The Shape of Things to Come

Session: Track C: An Update on Innovation: Old Challenges, New Ideas

Jaron LubinProject image

Jaron Lubin
Partner, Safdie Architects

Architects were once idealists and could be again, one day soon. In the 1960s, works by Team 10, Buckminster Fuller, Paul Rudolph and Kenzo Tange amongst others, re-imagined dense urban centers as hubs of tremendous opportunity and possibility. Cities were more than a collection of tall buildings, parks, streets and public spaces, but rather complex, living, breathing three-dimensional organisms that provided a rich backdrop for humanity to thrive within, harnessing the full potential of global innovation and intelligence. A common thread amongst the plans was a type of optimistic utopian idealism, a project in which architecture and planning could change people’s lives for the better. In the Newsweek article dated April 1971, writer Douglas Davis suggested “Architecture is now at the very frontier of our consciousness, at once the most practical and visionary of the arts, the shape of things to come.”

Why then, more than 50 years later, do we struggle to understand the impact of tall buildings in the city, one next to the other, and their collective potential? And why do most tall buildings look the same? As a group of professionals, we are at a point today where we should re-align our interests collectively towards the ideal city and develop common goals towards getting there. How do we find common ground amongst the planners, architects, politicians, developers, and builders who are responsible for shaping our future? This presentation will share recent practice work of Safdie Architects, as well as research and speculation assembled with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.