The Future is always a draw, especially if it comes with fresh croissants and coffee. And so some hundred or more AEC industry types showed up this morning for a smartly-packaged and wide-ranging keynote and panel called “A View from the Future,” organized by the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation. The opening talk was by Edie Weiner, president of futurist trend consultants, Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc.
Weiner’s speech was like a mini-TED: fact-packed, amusing and globally informed. She delivered the takeaway essence of every trend report you have ever come across in the past 12 months, and prioritized the bullet points, too. The good news: If you are familiar with 3D printing—much less use one as many AN readers routinely do—you are already ahead. Before segueing into the “8 growth areas of the next economy,” Weiner established that our culture is currently bifurcated into the young and the old, neither of which group is taken sufficiently into consideration as the driving forces they are. Amusingly, she also noted that money doesn’t only come in government-issued greenbacks (or bank-issued debit cards): Don’t underestimate reward points!
Aqua-architecture and a “wetropolis” in Bangkok sounded more fringe than directional but corroborated most architects’ understanding that water is going to factor big in design. But not as big as “things talking to each other,” although that reminded me of an architect grousing about a client tracking so much on-site, in-time information from BIM that he couldn’t get any work done. Weiner’s talk about “blue space,” however, did not refer to water, but rather the next generation in thinking about green. It’s not enough, Weiner rightly stated, for buildings to be green, and it certainly isn’t anything to brag about: it simply must be. Blue buildings are the next step up. They aren’t net-zero; they actively give back energy. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. The examples Weiner gave were urban farming, sunflowers remediating brownfields, and even the High Line.
So far, so good but the audience of architects, engineers, and real estate and construction managers didn’t really start jotting down notes until Weiner started talking about new directions in technology, starting with MakerBot in downtown Brooklyn (now renting from Forest City Ratner as panelist Mary Anne Gilmartin, an executive vice president of the developer noted). In addition to 3D printing, embedding nanotechnology in new materials and surfaces is a hot research topic, as is anything to do with BAANFUL. This acronym that sounds like a knight errant from the Faerie Queene stands for bits, atoms, anti-matter, nano-, genes, frequency vibrations, and ultra-light. Possibly. In any case, she said, anything to do with any multiple combination of these terms or their approximates will rule in structures and materials over the next decade. You heard it here first, sort of.