Popular discussions of trends typically focus on fashion and couture, where people are keen to impose order on an area where styles change rapidly. At the core of any trend, however, is a basic understanding about consumption as the by-product of individual mind-sets that have been driven by factors such as social and political change, popular movements, beliefs, ideologies, technology and more.
In design, there is what I call a “grey zone” trend, whose creations physically represent the unease of the new millennium–a tumultuous time when previously prevailing paradigms have been shifted or even overturned. Never before have the borders between good and bad taste been so blurred and so relative, despite the persistence of long-standing traditional values.
The idea of the grey zone is not only about design. It also reflects our zeitgeist, while the line separating good from bad transcends taste. The grey zone is as much about the relativism of truth and facts in people’s mind-sets, as reflected by the current debate on what constitutes “fake news”, or even the popularity of “flat earthers” in Indonesia over the last year.
In the media space, we have been thrust into the grey zone by uncurated and unverified news reports. Spread by a single touch on a smartphone, these reports have made good and bad a question of personal choice, not a matter of common sense. This has driven the research of my colleagues and me into trends that demarcate architecture and interior design.
However, hope is always there–even in the grey zone. It is reflected in the power of each person to survive and to strive. Translated into design, the grey zone is not necessarily dark and depressing. There are colours, textures and processes that bring excitement into life. Curiosity prompted us to find several structures from around the world that illustrate the concept of the grey zone. Here’s what we found.
Energy shortages and the emerging threat of an anthropogenic environmental catastrophe evoke what scientists are calling the Anthropocene epoch, where human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Conservationist concepts that propose restoring Earth to health draw inspiration from the Archean eon, which began about four billion years ago, when continents were formed and photosynthesis emerged.
In design, Archean architecture is represented in forms and colours that evoke the surface of the Earth in a very raw form. It is also depicted by using natural materials, such as wood or stone, coupled with glass frames and a modern structure.
The Norwegian Wild Reindeer Pavilion devised by the Oslo-based integrated design firm of Snøhetta represents Archean themes. The building–located in Hjerkinn on the outskirts of Dovrefjell National Park, about 360 kilometres north of the Norwegian capital–has a core of rippled timber that flows out to the entrance door of the pavilion, providing outdoor seating. The other side of the building is fully covered with glass and rectangular steel frames, underlining thoughts about nature and Earth, while offering viewers the comforts of contemporary life.
Vigilant architecture is a reincarnation of traditionalism tempered by ingenuity and powered by modern technology and knowledge. Driven by the unfortunate living situations facing people in several parts of the world, Vigilant architecture prizes a balance between local materials and high-end conceptualization and processing, resulting in products such as pineapple-leaf vegan leather or a buildings crafted by 3D printers. Vigilant architecture evinces strong, sleek modern lines along with a strong connection to tradition. Elemental forms, with reduced or no decorations, are typical.
The materials used vary from concrete, loam, bricks, wood and other local rediscovered traditional materials that are a more economically efficient or environmentally friendlier alternative to standard building materials. Examples include the Colombian company Conceptos Plásticos’ lego-like bricks. Crafted from recycled plastic, the bricks solved two problems at once: A lack of inexpensive housing in latin American urban areas, as well as what to do with plastic from landfills. Closer to home, Mycotech Indonesia’s building panel, made of agricultural waste and bound by mycelia mushrooms, create a durable, sustainable building material.
There’s also the award-winning Schengen Trio, or three-thatched barn home devised by the Berlin-based Möhring Architekten. The building uses thatch, a naturally weather-resistant material that does not retain water–and which offers excellent insulation and resists high winds when packed and installed properly. The building does have a traditional barn look, with two large black doors that slide to cover the glass facade of the house if needed. Recognized as a modern interpretation of the north German building traditions, this house is comfortable and efficient.
Inspired by innovations in bioengineering, Cryptic architecture reflects hybrid products that synthesize various disciplines and technologies. The result is buildings that are unusual, often creepy, yet beautiful and stunning in appearance. These structures are the product of those with high education, and who evince a lifestyle where technology is matched by a sense of responsibility as well as the joy of experimentation. Forms are built with a systematic order or by specific calculation, using either innovative materials or technologies, giving a mysterious or even futuristic look.
Cryptic reminds us of science-fiction monsters that are a vague mix of birds and reptiles with artificially intelligent machines. Structures might have iridescent colours, a responsive surface, or a completely new building method. Cryptic opens the door to a new form of aesthetics.
As an example, Madrid-based GilBartolomé Architects created the Cliff House with Zinc Roof, whose form and metallic roof produce a calculated aesthetic ambiguity that looks like skin of a dragon, if seen from below. The fluid arrangements of the zinc roof and its folded corners catch and bounce light, completing the cryptic appearance.
Digitarian architecture is an offshoot of the story of Generation Z, the digital natives who live life in parallel, virtually and on-line. Even if many would call them mutants due to a dependency on the Internet, members of Generation Z are a lot more sensitive and thoughtful than they appear. They are able to educate themselves and value subjects using their own parameters.
As a generation born into a time of recession and humanitarian crisis, members of Generation Z have lives that have been painted in vibrant colours and playful and dynamic forms. Through an ability to think deeply, they evince a balance in daily life that plays an important role. Asymmetrical lines, motives, textures and optical graphics define this theme.
The Lollipop House of Korean architect Moon Hoon offers an excellent illustration of this theme: A simple dwelling for nesting that provides enough space to represent a dynamic state of mind with vibrant colour, graphics and a playful form.
These are only some examples for houses representing trends for 2017. Every trend can be divided into sub-themes that go deeper into form, colours and material. Forecasting brings out the stories that will be transformed into trends in near future, stimulating the design process with their vision–although ingenuity always rests in the hands of designer.
The article was based on the author’s article in GreyZone, Trend Forecasting 2017/2018.