As the 2020s begins, Aaron Betsky predicts that architects in the new decade will focus on reuse, flexible spaces and earthy materials.
Even if architects still want to make stand-alone buildings, preferably as large and as "different" or "creative" as possible, they will have fewer opportunities to do so. Land is becoming scarce, as are building materials. Codes are becoming more and more restrictive.
The iron laws of economics, at least as conceived from the perspective of those who have the capital and thus can commission buildings, argue more and more for the reuse of what we have. Carl Elephante, the former president of the American Institute of Architects, predicts that by the middle of the decade at least a third of American architects' work will be in repurposing, restoring, and refurbishing existing buildings.
In that sense, perhaps the very idea of progress is now in question. Whether or not the future is going to be any better seems to be very much an open question, at least for the vast majority of humanity. The last hope of a technological utopia lies in carbon sequestration, wetland reconstruction, flood control, desalination plants, and other gizmos of a hitherto unimaginable scale that will try to fend off our own seemingly inevitable self-destruction. If you want jobs, that is where to go.
The perfection of architecture, however, like that of any other human creation, turns out to be a self-defeating endeavor, leaving us only to admire what we already have. The aesthetic of the new decade will be one of the New Normality.