“Have you ever wondered what the future of skyscrapers might look like?” asks Rebelliously curious Hostess Chrissy Newton. “With population growth and the global climate crisis on our heels, Vanessa Keith, director at Studioteka, an award-winning design firm, seeks to solve these problems with architecture.”
“Studioteka approaches design through a multidisciplinary lens that encompasses architecture, technology, economic and social development, and urban and environmental concerns.”
In her last interview, Newton talks about Keith’s book, 2100: A dystopian utopia – The city after climate changewhich examines case studies from 14 cities around the world in the year 2100, using emerging technologies and innovative techniques to address the climate crisis.
At the beginning, Keith talks briefly about her background and why she founded the architecture firm Studioteka. Then it’s racing as Newton asks Keith what the ideal future office might look like.
“In terms of work,” Keith replies, “it would be a place where you could constantly learn (and) have people to share with, who you could constantly learn from.”
She expands on this vision and explains how a future workplace with a less “heavy” hierarchy will allow for the exchange and creation of new ideas.
“An intern who walks through the door might have an amazing idea,” explains Keith, “but when they feel like they can’t articulate it, someone higher up the food chain (maybe not) realizes they’re learning something from it can intern. There has to be some kind of mutual learning. Everyone can contribute.”
Keith quickly shifts the discussion to her vision of future cities and how her background has influenced her current approach. It was not only about the urban planning aspect, but also about things like CO2 emissions and climate change. For example, she points out how hurricanes are a seasonal threat to places like Puerto Rico and how architecture can help solve this problem.
“We could do that now, white the roofs and paint the streets,” she explains, pointing out that even simple solutions can help to combat the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, Keith says these things don’t always come to fruition, so as an architect, she began to take an approach to what urban planning might look like if no efforts were made to combat climate change.
“So what if we don’t do anything?” she asks only half-jokingly. “What if it’s like a dystopian utopia? In a world of zombie apocalypse chaos, there is nothing to design and everyone is killing each other.”
“This is actually not a design project that interests me,” she adds with a smile.
This discussion soon leads to what climate scientists call a “four-degree world.” Keith explains that there are several components to design that would need to be considered in a four-degree world, including things like e-waste recycling. The reuse of building materials will also become critical, especially in developing countries. She then talks about unused building space, including roofs and walls, which can be modified through relatively simple approaches to generate energy or support wildlife habitats.
“I like the idea of organizing a city around transit,” adds Keith when asked by Newton about a new state-of-the-art “horizontal skyscraper” being developed in Saudi Arabia, “so you don’t really need cars . I think that’s really brilliant.”
At Newton’s urging to explain what kinds of changes our children and grandchildren might see in the future workplace, Keith talks about how the pandemic has changed things in many negative ways, but has also shown us how quickly people can move to a new , futuristic approach can work.
“I’ve made friends with people I’ve only seen on Zoom,” Keith explains. “And then when I see her (for the first time) in person, it’s like seeing an old friend.”
This dynamic, including virtual workouts and meeting friends around the world, suddenly gave her a whole new perspective on the idea of the workplace of the future.
“I was like, ‘Why did I think that? place was an important thing for the friendship? Why does it matter where your body lives when it comes to friendship?’”
Keith notes how the whole world changed seemingly overnight and we suddenly learned to run our businesses and personal lives in a whole new way.
“Humans are incredibly adaptable and ingenious,” she exclaims.
At this point in the interview, Newton asks Keith about Meta’s virtual world and how she envisions virtual reality being the 22nd centurynd-century workplace. Keith responds by explaining that technology sometimes takes a while to develop, and that the future of virtual reality is likely to go well beyond just becoming a three-dimensional internet.
“[With VR]I can do so much more and be in so many more places because I don’t have to lug my body around with me,” she explains. “Which can be exhausting.”
According to Keith, her team is already using the technology to explore three-dimensional environments that allow them to work together and have a shared experience as if they were all in the same place. She even says they’re hosting VR happy hours at the Metaverse, offering people working remotely something that’s usually only available after they’ve flown around the world to be together.
“I think that’s really the power of the metaverse,” explains Keith. “The ability to really connect and connect with people whose bodies might be on the other side of the world. You would think this is not a valid friendship because my body is in New York and your body is in Australia, (but that) really doesn’t matter anymore.
“I think it will create more connection,” adds a nodding Newton. “Because instead of looking at someone on your social (media), you can socially interact with them.”
At this point in the interview, Keith and Newton begin to discuss how urban planning will go about planning and building the cities of the 22nd century. Now Keith seems to be in her comfort zone, really picking up steam and talking about many of the things humanity needs to move on from and the mindset changes that will be needed for us to avoid extinction and instead have a true “Renaissance.” of mankind” will shape our future cityscape.
“We are part of the planet,” she explains. “Part of the problem is that we don’t see ourselves that way.”
That mindset needs to change, she says, and is key to creating a technologically advanced human future that is in harmony with the environment, rather than dooming the species to massive societal collapse.
For the rest of the interview, which is very entertaining and full of exciting information, Keith talks about dividing the planet, building skyscrapers in Antarctica, inventing new technologies that will transform urban development and urban agriculture, and how future architects will look sustainable living will merge with advanced virtual environments to create a whole new definition of society and community.
After watching the interview, it’s clear that Keith really knows his stuff, and the rhythm she and Newton maintain throughout their discussion feels like a breath of fresh air on a 1,000-foot skyscraper rooftop garden. At the end of their 58-minute journey, viewers may even feel like they’ve peeked into Keith’s personal crystal ball, where old-world values and near-magical technology paint a picture of a brighter, healthier, and sustainable urban/suburban techno future.
That sounds so much better than a zombie apocalypse.
Follow and connect with author Christopher Plain on Twitter @plain_fiction