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Don’t stop thinking about Tomorrowland

Paul Finch
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To mark its 10th anniversary, the World Architecture Festival launched ’WAFX’ – a 10-point manifesto for the next decade – at the AIA annual conference in Florida last week

A stimulating American Institute of Architects annual convention last week, held in Orlando, home of Disney World. So it was appropriate to include a presentation about Tomorrowland, part of the new Disney resort in Shanghai.

For the first time, architects have designed a key feature (incorporating rides) in a Disney complex, rather than just ancillary buildings and spaces. The architect is Grimshaw, which worked with Disney imagineers to create the organisation’s first multi-level feature, where the rides flow in and out of lightweight structures and ETFE roofs, in a sort of dynamic reinterpretation of the Eden Project.

Tomorrowland (29540301031) jeremythompson

Tomorrowland (29540301031) jeremythompson

Also for the first time, Disney and the Grimshaw team designed everything in 3D. Judging by the number of VR and associated products and technologies in the AIA Expo hall, this is going to take over the world of architecture more quickly than might have been imagined, not least because it is not particularly expensive these days.

So, to quote Fleetwood Mac from 1973, ‘Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow’, an encouragement which also informed another presentation at the convention, by your correspondent plus World Architecture Festival colleague, Jeremy Melvin. This concerned the ‘WAFX’ manifesto, which marks the 10th anniversary of the festival.

The manifesto is an invitation to architects and designers to address 10 broad issues which we believe will affect them, and which they will affect, over the next decade. They are:

  1. Climate, energy and carbon
  2. Water
  3. Ageing and health
  4. Re-use
  5. Smart city technology
  6. Building technology
  7. Cultural identity
  8. Ethics and values
  9. Power and justice
  10. Virtual worlds

We will be reviewing all the entries in this year’s WAF Awards programme with a view to showcasing examples of thinking which relate strongly to the above topics, and we also hope to help promote research initiatives in the coming years which relate to aspects of the manifesto topics.

Another speaker on our session, Anthony Townsend of New York-based consultancy Bits and Atoms, offered some intriguing perspectives on some of the dilemmas or contradictions already emerging in respect of technology and the ‘internet of things’. For example, what happens when remote delivery systems need access to parts of buildings other than the delivery entrance (where humans are already being overwhelmed by Amazon drop-offs)? Will we get drone-ports instead of, or as well as, cat flaps?

Will we get drone-ports instead of, or as well as, cat flaps?

Synchronisation would be more important than access in smart city development, however, which he described as a reality, not a choice. He foresaw far greater emphasis on the re-use of buildings and other resources than is currently the case, especially in the context of a half century in which would need to cope with a doubling of world population.

Management of flows – people, information, water, transport – has always been a concern of city-makers, and Townsend saw city planning as largely addressing timeless problems, albeit with the benefit of the extraordinary technologies now at our disposal. The question left hanging was how those technologies would be used, and who exactly they would benefit.

No lack of confidence about what we need now elsewhere in Florida: ‘Exclusivity has never felt this good as you soar above the Atlantic, in a glass elevator, on your way to your very own private garage in the sky. The Porsche Design Tower is the first of its kind anywhere; each unit comes equipped with an elevator … for your car. “You don’t have to leave your car until you are inside your apartment,” says Juergen Gessler, CEO of Porsche Design Group.’

Porsche design tower november 2016 carllender

Porsche design tower november 2016 carllender

The world may have its problems, but why worry when you can gaze at your car in the comfort of a high-rise apartment? Happily, another Grimshaw building is about to open in Miami: the Frost Museum, devoted to science, not conspicuous consumption. Happy days!

The World Architecture Festival Awards are open for entry until 18 May – click here to find out more

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