We were invited to participate in the RAIC’s (Royal Architectural Institute of Canada) ‘Festival of Architecture’ by way of a research project and dialogue prompt which addresses the question, ‘What does the city look like in 2040’. With a brief 8 slides - we outlined the hypothesis that architecture’s role in the future will merge more concretely with the infrastructural city.
As architecture stretches outward, encompassing a more broad set of tools and skills, architects will begin to design and redesign the pieces of city left behind. We proposed three elements across varying scales that suggest some examples of what this means.
Architecture (breaks) Infrastructure
Design has a habit of both creating and disassembling the city. In looking at the sub-urban site, one of the greatest potentials that exists is the reorganization of the existing gridded infrastructure of the mid-century suburban push. Will this infrastructure be completely relevant in the years to come? Will the city’s inhabitants have the same needs in the future as they have now? These are questions that for years architects have attempted to solve - but in reality have never been able to accurately anticipate. Street-Stealers provides one example of how a simply designed and created infrastructural piece can be introduced to the city’s inhabitants, providing a guerilla-like approach to the reorganization of the existing city. Street-Stealers allow an individual or collective to freely block streets and ’take them back’ from the city - altering the infrastructural grid to allow for more robust public programming. Street-Stealers can be as permanent or temporary as the user dictates, and are of sufficiently banal form that they can become ‘building-blocks’ to create a myriad of elements for the public realm: blockades, tables, sand-boxes, fountains, etc…
Architecture (provides) Infrastructure
Within the past decade, the number of informal ownership economies have greatly increased, powered by the ability and desire for individuals to access such economies via the internet. Ownership is no longer as desirable as it once was, as the capacities offered by the rise of a digital mobile infrastructure has transformed the requirement of ‘owning’ and revised the idea of ‘renting’. Regarding individuals more as ‘users’ with an ‘account’ approach; more informal methods of housing could emerge. Looking at the suburban site, it seems prudent to assume that as industry moves out of older buildings, the heavy application of power, water, and waste infrastructure they leave behind could be appropriated by an informal ‘ownership’ model. The idea is not new - this movement was examined with the Metabolist movement; but what has emerged over the past several years - and what will continue to emerge is both the societal acceptance of informal ownership models and the ability to deliver such capacities to users via existing and upcoming technologies. Car2Go offers Calgarians the infrastructure to enjoy the benefits of living in a car-based city without the hassles of ownership. Ware-Housing could offer the same potential for small-scale housing evolving the ‘own or rent’ marketplace into something new.
Architecture (is) Infrastructure
The Prairie Cathedral is an hypothesized project, one that simply exemplifies how architecture and an architectural approach can begin to offer solutions for future infrastructure. Infrastructure simply solves physical or mechanical problems that arise from the collective inhabitation of a single area. Transport, power, water, sewage, etc. are all civic realities of creating and inhabiting a city. The Prairie Cathedral examines the site, and proposes a future storm-water retention tank that utilizes a single simple formal move to create an urban area of solace. The Prairie Cathedral offers a visitor a ‘pure’ version of the prairie, uninterrupted by the city surrounds. A moment to reflect on the largest elements of our environment and a provision of a connection to ‘place’ which becomes increasingly rare in a growing city.