Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Stupid Cities_Part 2

Politics of Obsolescence: Planned Obsolescence is an integral part of consumer society, stretching from the Phoebus cartel of 1925 to present day marketing strategies adopted by car giants and tech companies. A planned obsolescence of technology in cars, mobiles, operating systems maintains a gradual stream of consumers. This when asserted on cities leads to a trend of steel and concrete buildings in cities like London, New York, Chicago having an average life span of 40 years, not necessarily due to material deterioration but instead opportunities arsing from speculation, facilitating wealth creation by increasing density over city spaces.

Kit of Parts: With modular technology, 3d fabrication and Smart city technology, our increasingly Smart buildings are moving away from being buildings built to last, but instead gadget-like that can be changed, retrofitted, upgraded. New innovations in timber construction and prefabricated modules allows for quick ways to not only construct but also dismantle buildings, bringing the building industry within this sphere of obsolescence. In such a speculative fast changing landscape it is only natural that most clients adopt Flexibility as their motto. If buildings are turning into gadgets, then the city is increasingly resembling a motherboard which mitigates and provides flexibility for each component and sustains its “pay as you go” citizens. Is this Fukuyama's physical manifestation of End of History? where as a human race we no longer have ability to design and deliver even institutional buildings that are solid?

As professionals of built environment, we must be clear, we do not make gadgets, we make buildings that displace air, cast shadows and influence space. It is this awareness that will make us take design decisions with greater sense of responsibility, thought and consideration.

Note: above is a summary of an ongoing discussion with my colleague and friend Konstantinos Dimitrantzos.