This follows the earlier post on this set of essays, which also features 'The Commodification of Everything' for 'SQM' and 'A sketchbook for the city to come: the popup as R&D', for AD. This one first published as:
- Essay: Urban Parasites, Data-Driven Urbanism, and the Case for Architecture', in Architecture + Urbanism (A+U), 2014:11
This piece expands upon a pithier version of that earlier thought—we've built a lot of our cities, and value has increasingly shifted from traditional assets to services and experiences, so where is architecture? But it goes on to outline the case that we desperately need architecture (or some future iteration of it) due to the 'civic failure' implied by those shifts; that we need architecture, with its notions of being responsible for for the city (rightly or wrongly, in practice), to step up and engage with how are cities are now being transformed.
The tools, as well as a huge chunk of the value, may be shifting from buildings and hard infrastructure to services and experiences—like Uber, Lyft, Bridj noted here, and this essay focuses more on transport, compared to SQM's focus on Airbnb—hence at least some part of architectural practice needs to move on from having buildings as the only output. The answer to every urban question cannot always be a building, clearly. Whilst buildings may be part of some solutions, there are broader, deeper questions in play—good architects see this, but the practice (from education up) is still not exploring this implied question broadly enough. That's what this piece is probing away at, using technology as one way of opening that up.
Urban parasites, data-driven urbanism and the case for architecture
Much traditional architecture is no longer necessary. The city is built. The western city, at least. For a country like the UK, arguably 80% of 2050’s built fabric already exists (according to the head of sustainability at InnovateUK). Similar conditions exist in much of the so-called western world. (Consider then, in particular, the absurdity of a country like Italy, with much of its built fabric delivered centuries ago, and with relatively little architecturally-led new-build in comparison, yet which still over-produces architects to the extent that one third of all European architects are Italian; one-tenth of all architects world-wide are Italian.)
If architecture, in the minds of most, is defined by enabling such built fabric–and noting that, in fact, architects generally have had a limited hand in that–then whither architecture? ...