; Estonia is
developing an intelligent transport system, it is legal to test Level 3
driverless cars (in which a human driver can take control) on all Estonian
roads, and the country is planning for Level 5 (cars that take off on their
This directly affects logistics,
client/public involvement, design approach & time. For e.g. if you combine
this technology with 3d modelling apps present for computers and mobiles, the
client can sit at home make his own interior design on his phone/laptop
choosing the materials and items inside the house and place the order, but this
is just my view point, the Estonians however have a company called Ööd, which
makes one-room, two-hundred-square-foot huts that you can order prefab. The
rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows of one-way glass, climate control,
furniture, and lovely wood floors. They come in a truck and are dropped into
Now all this seems fancy but its not far
away, and what happens to the architects/interior designers who used to design
the exteriors & interiors with all their expertise? No doubt many are going
to lose their jobs, and many will quit their jobs too! The remaining role of
the architect will completely shift into larger, scientific and political roles.
Getting involved into the planning and policy making processes, which will
include building policies in coherence with the government, for e.g. design
according to environment, which is going to become a compulsory factor in
designing a building anywhere in the future, and a scientific role will
include; researching emerging trends, finding problems with the ongoing systems
and designing presets to incorporate the solutions.
With seamless data exchange, the sheer amount
of time saved (800 years according to Estonian statistics) & and tax
reduction would encourage people to search for an architect even more, the
industry will most definitely boom. But the roles will most definitely defer
from the current roles of architects and their hierarchy. I cannot say that it
will be good or bad from the job perspective, because I am a believer of if one
door closes another opens up just as easily.
Well, according to Estonia’s chief
information officer Taavi Kotka, “if everything is digital & location
independent, you can run a borderless country.” What digitization impulsively
does is streamline all processes and identify where and what exactly is causing
delays, this is where blockchain technology comes in.
Blockchain is like a digital version of a
knitted scarf, where and if there is removal of a fabric or a substitute placed
it will always leave a trace. So, imagine a network of data records which are
holding information regarding amount of materials required and order and
delivery dates, this network is decentralized so it is like a public ledger
anyone can see, and everyone is invited to join the network, but no one can
change it. The image below is an example of a blockchain, which is usually the
core idea of a cryptocurrency. So, a block includes 3 things
Data (records, manuscripts,
contracts, orders, etc.)
Hash of previous block
Data can be
anything, ranging from your medical records, bank records, construction
contracts, business contracts and material orders, shopping orders, any
information that can be stored online or be digitized can incorporate a
Hash is a digital
fingerprint, array of numbers and alphabets for e.g. 99hfyw2n19t12bg, and every
block in the chain has a hash and the hash of the previous block, hence
becoming a chain. Any change in one block, will automatically change the hash
because the information is no longer like the original block, hence all other
blocks will have been changed to hack into the system. Since it is a de-centralized
system, no one holds a master ledger of everything like in many economies in
the world, no supreme authority over your data. All these small little
safeguards in the system help make it increasingly difficult to hack into.
terms, consider block 1 to be the client ledger, block 2 is the architect’s
ledger, block 3 is the constructors ledger, now all of them have a hash and a
previous hash, and data stored in all of them which has been mutually agreed
upon by the people included in the chain. This also avoids involvement of a 3rd
party portal to safeguard your money. Since it is a distributed ledger it must
be mutually agreed upon that the conditions have been met or not, if someone
says that the needs have been met it will have to be verified by the entire
network, and people can say that the needs have been not met and cancel the
release of funds.
For e.g. if there
are 3 people coming to an architect with a project, the clients are
incorporated into a new blockchain, where the money is already agreed upon and
is present in the client’s block, its visible to the architect and the other
consultants involved, till the conditions like material quality, project
completion time etc. set by the clients have not been met the money wont move,
and it must be mutually agreed upon by all people involved that the needs have
been met. So, if anyone tries to ask for a release everyone will be notified of
this update and everyone will have to verify and evaluate the change, hence
making it impossible to tamper with. This is called a smart contract.
have 2 major qualities, as they are born out of a blockchain, they are
immutable and distributed. I already talked about distributed system, but
immutable means once the contract is made, it can never be changed.
This effectively makes it impossible for
people who want to get more money out of the clients by changing the order to a
less effective material or a cheaper material, which happens a lot. This system
effectively cancels out the chance of any criminal activity, also streamlines
these small processes of procurement and delivery and pin points the sources and points of delay. Hence improving supply
chain management at a very core level.
chain can also be used for managing hiring employees in a company.
Colony.io is using Ethereum to allow companies to post jobs and have freelancers
submit their proposals. Then individuals that make voting decisions for the
company and can vote for proposals. Once the job is completed reputation and
payment is given to the freelancer. I believe this will be the norm for the
future as it’s seems we need to have more
diverse skills in the workplace.
Now, there are many unattended questions;
how will this affect the employment status of a country? And how will this
change or disrupt ongoing industries? I will be optimistic about my stand, I
believe that this will solidify the system for numerous processes and open more
opportunities for the IT sector, government sector and the finance sector. These are the major sectors involved in any
country’s economy and prosperity. Now to understand how it is affecting the
rest of the world apart from Estonia, we study the on-going innovations via
blockchain in the other parts of the world.
Rest of the
It is true that digitization is disrupting
many industries which are currently established in international and national
markets, the sectors are:
Banking & payments
Online data storage
Private transport & Ridesharing
These sectors are being constantly
challenged by the authority of the digital world, banking sectors is facing a revolution as blockchain is
allowing billions of people across the world to access financial institutions
and loans for there projects. This directly opens employment opportunities for
the local people of the city/country. Even in third world countries where there
is a serious lack of banks and money. Bitcoin allows anyone to send money across borders almost instantly and
with relatively low fees. Abra is one start-up that is working on a
bitcoin-based remittance service.
Many banks like
Barclays are also working on adopting blockchain technology to make their
business operations faster, more efficient and secure. Banks are also
increasingly investing in blockchain start-ups and projects. IBM predicts that
15% of banks will be using the blockchain by the end of 2017.
Cities like Lagos, Nigeria where the majority of the population
in the city falls under the age group of 15-35, all this youth will need homes,
food, and jobs to progress anywhere, for
which the government and private sector needs money and investment. The
opportunity is provided by blockchain, so a person in Nigeria can access
banking in rest of the world like USA or Estonia or even India. Startups like cryptogene
are bringing this innovation to the city via blockchain in Nigeria.
Real estate in the US was one of the most
flourishing markets, and now it is kind of unstable. There are several
drawbacks of the current system incorporated in many countries, not just the US. Real estate faces issues in
buying and selling, bureaucracy, lack of transparency, fraud & mistakes by
But, via blockchain technology, it will
ensure that there is no fraud, illegal activities or contract tampering. It
will speed up transactions by reducing the need for paperwork. It will also
help with tracking, verifying ownership, ensuring the accuracy of documents & transferring property deeds. Allowing
the market to stabilize and ensure transparency and get back the trust of
people. The trust is the main component in forming any organization, and the
trust comes from a smart contract, which as explained earlier is immutable and
distributed. Ubiquity is one of the blockchain platforms which is based in the US, and are trying to establish a transparent
real estate market, by digitally bookkeeping
all the real estate records in blockchain.