A “connection revolution” changes the architecture


The field of architecture is beginning to fundamentally change — it’s not about implementing the next technological opportunity, or even the demographic rationalization of a once rarefied profession. Architecture always follows our culture, and I think the basis of all our lives will change dramatically in the next generation, just as the industrial revolution changed everything. And Connecticut could lead the way.

The Nobel Prize for architecture is the Pritzker Prize. Founded in 1979, the winners of the first thirty years were “greatest successes” in architecture – “starchitects” like Richard Meier, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid. The past decade has seen more diversity in demographics, but statistically the award has been safely labeled “modern” and followed the tradition of recognizing architecture that focused on endorsing other architects. This year, the winner was unknown to the public, but more so, the winner was not a “name” for most architects, and the “style” of his work cannot be cataloged as “modern”. Diebedo Francis Kere is from Burkina Faso. Her fully worked and expressive work is both fresh and rich in the human touch of materials, colors and details. The architects were surprised: I was delighted.

This choice testifies to a pivot in the perception of what architects do. This pivot can only happen because the internet has connected everyone to a point where elites mean less, and artificial intelligence will let humanity into all “expert-led” professions. This change will transform the architecture.

Our culture, including architecture, is beginning to see this drastic change on the scale of the Industrial Revolution. The changes created by the Industrial Revolution actually facilitated the creation of the field of architecture as a profession. In 1832, New Haven was exploding in the growth of the Industrial Revolution. That year, the Trumbull Art Gallery was launched, later morphing into the Yale School of Fine Arts which, in turn, facilitated the teaching of architecture at Yale in the 20th century.

The next revolution, AI, is now eliminating entire areas of technical focus that so dominated architectural practice and teaching. The consequence of this shift is that those who want to be architects come to value how things are actually done, rather than just how to describe them. The work of Pritzker-winning Kere revels in the manifestation of the human hand in the creation of buildings.

At Yale, architect Alan Organschi (and others) have emerged from the pandemic to create his next manifestation of the Jim Vlock building project – the Yale School of Architecture Regenerative Building Lab. This new initiative has been launched in the training of the next generation of architects, directly addressing the growing interest of architecture for construction in the way it is taught.

Yale is not alone. Connecticut’s other school of architecture, the University of Hartford, is exploring the idea of ​​incorporating hands-on student construction labs as a way to improve architectural education. The Colorado University College of Architecture and the new Building Beauty Program in Sorrento, Italy, are responsible for emphasizing the connection of people with buildings in architecture. All of these efforts connect intellectual design to physical reality, the same impact that AI will have on all of our lives.

The Industrial Revolution used water power, then steam, then the internal combustion engine to transform every aspect of our way of life and define our values. The 21st century steam engine, the Internet, has created the social bond that paves the way for a radical change in architecture. The internet has enabled instant, direct and free connection and our culture is empowered to directly reconsider their buildings rather than asking architects what to do.

In Connecticut there are shoots of invention that will bear fruit planted by this new time of change. Formed in June 2020, Desegregate Connecticut is a new group that connects social needs with how our communities connect or separate us. During the pandemic, the Connecticut American Institute of Architects exploded its ties between female architects and young architects and embarked on publishing the work of architects, signaling the end of the era of national print magazines received by mail from a distant shore.

I believe AI will enable our humanity to emerge, just as the Industrial Revolution freed lives from subsistence farming, isolated cultures, and created the financial and intellectual wealth that made New England a home major universities and, unsurprisingly, architecture. Since architecture always follows our culture and manifests its values, this new connection revolution will transform the way architects contribute to the construction of buildings.

Duo Dickinson is a Madison-based architect.

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