“Design is everywhere and is shaping everything... Design is being used to address the great challenges for achieving sustainability, alleviating poverty, providing affordability and delivering resilience for our world,” said Architect James Law, speaking at the 10th ‘Future Forum’ in Abu Dhabi.
Law’s firm, Cybertecture International, provides leading edge architecture design, interior design, planning consultancy services, research, design & build and product design services. He defines Cybertecture as the design of all things for an more intelligent world through new pieces of architecture, interior space, artwork, technology, and strategy. He believes humanity is undergoing a new renaissance of rapid change on this planet and plans every project to contribute to a sustainable and better world for all people.
“Design has had a quantum leap, driven by rapid adoption of science and technology, that has given rise to new methodologies and materials that go beyond the traditional,” said Law. “Design is opening up new possibilities of how we see the world. This is the era of a new design paradigm. This is the era of 'Cybertecture', a new realm of architecture.”
Design is at the heart of the rapid evolutions we see across society today but it was also at the heart of past developments. The difference is that we seem to have passed a threshold of technological innovation and understanding that has elevated and accelerated design to unprecedented levels. In consumer electronics, processing speeds may have facilitated a new era of devices but it is design that has revolutionized the way we interact with technology. Now, the same trend is being seen in our buildings, cities, and across our infrastructure.
Law’s “cybertecture” brings together the once separate disciplines of architecture, engineering, information technology and science to become the single focus for a creativity that leads to big and impactful designs. “Smart architecture will be more akin to iPhones than just conventional and dormant concrete structures we once built,” Law says.
His recently completed smart building in Dubai, The Pad, is based on the same philosophy as an iPod. It can deliver beyond just conventional space by providing technological lifestyle enhancements with virtual reality spaces and even smart mirrors in bathrooms to monitor the health of the inhabitants. As more smart buildings are built then the city can become smarter by the sharing of information from building to building, creating a “sensory architecture” network.
Another of Law’s designs is a prototype called the ‘Technosphere’. This futuristically designed city goes against the conventional sprawling planned grid city approach by following a “planetary approach,” which is more compact, sustainable and resilient. “Such mega architecture is symbolic of a new courage in design to think big for our future,” Law adds. The concept was designed to be part of the futuristic Technopark in Dubai.
It is not all about futuristic projects only possible with the wealth and unbridled ambition of countries like the UAE. Modern design ethos can also be utilized to support the poorer parts of our society. This era of technological innovation is also one of rising living costs and increasing poverty, and Law believes it is essential that design focuses on creating affordable architecture to house the majority of citizens in the new age.
“Design is also disrupting the construction industry from one which use to build relatively slowly and inefficiently, into one that is based on a more efficient. Modular architecture is designed to be manufactured rather than built,” he says. “They can be created quickly in factories through automation and standardisation.”
With this theory, Cybertecture International also created the ‘OPod’ in its hometown of in Hong Kong. These concrete tube houses are designed from highly available and low-cost mass produced concrete water pipes. The micro living homes built within them cost less than $14,000 per house. They can be produced in mass quantities by using an industrial approach, and are built far more quickly than conventional buildings. They can even be stacked up in unused urban spaces to provide a wealth of low-cost, quickly constructed housing for citizens on lower incomes.
“The future of design is endless. The challenges faced to better the human condition on this finite planet is the sustenance upon which newer generation of designers will feed off to conceive creative and inventive solutions. In the history of man, our progress as humanity has always been marked by great designs. This is only continue and accelerate in our fast-changing world,” concludes Law. “This is the era of design.”