Last Saturday's Daily Telegraph reported another set of predictions for 20 years hence by the Henley Centre. Yet again such changes are overwhelmingly defined in terms of (1) work and (2) home, with a smaller third category entitled, rather endearingly, 'Life'. Work gets increasingly like home - short hours and three-day weeks - while telecottaging makes home like work. 'Life' on the other hand, will comprise computerised shopping and food tablets offering 'complete nutrition replacement'. The speculatively built home will no doubt continue to be the great adaptive success story of the twenty-first, as of this, century; virtual companies will have no headquarters to design. This reductive conceptualisation of social development leaves architects struggling to imagine a meaningful role for themselves.
As usual, what such a formulation says most about is current priorities. This is a privatised future. Work and home are mutually self-serving, and the great role of the city, guardian of all things public that cannot be subsumed in the categories of work and home, is replaced by time on- line.
What is left out? The lives of children, the old, the ill, the unemployed. What activities are excised? Everything, other than the family, which involves our bodies meeting one another in the real physical world: hospitals, day-care centres, galleries, night shelters, universities. If we turn these predictions on their head, we can define precisely what things should and could define the future public life of the city and which desperately need the commitment and vision of our profession.