Technology in Design: The human impact!

Our lives today are governed by technology. It has infiltrated into every stream of our being. In a scenario as such, Ar. Sushant Verma of rat[LAB] Studio and Ar. Ben van Berkel of UNStudio decrypt the extent to which the concepts of ‘humane’, ‘empathy’ and ‘connectedness’ are being impacted by technology in design.

We are traversing an IT revolution. Ideas can be transformed into products in minutes; even the most bizarre concepts can be actualised using evolved software solutions; enterprise-level software is easily available to the general masses making nought of professional assistance… and many more such aspects have altered the approach and execution in building architecture, interior design, identity design, packaging design, lighting design, fashion design, and so on…

Attempting to comprehend this change continuum, Team IAnD in conversation with Architects Ben van Berkel and Sushant Verma:

IAnD: What in your opinion is the foreseeable future of the impact of technology in your specialised field of design?
SV: The pace of evolution of technology in today’s era is faster than any period in the history of mankind. We are in a constant state of flux where all developments are, directly or indirectly, induced by technology. We have seen an exponential change in the last few years which is positively impacting the field of architecture to improve design efficiency, accuracy and perhaps an increasingly impactful style of architecture that is determined by technological developments.
BvB: Technological disruption means that possible futures in the spheres of living and working are many and it would be a conceit to believe we can predict exactly which will come to fruition. However, as architects our role is not only to speculate but to visualise; to draw the lines of the future we wish to move towards. Guided by ecological and socially sustainable principles, we can then begin to design the steps towards achieving that future.

IAnD: What does the immediate future 2021 hold for us in this domain?
SV: The year 2020 has taught us all one thing — nothing is constant, and the world can reset with merely a single action. This is more like the butterfly effect and chaos theory which has put human actions in question. We must live with this unpredictability, but also can rely on hope for 2021 as things may start to come back to track as far as our lifestyle and developments in the built environment are concerned. Reliance on design technologies such as algorithmic thinking, design thinking and computational design can potentially allow us to solve old and new problems differently.
BvB: Before too long our homes and workplaces will become empathic machines that learn from our preferences and automatically respond to our behaviours and habits. But what is perhaps of more interest for the future is that the technologies involved, through data collection, will also make our lives measurable. In addition, with the added use of sensor technologies, we will soon be able to monitor the spaces we live in for ideal temperatures, light levels, air quality, humidity, and energy consumption — simultaneously improving both our health and the health of the planet.

IAnD: Will the concepts of ‘humane’, ‘empathy’ and ‘connectedness’ change in the near future?
SV: Absolutely. These have started to change already as we, as a collective, learnt a lot with the pandemic to reflect on our actions and deeds. New problems emerged last year, which were completely unprecedented and has taught us all that we need to learn to adapt. Adaptation is the only way of survival. Social restrictions have taught us the real meaning of connectedness which everyone is striving for now. These concepts are surely being redefined now in this new world we live in.
BvB: Because we can now monitor the use and performance of the environments we inhabit; it is this facet of new technologies that I predict will cause the greatest shift in how we live in the future. It is this that I believe will nudge us beyond mere convenience and towards improving our behaviour on both an individual and neighbourhood scale.

Photography Credits: The Sacred Hendecagon: Shirdi Sai Baba Temple in Tamil Nadu by rat[LAB] and Shilpa Architects. And © by Norm Li

Originally published at on January 5, 2021.




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