Architecture’s Future

David Benjamin of the Living. AIA NY New Practices New York 2012

Practice makes perfect as they say.  But for those starting out in architecture,  practice isn’t so much about perfection as it is about transformative ideas.  That was the message of the young architects premiated in this year’s AIA NY’s New Practices New York progamme, which recognizes emerging talent and, in doing so, gives us all a lot to think about with regards the practice of architecture in the future.

Courtesy Dan Fox AIA NY

Last week at Axor’s New York headquarters in the Meatpacking District, the last in the series of talks from this year’s NPNY winners was presented to a room packed crowd of architects and interested others.  The speakers were David Benjamin of the Living and Jonathan Lee of Google.  Benjamin presented four projects that illustrated how an individual project might connect to collaborators.  Benjamin, who also teaches at Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning, is interested in the intersection of new digital technologies and information.  One project he presented, which looks at air quality, engages digital facade technologies to convey real time information about temperature and air quality in a city by district.  Passersby can look at a building facade and determine what the air quality is today, relative to what it was yesterday and whether it has improved or worsened and how their neighborhood fares relative to other neighborhoods.   The project is intended to illustrate the possibilities of digital facades to convey important information to a large group of people that was previously invisible to the human eye.

Benjamin did much the same for water quality with a project that puts sensors deep in the Hudson River that light up in different colors at the surface level, with each color representing a different type and level of pollutant as well as indicating the presence of fish.   It was one interesting and inspiring evening that left us all clamoring for more and Benjamin did not disappoint as he told the crowd about a project he was working on now involving living bacteria and forecast that new building materials, like light weight and flexible concrete, that is sheet thin and stronger than an ox, could be made in a petrie dish in the future.

We got more of same out of the box thinking from Jonathan Lee, the second act of this dynamic duo.  In addition to talking about his collaborations with Benjamin,  Lee briefed us on Google products and what was in the offing.  He spoke to the future of smartphones and other devices saying that digital devices will work more effortlessly in the future so users won’t  have to think so much about what it is they want their devices to do but rather have smarter devices that can anticipate our every move and needs for information.    Lee is currently working on Google Project Glass which you may have seen on You Tube but if you missed it here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Kudos to AIANY and the Center for Architecture for the good work it does bringing inspiring and thoughtful voices like Benjamin and the six others honoured in the NPNY programme into public view.

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