Architecture, a field quite often rooted in human interaction, is facing a new reality and will continue to do so post-pandemic—as will many fields and job sectors. The digital landscape has taken over during the COVID-19 pandemic, and architecture experts are reluctant to believe this new normal will change back anytime soon.
Major cities, like Miami or New York City, were designed and constructed to promote close social interaction. But the threads on which these cities were built on are being challenged due to social distancing restrictions. Will anyone want to continue living in densely populated areas? How will the field of architecture adapt, if at all, to combat the challenges being posed by COVID-19?
It’s questions like these that led FIU architecture professors Neil Leach and Biayna Bogosian, along with many other renowned architects throughout the world, to organize the DigitalFutures World week-long series.
“With so much uncertainty, we thought it was time to show some solidarity and bring the architectural community together,” Leach says.
Starting in 2011, architecture students from around the world traveled to Shanghai for the DigitalFutures World event each year to learn about the latest trends plaguing the architectural world from leading architects. With international travel and large social gatherings not an option this year, the event was set to be cancelled. That was until Leach, Bogosian and their colleagues at DigitalFutures World decided they could use the digital world to host the largest free global event for architectural education to date.
This year’s DigitalFutures World event is a global week-long series with more than 12,000 students set to attend—a stark jump from last year’s allotted attendance of 800. The event started Saturday, June 27, and will run with continuous 24/7 live streaming through July 3.
"We’re quite excited to do this,” Bogosian says. “We’re embracing the challenges posed by the coronavirus with a lot of hopeful designers, creators and architects who really believe that something good must come out of this situation.”
Dozens of the world’s leading architects, thinkers and technologists—rom institutions like Harvard, MIT and FIU—will host a total of 80 workshops and 30 panel discussions.
Some of the workshops will touch upon how technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and computational design can be leveraged in design concepts. Other workshops will discuss how architects responded to COVID-19 through the personal protection equipment (PPE) initiative – such as FIU's Miami Beach Urban Studios constructing face shields for first responders.
The field of architecture has already made some innovative strides as a result of the pandemic. Aside from being able to bring more of the architectural community together under one platform, another major benefit of hosting this event completely online is the lack of costs associated with participating for both the students and professors involved. In past years, guest lecturers and students had to travel to Shanghai to attend. So even though the workshop itself was free, the cost of the airfare alone was still too much for some. Going digital has made DigitalFutures World much more accessible.
“It’s very gratifying that we were able to offer this education experience to students who otherwise may have been disadvantaged,” Leach adds. “This, in a sense, was partly behind my motivation to organize this conference—to try and bring education to those who couldn’t afford it.”
Leach and Bogosian think this could be a model for education in the future. With access to so much information and teaching tools online, they’ve started to wonder if the model of having one instructor teach students all year really is the best method, or if there’s a more intelligent model on the horizon.
To learn more about DigitalFutures World or to catch up on the workshops, visit https://www.digitalfutures.world/workshops.