Where is the 'Built Environment' heading?

A photo of a page in one of the sketchbook written during the Paris field trip in year 1 at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

I remember writing the above short paragraph around 2 years ago when I was half way through my first year in architectural education at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Though what it states and a general belief is very much ‘amateur (and I could possibly say that it probably still is…)’, it was quiet a memorable moment. Somehow this instantaneous moment was stored very safely and strongly in my brain, in a way that it was remarkably easy to recall. One possible guess I can make is that whilst writing, the surrounding circumstances were pretty unique and perhaps in a sense that it created weird juxtaposition. I wrote it in the train journey from Poissy back to Paris in France. All of the first year at the Bartlett in 2014 academic year had a field trip to Paris. On the journey back, in the train I started to wonder what may happen in the near future looking at it in a built environment perspective. Experiencing at a multiple different scale of buildings with tens of different purposes for when it was built and nonetheless the macro scale of timeline of each buildings dating back from hundreds of years to recently newly built architectures surely struck me with lot of thinking left behind for a first year student to wonder and unfold all the curiousity he had at the time.

I was always interested in natural science, technology, sociology and psychology. Perhaps lot of my attention mostly remained within science and technology. Although I can consider myself as one of those who gets excited for everyday new technologies down to annual mobile releases, I am someone who is always curious of ‘what’ those science and technologies are offering and ‘how’ they are influencing us as a human being from every day to changes in era. Freely switching from micro to macro scale of possibly anything, allows one to really start to get a sense of certain rhythm. A rhythm, maybe a law of nature; sometimes so delicate and hard to grasp, but in which surely does exist always triggers my curiosity and most of a time it acts as my playground in which I often visit to think. Whether it be history of war, technologies in relation to architecture, inventions and the way we have constructed our cities. Regardless of its field, there lies a rhythm which I believe any living being on universe must obey. In which ‘time’ is an interesting factor in every consideration, it is not surprising how I was consistently wondering where our ‘built environment’ was heading towards. ‘Change’ is inevitable by the law of nature and nothing on Earth can retain its ‘Originality’ forever. Dating back to gothic church and flying buttress to industrial revolution and the rise of modernism, we as human have, and will ‘change’ continuously. The word ‘change’ here not only registers aesthetical view but rather holds much bigger meaning. The way we use and demand space and so called the human scale of ‘living pattern’ has consistently changed over the history of mankind. In this sense, ‘architecture’ has always adopted the changing demand remarkably slower compared to other fields. Whether such architectural adoption was heavily weighted towards architect’s pure input or science and technological aspects or even socio-political influences, we have always either directly or indirectly been affected by our built environment that we constructed in which we dwell. I disagree with one directional influences. Such complex nature has to work in multi-direction in which it has to be read and analysed in multi-direction.

I believe for the past 20 years there was a radical shift in multi-disciplinary areas. Tracing through our recent historical paths, it is more evident than ever that most of the phenomena walk towards from hardware to software. In other words, ‘physical’ to ‘non-physical’. This interesting behaviour exists in in the world of art as well. At a beginning stage, a ‘technique’ is mastered which then leads to ‘new findings’. It seems like technical abundance leading to ‘less scarce’ of practicing such technique creates a new dialogue of curiosity, full of questions generating deeper concepts and meanings compressed in to simplified form of possibly any kind. Obviously, this is not always the case, however it is well enough to be considered that we as human have always searched for ‘non-physicality’ when ‘physical’ aspects were abundant and developed to a certain degree.

At a point where we are almost walking towards fully commercialised Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR / VR) there is only little left for the technologies to hit its ‘mature’ stage. Once most of these are satisfied, ‘non-physical’ aspects of these newly emerged technologies will flourish. I believe that we will walk towards the ‘non-physicality’ and there will be a moment in history of future where common sense of ‘physicality’ will start to be questioned. The notion of the boundaries between ‘physical’ and ‘non-physical’ will become ever more ambiguous, and when the general society no longer senses the ‘physical’ as clear distinguished category, that moment will be the time where the society is truly ready to adopt fully constructed and controlled virtual world. Regardless of technical difficulties it is left for the society to accept such ‘change’ which ironically have been caused by the society’s ‘change’. It is an ever loop of one influencing the other

As architects and current architectural students, in order to understand and deliver what is best for upcoming age, we need to be more than ever be aware of the ‘rhythm’ mentioned earlier along with drastically changing environment. I do not believe that the change will only happen in ‘the way we design’, but rather the whole discourse of ‘Architecture’ will be reconstructed. Not only a small debate of ‘the roll of architects’ but such question will be held in a whole different perspective along with the question of architecture. The notion of ‘dwell’ will be re-defined. What will the word ‘dwell’ mean in the near future? Where does the architecture sit in a future which is heading to ‘non-physicality’? as architecture fundamentally holds tectonic and material aspects currently within it. Will this be totally reconstructed? If so, then what is there to replace it? or what is there to re-question us in the discourse of architecture? Where must we lie in the age of ‘non-physicality’? All of these have no answer, or probably it may not forever, but it is important that we know we are living in an era where all of us must seek for the answer (metaphoriacally) both in and outwards with broadly accepting every disciplinary than ever before. In order to meet the drastically changing environment, I believe it is vital for us to freely change between multiple scales on every possible aspect with open minded view.

Again the question is upon, where are we heading? And what will the form of ‘non-physical’ bring us about? What will it change and what will it keep?

The question will remain unanswered and I am more than happy to dedicate my life in questioning these whilst I work on my project in the near future.

Hyun Sik Yoon | 윤현식

Personal Diary