Architecture for the future : 5 inspiring architects and buildings | Future Cape Town

“architecture could create new platforms of engagement and challenge the role that physical structure plays in the everyday lives”

Image 5In January 2016 Architizer published an article “10 Firms to Watch in 2016”. The Future Cape Town team sat down and discussed how the ideas projected by 5 of these firms could provide us with a glimpse into the future of architecture. As well as what these ideas could mean for future South African cities.


Text: Rashiq Fataar, Alexandra Fearon, Lebo Molokane, Elizabeth Novacek, Hannalie Malan | Editing : Alexandra Fearon

Re-defining domestic functionality

According to ArchitizerSharon Davis is fast becoming the “go-to architect for humanitarian projects in challenging contexts around the globe”. Following the huge success of community-focused complexes such as the Women’s Opportunity Center and Share Houses in Rwanda, Davis is now working on a crucial Community Hospital in post-earthquake Nepal, set for completion in 2017. The architect’s remarkable ability to combine vernacular design with modern building technologies makes her one to watch.

Her work pays a much greater amount of attention to domestic functionality. Architecture with this type of focus could see the development of buildings in the future which are most appropriate to a given environment and therefore hyper-efficient. This is especially relevant in an African context, as much of our built environment is based on Western architectural ideologies.

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Credit : Sharon Davis Design

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Credit : Sharon Davis Design

Making real connections to nature

Atelier Bow-Wow enjoyed a fruitful and fun-filled 2015 that included an artful cameo at the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial. The Japanese firm continually defies expectations of what defines an architect’s role within society, and its flexible approach gives it an adaptability that will surely see it go from strength to strength over the coming year.

In 2015 the firm worked on a project in Bruges which aimed to address the question, “What if the 5 million tourists, that visit every year the city of Bruges, all decided to stay? “. Together with Architectuuratelier Dertien12 they worked on the project Canal Swimmer’s Club, a new multifunctional public space for meeting, sunbathing and even swimming in the canals of Bruges.

Canal Swimmer’s Club highlights the apparent disconnect people in cities around the world feel between natural amenities and how they use them. This project demonstrates how architecture in the future could create new platforms of engagement and challenge the role that physical structure plays in the everyday lives of public spaces. This puts society in a position to reimagine its lakes and rivers or even promenades.

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Credit : Atelier Bow-Wow

Making dead spaces, sustainable public spaces  

Architizer considers Rintala Eggertsson Architects to be one of the most exciting young firms to arise in the Nordic north in recent years. The firm specialised small vernacular projects with a raw, textured aesthetic. The firm’s architectural projects have an installation art approach. This challenges the role of pure functionality in architecture. If projects like their’s are set to continue we could see the future of architecture become a hybrid between art and architecture.

Gallery MM1, a project completed in 2013 in Oslo makes use of a triangular square in the intersection between the busy Therese street and Sten street. The area occupied by MM1 acts as an important community space as it find itself in close proximity to bicycle parking, a tram stop as well as the neighbouring area’s recycling point. The open gallery space allows pedestrians to move through the structure 24 hours a day. MM1 shows how dead space can be utilized to its full advantage. Projects of such nature reveal how the future of architecture could employ a new focus on the dead spaces found with a sustainable programme or activation.

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Credit : Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Housing of the future, today

Mexican-based architect Tatiana Bilbao’s sustainable housing concept for her home country garnered extensive publicity when it was exhibited at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Her firm taps into a growing desire among the architectural community to develop more sustainable, more socially responsive designs for urban environments, a specialism that will take center stage once again at the upcoming Venice Biennale in 2016.

The project aimed to address Mexico’s housing shortage of 9 million homes. The firm used interviews and workshops to fully determine what individuals really need from social housing, hardly the norm for social housing developments. Therefore meaningful and constructive community involvement and fully accessible participatory methods when creating government provided housing or housing services is possibly a glimpse into the future of architecture.
Housing shortages is a worldwide problem which is set to grow if new methods and policies are not developed.  Bilbao’s projects exhibit the possibilities of alternative and user-friendly materials which could possibly become standard practice in the future. Physically, the modular nature of the structures paint a future where the home can easily be customised and expanded to adapt to different needs and locations.

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Credit : Tatiana Bilbao

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Credit : Tatiana Bilbao

Mixing public-private spaces in publicly owned buildings

Norwegian firm Saunders Architecture has a unique ability to create striking and dynamic spaces, both large and small. The Fogo Island Inn with 29 rooms was completed in 2013. The Inn, which is publicly owned,  has fast-become a cultural landmark in region. The building includes both public and private spaces and includes an art gallery, a library specialising in the region a cinema and much more.

Many of the public spaces form part of a partnership between the inn and various bodies. For example the cinema is a partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. The future of architecture could follow this model and we could see mixed private-public buildings become the norm, not only in use but in operating and ownership model. This has the potential to broaden both the functionality of the building as well as users of the space – in the process cross-subsidising revenue generating activities.

Ecological and self-sustaining systems has formed a vital part of the project since its inception. Rainwater from the roof is collected, filtered and used as toilet water. Whilst the Inn’s structural form was dictated by the required number and orientation of the solar panels on its roof and outbuilding panels. The building therefore integrates with nature rather than disconnecting from it. Buildings which seek to become part of the natural environment provide us with a definite glimpse into the future of architecture and the built environment.

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Credit : Saunders Architecture

Love architecture? Read this :

  • All our posts on architecture here
  • Want to meet an architect in Cape Town? Contact us and we might be able to help
  • Did you attend the Uytenbogaardt Memorial lecture last year? Read about it here
  • We are big fans of Thomas Chapman and his firm Local Studio. Read our interview with him here


  1. Text : Adapted in part from Architizer, 10 firms to watch in 2016
  2. Images : Copyright by each firm