With dynamic challenges facing the industry, and the planet, ARCHITECT wanted to create a compass of sorts to help navigate the coming year. So, we reached out to 18 architecture and design leaders, movers, and shakers, and asked them about their hopes and fears for 2022, as well as what they predict will be the biggest disruptors, be that ideas, policies, technologies, projects, or people.
They have a lot on their minds as they look ahead, from how augmented reality could alter the construction industry and increasing the number of licensed Black architects to regenerative design, performative activism, and the legacy of late icons like Virgil Abloh. Three common threads stand out, however: an urgent call for proactive climate action; an unwavering commitment to justice in all its forms; and commitment to community.
Sekou Cooke, founder, Sekou Cooke Studio; associate professor and director of master of urban design program, UNC Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C.
Hopes: I’m hopeful that we might finally be over our decadeslong obsession with the exquisite object and recognize more of what’s at stake in our design disciplines—cultures, ecologies, systems, networks, and spaces that are all impacted and thus shaped by the design objects we create. I’m hopeful that we can return to a human-centered design philosophy that works for the many, not just the few—examples of groups doing important work in this space include Dark Matter University, BlackSpace, and the Black Reconstruction Collective.
Fears: My deepest concerns are that we will continue to give over our agency, professionalism, and freedoms to those entities who shoulder the least amount of responsibility for their action but stand to gain the most financially, like development groups focused on real estate and retail for the wealthiest subsection of the global economy. Our urban, natural, political, and social environments have been ravaged in service of individual gains for far too long. It’s time for design professionals to reassert their responsible stewardship over how collective change is made, and I hope more communities are able to take back agency and development for themselves.
Disruptor: The reverberations from the loss of Virgil Abloh will continue to show significance in the upcoming year across the entire design world. We will continue to understand and value his contribution to our field, recognize the universal necessity for his brand of thinking, and emulate his disruptive nature. There was no one else who managed to embody the core attitudes of hip-hop and bring them to mainstream design consciousness more than Virgil. 2022 will be the year of that attitude more deeply infiltrating the profession.
Jordan Goldstein, FAIA, managing principal, Gensler
Hopes: My hope for 2022 is that climate action is front and center for all aspects of the design and construction industry. As architects and designers, we are emerging from two years of global issues with the pandemic, social and political unrest, and economic instability. At Gensler, we have recognized the opportunity and responsibility that we must positively impact all aspects of the environment through our work. My hopes for the future are for all firms to engage at these same levels and that, at Gensler, we continue adapting, thriving, and exploring solutions that create a more sustainable and resilient future for people, place, and planet.
Fears: That we stay the same. Our industry and designers are naturally optimistic during crisis. Multiple, back-to-back crises over multiple years is unique. My fear is that we don’t dig deep to keep that optimism for change and recognize the importance of this moment to pivot and think differently about how we design, what we build with, and how we construct our places and spaces for the future.
Disruptor: With several dozen new manufacturers across the globe unveiling new electric vehicle models of all shapes and sizes this year, it feels like EVs are ready to disrupt mobility on a much bigger, global stage. As EVs start to become mainstream, architecture, planning, and design will follow quickly. The entire “front door” of a building will be different; the real estate at charging stations is different; the planning of a neighborhood or a city is different. In addition, there are sure to be some expected, and unexpected, impacts to climate change as EVs become more accessible to average users.
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, executive director, AIA New York | Center for Architecture
Hopes: First and foremost, I wish the field of architecture to be more just and equitable for all those who produce it and for all those experience it. Furthermore, architectural design and designers must commit to producing buildings and environments that are as sustainable, energy efficient, and resilient as possible. Design must equitably slow climate change rather than advance it, through a commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of all buildings we live, work, learn, heal, and recreate in.
Fears: I fear that if architectural education does not become more affordable and accessible, and if design jobs are not more lucrative to those entering into the profession, we will lose the talents of many current and potential designers to other fields. I also fear that advancements in sustainable and resilient design will mostly be accessible to the privileged rather than those suffering from poverty and environmental injustice.
Disruptor: In New York City, where I live, the pandemic-era Open Restaurants and Open Streets programs—wherein blocks are routinely closed to traffic for recreation and wherein restaurants can take over parking spots to expand outside dining—has changed the way New Yorkers experience the public realm. These programs have at times both positively and negatively disrupted streets, traffic, and pedestrian activity. Over the next year, I hope that legislation and design guidelines can be agreed on, benefiting neighborhood groups, restaurants, inhabitants, and civilians alike, so the city can successfully adapt to and access this much needed expansion of outdoor spaces. For an example, check out the outdoor dining structure developed at Chez Oskar in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. It is a flexible, stylish, and replicable system, developed by owner Charlotta Janssen.
Dayton Schroeter, AIA, vice president and design director, SmithGroup
Hope: My hope is that this seismic industry shift towards social justice that galvanized in 2020 will materialize in the creation of formal design justice codes and standards that will become part of the broader ecosystem of holistic design values, akin to ADA, Open Building standards or LEED/WELL certifications. This repositioning of design justice in our industry needs to be part of the full adoption of a comprehensive set of value drivers necessary for achieving impactful, responsive, and sustainable design.
I’m also hopeful that this social justice movement will sustain a movement toward saving and preserving those endangered spaces that have shaped the experiences of Black American and Indigenous people.
Fear: My fear is that we sometimes marginalize the voices of those central to our work in an attempt to universalize access and give full range of voice. But inclusivity and diversity require purpose and structure in order to be impactful. We need to ensure that the people with the lived experiences are not only in the room but empowered to lead efforts where their insights can be valuable.
Disruptor: A social rating system for architectural products would be an industry disruptor. Designers need accountability and transparency from the companies that manufacture the products that we use to ensure that our work yields a positive and holistic social footprint. The products we use should be environmentally sustainable and contribute to the social good of our society. We want to make sure that workers are being paid a fair wage with benefits, working in safe and humane conditions, and that these companies are contributing to the social good of their communities.
Dong-Ping Wong, founding director, Food New York; co-founding director, Friends of + Pool
Hope: Shifts in power at the institutional level. We’re still a very white, very male field, especially in ownership and leadership. That’s increasingly out of step with the actual people who use the designs and buildings we make. It’ll be really exciting to see what new priorities in design will emerge when those shifts happen.
Fear: That nothing will change after 2020. There are so many good reasons for radical change: climate change, white supremacy, COVID-19, but we’re a slow-ass industry.
Disruptor: Not really a design object or anything, but the Black-led networks of designers that have come up over the past few years are super inspiring. Informally, the huge family that Virgil Abloh invited in to work with him. Kerby-Jean Raymond and his Your Friends in New York group. It makes sense that fashion is at the front of this since it’s faster and more accessible. I think we’ll be seeing more and more BIPOC crews supporting each other with the traditional holders of power trying to keep up.
April Hughes, AIA, owner and managing principal, HPZS in Chicago; and Kelly Moynihan, AIA, principal, HPZS
Hope: Hughes: We hope that architects start to pay more attention to, and take an active role in, being in positions to shape and drive policy as it relates to building sustainable and resilient communities. Architects, while not civil servants, are servants to civilization—even if employed in the private sector. We need to accept that mantle to society, and be on city councils, nonprofit boards, state legislatures—especially if decisions are being made about land use, air quality, housing, energy.Architects should be in the room to decode that technological gap for the rest of our policymakers who don’t have our expertise.
Fear: Hughes: Our fears are for the particularly humanistic gains we’ve made in the past six years as a profession and society—relating to supporting women to continue through the profession to executive positions; purposefully dismantling systemic racism; conveying significantly more trust and power to the employee since the dawn of pandemic with remote work—that this could be lost without continued pressure to maintain the change. The voices that have been purposefully amplified are changing the design profession for the better, and it should be job number one to maintain that progress.
Disruptor: Moynihan: It’s our responsibility as architects to be implementing strategies that combat the climate crisis immediately, and that starts with dramatic carbon reductions. Full electrification in all buildings, especially retrofitting existing buildings, should be priority one in this regard. We believe in using Passive House principles that optimize a building’s orientation of mass and glazing; execute airtight, highly insulated envelopes, and minimize all-electric HVAC systems, resulting in net-positive energy designs. Without a formal building code requirement, most developers, builders, manufacturers, and installers are hesitant to make this existential push without high demand. Build Back Better arms us with some new tools—tax credits around clean energy, incentives for energy efficient upgrades and systems.—but architects need to be market-drivers and policy-change advocates, or, we’d like to say disruptors, to the stuck-in-its-ways construction market in projects across scales and typologies.
David Polzin, AIA, executive director of design, CannonDesign
Hope: We need to be relentless in our pursuit of architecture with a conscience. The past few years have crystallized the reality that design has consequences that ripple across our communities, society, and the environment. We can’t settle for obvious solutions to complex problems; we have to engage people less seen and forces less acknowledged to create human spaces that affect broad, systemic, and meaningful change. A great example of this is the Sand End Arts and Community Centre in London, by the London-based firm Mae.
Fear: The fear is that we as a profession may not evolve fast enough. That we remain tied to our past experiences and practices and may inadvertently reinforce inequalities—social, economic, etc. The question is, how do you enact big positive change? My fear is we don’t arrive at a solution as rapidly as we need to.
Disruptor: Grappling with mental health at a societal scale. The pandemic has amplified mental health challenges for children, students, faculty and staff, the workplace, those with acute care needs, geriatric populations, and everyone in between. We're seeing rampant depression, anxiety, isolation, ADHD, and even increased suicide. The mental health crisis in this country is taking its toll, but it's also an incredible moment for architecture to design for deep human needs and nourish our collective soul.
Tiffany Brown, Assoc. AIA, national executive director, National Organization of Minority Architects; founding member and past vice president, NOMA Detroit; founder, 400 Forward
Hopes & Fears: We have made great strides in the recognition of the need for diversity and inclusion in the field. However, as time moves on and we struggle with so many things, [I fear] that we will lose sight of its importance. At the root of all our challenges, it all points back to the need to care about this—whether it's achieving licensure goals for marginalized individuals or dealing with the worst impact of climate change in our communities.
What is most on my mind is doing my part in the redesign of a system that was designed to oppress. As a professional, I am most concerned about how the built environment forms our experiences in society. As a mentor, I’ve found my calling in empowering the leaders of the next generation to reverse this view on oppressed people. We have to take the time to learn from those of us who have experienced a high degree of discrimination, unequal systems, and exclusion. We have to face how we got here. When we care about all people and make a concerted effort to make change, we really help all people and communities. My hope for 2022 is that we can refocus on NOMA’s licensure goal of increasing the number of black architects, which still hovers at 3% of licensed architects. Continued conversations and solutions with the powers that be are critical to implement necessary change.
Kevin Nordmeyer, AIA, principal, BNIM Architects
Hopes: My hope for architecture and design is that we will engage a broadly inclusive body of individuals in the design, construction, and use of buildings that elevate the human experience for all. Inclusive design should and will become an important component of sustainable design that not only measures carbon, water, air quality, and resources, but also creates a spirit of process and place that is gracious, empathetic, and thoughtful, focused on human purpose and inspiring change. There is hope—LEED, WELL, and the Living Building Challenge are incorporating criteria for inclusion and equity, and we need to continue to elevate these ideals throughout design.
Fears: Regarding the imperative of sustainable design, my fear is we will not continue to be motivated to innovate, accelerate, and measure net-positive design and construction in order to have a meaningful, positive impact on people and climate. Incrementally “less-bad” design has created complacency. The recent United National Climate Change Conference in Glasgow must create a new sense of urgency and motivate net-positive action. This includes the need for integration across all design firms concurrent with the adoption of policies requiring net-positive design at federal, state, and local levels.
Disruptor: Over the last few years, many national and international events have given rise to movements, including Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, and Me Too, that have uncovered the continued inequities in our world and reawakened an awareness for equity and inclusion. This is not one building or an idea but a growing collective reckoning that should disrupt the status quo to drive our profession, the process of design, and the buildings we inhabit to be empathetic, gracious, and inclusive. The ADA celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020, and while this has been a significant driver for the creation of accessible environments, it is just a baseline. Much more can be done as we create inclusive businesses and environments that embrace the diversity of our abilities. The hope is that this inclusive spirit emanates from design into our communities, changing hearts and minds while translating into policy, advocacy, and actionable programs for positive impact.
Imani Dixon, AIA, associate, Lamar Johnson Collaborative
Hopes: In the past couple of years, architecture anddesign firms have developed incredible ideas to address the new problems we face in both our work output and workplaces as priorities have shifted because of the pandemic. The Fulton East building in Chicago, for example, by Lamar Johnson Collaborative, integrates health features keeping people from easily spreading illnesses, and the architecture firm Perkins and Will, among others, has published strategies for encouraging collaboration in workplaces during the pandemic. I hope that many of these ideas will continue to be realized and developed so that we can create thoughtful environments not only for our clients and communities, but for our own firms and workplaces, providing a healthy and inclusive atmosphere for achieving that important work.
Fears: Because topics come and go in popularity, I fear that the industry will move away from the justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion conversations that have been trending since 2020. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an increasing collective consciousness of inequities in our industry and other industries. I hope this new focus becomes something that the architecture and design industry feels obligated to improve upon indefinitely as our society evolves and continues to listen to upcoming architects and designers with different perspectives.
Disruptor: I've been recently interested in projects that focus on neighborhood activation, specifically small urban interventions with significant positive impacts. For example, here in Chicago, projects like PopCourts! not only activate underutilized space, attracting more people to engage in community activities, but they also encourage outdoor gathering spaces, which have become essential since the pandemic. Of course, these urban intervention ideas are not new. Instead, I believe that their popularity will continue to grow, with the increasingly conscious efforts to improve neighborhoods that have historically lacked financial investment, especially on the South and West sides of Chicago, along with the new ways we interact in person with each other.
Nicholas Cameron, AIA, director of digital practice, Perkins&Will
Hopes: I would like to see our industry become even more focused on and vigilant about addressing the big issues facing our society and planet. Architecture must and can operate at several scales, from the tactile to urban. Architects are advocates for those who cannot always be present at the table.
Fears: My biggest fear is when the latest "shiny objects" distract architects from what would be the best use of their skills and talents. Over the past several months, I have noticed a lot of energy shifting to the metaverse NFTs, crypto, blockchain, etc. There are certainly interesting aspects to explore, but I believe there are far more pressing issues affecting the real world, in the here and now, that architects and designers should be focused on.
Disruptor: Several concepts are converging. Many of the social justice movements that continue to make headway can be coupled with architectural design and leverage technology to give us a window into the future. It may be that the gaming engine Unreal Engine 5, coupled with the latest Nvidia graphics cards, will offer a seemingly infinite canvas to visualize and, more importantly, analyze the design space. Through thoughtful digital analysis, our impact can be predicted with increasing accuracy. Simulating how our design solutions will exist in the real world in the future can ensure we are helping to heal the planet and our communities. And this will ultimately allow us to help our clients make better long-term decisions.
Colin Koop, design partner, SOM in New York
Hopes: In 2022, the role of the city will transform to be a solution for—not a symptom of—our contemporary crises. Whether those are questions of equity and justice or resiliency and decarbonization, the solution must include taking our existing high-density cities and transforming them into humane, inclusive, carbon-neutral, healthy communities.
Fears: The role of the architect is changing, and I fear that our profession isn’t reinventing itself quickly enough to meet the moment. Today, many buildings are created without architects, yet we see ourselves as the primary creators of the built environment. And in reality, we influence a shrinking percentage of it. If we collectively focus on addressing today’s challenges, mastering new technologies, and collaborating across industries to create new ideas, we can expand and leverage the role of the architect to solve problems in a smarter, more expansive way.
Disruptor: I think the biggest trend will be an explosion of interest in biomaterials for building construction, as designers seek out ways to drastically reduce the embodied carbon in their work. Algae, biobrick, biocrete, and many more will quickly become commonplace.
Francesca Birks, global insights leader, Woods Bagot
Hopes: My hope is that there is increasing collaboration between architecture, design, the public sector, the private sector, and communities in a way that translates into better outcomes for the people whom we are meant to be designing for and for the finite planet that we live on. In the same way that the fashion industry has begun to migrate away from endorsing and celebrating celebrity fashion brands and begun to focus more on featuring more thoughtful sustainable fashion practices, there is a future for architecture that is sustainability-oriented in practice and outcomes and not just in theory. What might it mean to question how we approach architecture in the same way that the fashion industry has begun to question the normalcy of following fashion seasons in light of climate change?
Fears: My concern more than fear is that architecture, more than design, falls behind in terms of heeding the call for sustainable practices and that clients begin to default to technology and software developers to achieve necessary targets that they can share to demonstrate their adherence to more sustainable practices and outcomes as dictated by the market. In this potential future scenario, the need for architecture drops if we fall behind and don't evolve quickly enough.
Disruptor: I was impressed by the winners of the 2021 Pritzker Prize. Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal seemed equally surprised by their selection. They are a stark contrast from previous "starchitect" winners and represent a more thoughtful and responsible interpretation of architecture: an approach that seeks to extend the functional and positive value that architecture and design can provide to communities and doesn't subscribe to signature visions and a singular aesthetic over sustainability. Their residential work is very inspiring and shows a more compelling vision for social housing that most anyone would want to live in.
Kate Diamond, FAIA, civic design director, HDR in Los Angeles
Hopes: I hope that 2022 will be the year that we all step up to urgently reduce our carbon footprints on every project—recognizing that our buildings and interiors have enormous impacts on global warming and the health of all life as we know it. Seek not the minimum we can do but rather what would it take to deliver regenerative design that takes our projects beyond doing less harm to actually doing good—sequestering carbon, improving air quality, and addressing environmental justice and equity.
Fears: We continue to use the excuse that our clients are “not asking for sustainability” to justify business as usual. If your client doesn’t want to talk about sustainability, then you must figure out how to deliver projects that simultaneously meet both your clients’ goals and your own responsibilities to design for our great children’s futures—no more excuses.
Disruptor: Achieving regenerative design goals requires new materials, means, and methods; I am simultaneously blown away by the innovations being explored by the startup companies participating in U.S. Green Building Council Los Angeles’s Net Zero Accelerator Program and frustrated by the time it takes to get these innovations to market and appropriately scaled to truly impact our built carbon footprint. We desperately need to develop strategies for streamlining approvals from authorities having jurisdiction, convincing not just early adopters but all of the market to take reasonable chances on breakthrough technologies, and transforming the way we design, construct, and operate our built environments. The Net Zero Accelerator Program is an important tool in helping make this happen. (Full disclosure, I am on the USGBC-LA Board,but this is not my program).
Erin Moore, AIA, principal of Float Architectural Research and Design; professor of architecture and professor of environmental studies, University of Oregon
Hopes: As 2022 brings new investments in infrastructure, my hope is that the field will take a forceful lead in advancing public architecture—for public good, for public space, and for public health—that manifests real understanding of environmental, racial, and housing justice. LA Más in Los Angeles and Interboro Partners in Brooklyn and Detroit have my attention right now in this area.
Fears: This has been a watershed year for the hiring and promotion of BIPOC architects, designers, and leadership. This is terrifically important as part of overcoming structural injustices in the discipline and in the constructed environment. I sincerely hope that the field will make space to amplify and to truly hear these new voices—as I similarly fear the longstanding phenomenon of inclusion that is conditional on not rocking the boat. Lesley Lokko, former dean of the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College New York and current editor-in-chief of the African Futures Institute did an excellent job of daylighting this, and other systemic roadblocks, following her resignation from the deanship.
Disruptor: I anticipate that authentic, responsible engagement with traditional and local ecological knowledge for multi-species design will continue to be a game-changer. As the field reckons with the impacts of climate change—on biodiversity, weather, wildfire, watersheds, and food—ecological knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, will be foundational for designing resilient, just climate futures. I am especially inspired by “re-wilding” projects for multi-species urban habitats, by urban food forests, and by multi-species design for solar energy development such as in this project at Oregon State University to design the space of energy generation in consideration of habitat and food production.
Siboney Díaz-Sánchez, project and design manager, Opportunity Communities; adjunct faculty of community practice, Boston Architectural College
Hopes: I dream of architecture and design practices that normalize the need for, incorporation of, and payment to artists. In 2022 we need to prioritize resident-informed affordable housing design and the redistribution of wealth through architecture design by compensating community members for their consulting time on projects. Salazar Architect, Borderless Studio, and Civic Projects Architects are developing and implementing processes that understand climate justice is racial justice and believe in the power of community voices. In the next year, we need a stronger connection and recognition of Indigenous people, practices, and histories through our design work.
Fears: I fear that anti-racist statements and intentions will remain performative. I worry that firms and organizations will not invest in the people, time, and work to live out justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion ( JEDI) and racial equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI) statements. Not enough power is being relinquished and not enough wealth is being redistributed by white cis-gendered male architects at leadership levels in firms nationwide. As more QTBIPOC people get licensed, I worry that there will be racist policing of design professions that works to delegitimize those advocating to diversify licensed populations and empower people within design justice spaces. I have become increasingly aware of individuals who are targeted through semantic error and investigated because of how that individual was redistributing power in architecture practice.
Disruptor: Dark Matter University will continue to challenge the ways in which architecture education is defined and, in turn, the trajectories of design discourse. They as a collective will effectively create collaborations and empower QTBIPOC educators and students for more just design futures. Their efforts generate pride in questioning historically harmful curriculum and build access to architecture and design education.
Leslie Lok, co-founder and co-principal, Hannah; assistant professor, Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning in Ithaca, N.Y.
Hopes & Fears: The pandemic has in many ways compelled us to re-examine our approach to sourcing and usage of building materials in relation to our environment and the larger global supply chain network. This has allowed us to revisit locally sourced materials and encouraged new creative means to use those materials in architectural projects. While I fear that supply chain challenges will continue to negatively impact the building and construction industry in 2022, I hope that that we will retain collaborative and creative ways of materials sourcing that are sustainable, local, and environmentally beneficial.
Disruptor: Augmented-reality and mixed-reality technologies have become an increasingly popular area of research in architectural design and manufacturing. Coupling AR and MR tools with fabrication opens new opportunities to engage expert and non-expert users through a direct and hands-on approach to modify, design, and construct at full scale. AR and MR tools enable an exciting hybridity of human agency and digital augmentation across a range of scales and building contexts. Such tools can be used to develop new approaches to design and fabrication, from building complex structures without the need for robotic-based fabrication techniques to modifying and creating mass-customized building components with both standard and non-standardized material. In 2022, AR and MR technologies such as Fologram’s new program TwinBuild will continue to gain accuracy and broader user implementation, further disrupting the building industry.
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.