Credit: Kyle T. Webster
As we’ve watched the profession evolve over the past 15 years, these means and methods have migrated from the fringes to the center of architecture’s arsenal of best practices.
Updating the time-honored master builder model, architect-led design/build firms offer clients an experience that is integrated from start to finish. The arrangement forgoes some checks and balances of the conventional approach, but it allows accurate job costing earlier in the design process and can put more design talent out on the jobsite.
Once reserved for the homes of movie villains, modern residential architecture has gone mainstream. The kinder, gentler Modernism of the 21st century uses agricultural and industrial references to connect with its region. And its popularity continues to grow among younger generations.
Gen-X and Gen-Y city dwellers are looking for a sense of community, even within their apartment or condominium buildings. New and recent multifamily projects feature gyms, courtyards, movie rooms, rooftop decks, and even lobby coffee bars—all serving as layers of shared space between the street and the unit.
New Urbanism began as an insurgent movement against the car-centered orthodoxy of conventional planning wisdom. By resurrecting and codifying old-fashioned ideas about mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly communities—and by persuading developers of their value—New Urbanists have transformed the real estate landscape.
disaster relief housing
News of natural and man-made disasters now spreads with a speed that was unthinkable 15 years ago. Architects have responded accordingly, using their unique skills to provide post-disaster design and rebuilding help—especially through Architecture for Humanity, which started in 1999 and now has 70 chapters in 25 countries.
The dream of high-design prefab housing picked up steam during the boom, as a clutch of innovative firms drew international acclaim for their sophisticated prefab plans and manufacturing methods. Despite a housing bust-induced slowdown, consumer awareness of architect-led prefab is now higher than ever.
Traditional hierarchies have given way to newly democratic firm structures, heralded by open workspaces and abstract company names. Today’s firms often work across disciplines, incorporating interiors, landscape, construction, and furniture—and they’re ready and willing to team up with other designers.
new traditional architecture
With mass market housing mired in a historical pastiche, a cadre of dedicated classicists and masters of regional vernacular hold the line on authenticity in traditional architecture.
information technology and tools
Email and digital photography have transformed communication among architects, clients, and builders. Meanwhile, the Internet has given practices that before were strictly local access to national—and even international—markets.
Structured sustainability programs like LEED and Passive House apply objective standards to the ideal of green design, giving architects verifiable paths to high-performance, environmentally responsible buildings.
small house consciousness
Doing more with less has always been at the heart of architecture. Now environmental awareness and a reset in the economics of homeownership have given minimalist housing mainstream cachet.
Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media have provided architects with potent new marketing tools. Their casual nature enables companies to connect with people quickly and informally, and to reveal more about the personalities behind the firm.
Extending the dominance of CAD, building information modeling, or BIM, has expanded the capability of architectural documents to include not only the third spatial dimension, but also light and the crucial element of performance over time.
strong indoor/outdoor connections
Sunbelt climates invited architects to dissolve the exterior wall, while improvements in glazing gave them the means to do so. Temperate regions got in on the act, too; every house can use a little more nature.
open floor plans
Modernism introduced open-plan living, but the concept has become virtually universal. Neo-traditional detailing may rule the suburbs, but only the most hidebound traditionalist would tolerate a door between the kitchen and dining area.