Architecture Trends (Top 6) that will Dominate our Future


As we move towards a rapidly-urbanizing population with pressing concerns over food security, digital displacement, social equality & environmental justice – what, we wonder, are the architecture trends of the future?

In this article, we outline some of the latest information on the architecture trends of today – condensed with the trajectories that architecture is tending towards in 2021: covering themes of the inclusivity, sustainability, and digitalization in the backdrop of rapidly burgeoning cities. 

Architecture Trends

Architecture Trends #1 Inclusive Architecture

While accessibility in design is enforced as almost an iron-clad regulation in many countries today, the design process has always been left wanting of a more integrated approach rather than an afterthought.

This scope includes persons with reduced mobility, visual impairment or other types of sensorial loss, as well as mental & psychological well-being, gender equality, elderly, pregnant women, and children.

Architecture Trends - Robson Square stairs in Vancouver

Photo Credit: Deand Douchard / Robson Square stairs in Vancouver

The United Nations estimate that by 2050, 1 in 7 of the urban dweller population will be persons with disabilities. Concepts of ‘accessibility and universal design’ will increasingly move away from the forgotten domains of the design process as this trend of migration from rural to urban area steadily intensifies.

When dealing with anthropometric and experiential architecture, interior and industrial design also becomes increasingly intertwined with notions of accessibility in architecture. Architects will be expected to design in totality – no longer being able to deal with merely the big picture but to work directly with lighting, furniture, finishes, and fixings.

Architecture Trends - Inclusive school for children in Tel Aviv

Inclusive school for children in Tel Aviv / Photo Credit: Roni Cnaani  

The idea of human dignity becomes apparent as an approach to accessible design – going beyond fulfilling functional aspects of wheelchair-friendly designs and placing emphasis on healing, wellness and space psychology.

Beyond calling for architecture schools to teach universal design alongside other disciplinary subjects such as anthropology and biology, it is pertinent to empower a diverse group of people to become architects and designers of the built environment.

Inclusivity in the profession and classroom is another step in ensuring that marginalized voices have a say in shaping the very design process that impacts them.

Wheelchair-accessible playground

Wheelchair-accessible playground / Photo Credit: Rehabmart.com

Beyond witnessing the acknowledgements of urban-scale improvements towards a more inclusive city such as the yearly European Union Access City Awards, as well as innovative solutions we have seen in the recent years to promote ‘potty parity’ and reduce queue times for women in public toilets, the architecture trends of the future will focus on inclusivity and diversity, both within the profession and as products of the profession.

Architecture Trends #2 Tactical Urbanism

For most of the urgent and pressing needs of the urban environment including road and traffic safety – most people agree that hardly any time should be wasted in remedying them.

In a similar vein, what is termed ‘tactical urbanism’ bloomed as a reaction to the traditionally time-consuming and occasionally frustrating bureaucratic design processes of planning, submissions, clearances and contracting.

Architecture Trends - Pop-up bike lanes in Utah

Pop-up bike lanes in Utah / Photo Credit: Amarillo109

Street projects that use this approach of ‘tactical urbanism’ aim to speedily put in place short-term design interventions – such as implementing round-abouts to better direct traffic at a busy intersection – while at the same time collecting data and opinions from end-users to further make meaningful changes to the design.

It is a process aimed at utilizing a collaborative ground-up approach and participatory design to continuously iterate and refine a design that is truly beneficial for its local end-users, while creating desirable outcomes such as fostering bonds within a community. 

Architecture Trends - Tactical urbanism intervention in Bogotá

Tactical urbanism intervention in Bogotá

As we move into the future, design and architecture will shift away from being an esoteric subject that only pedigreed members of the profession can carry out – end-users such as pedestrians and street-side stall owners will be increasingly empowered to better their built environment.

Allowing citizens to have more of a stake in their own communities enables a mutual sense of accountability which in turn create enriching and enjoyable outcomes for outdoor urban areas.

Car-free day on London Bridge

Car-free day on London Bridge / Photo Credit: Eleanor Broderick  

This rise in popularity of tactical urbanism also mirrors the world’s intensive urbanization – where an estimated 60% of the world’s population is expected to be living in urban areas by 2030.

As this places a strain on infrastructural demands, tactical urbanism becomes a refreshing new approach towards achieving urban goals such as the 15-minute city utopia, a decreased dependence on automobiles within cities, and pedestrian safety.

The ‘pop-up’ guerrilla nature of tactical urbanism has allowed its growing implementation as a pilot testbed in many cities, most notably the global car-free initiative ‘Park(ing) Day’ where metered parking spots or roads are converted into pedestrian plazas and bike lanes.

This global phenomenon has been acknowledged to be a success on many frontiers such as promoting physical health and bringing awareness to carbon neutral initiatives, as well as blooming into many other experiments in rethinking, reprogramming, and reclaiming vehicular space.

We can only expect the rise in popularity of such architectural trends of intervention methodologies to tackle other urban issues of the 21st century.

Architecture Trends #3

Designing for Domotics in a Smart City

A smart city is a loosely-defined term: at its core is the seamless integration of pieces of information and data collected from citizens – from the electricity consumed per household to the hours that you spend at home – into translatable actions for fine-tuning and improving urban life, whether infrastructural or within the comfort of your home.

Essentially, a smart city would depend on what is termed the ‘Internet of Things’ – the network between multiple sensors, software, and technologies that enable us to live in an optimized allocative-efficient ecosystem.

Architecture Trends - Potential of Smart Homes

Potential of Smart Homes

Home automation or ‘domotics’ has yet to be completely mainstream, with mounting concerns over the possible Orwellian slippery-slope scenarios that constant surveillance may lead to as well as an initial resistance towards technology in its infant stages.

However, smart cities have long been harnessing data to improve urban infrastructure for the every-day user such as optimizing train capacities to decrease congestion, streamlining trash collection, efficient distribution of electricity across power grids and the implementation of self-driving cars, to name a few.

Singapore, ranked as top Smart City 2020

Singapore, ranked as top Smart City 2020

Nevertheless, the widespread adoption of domotics are seemingly inevitable in the years to come as there is already a huge market for intelligent home appliances: the global home automation market is expected to hit 81 billion dollars by 2023. 

It is worth noting that the market for smart products cater to a fundamental need of security and safety – for instance, smart floors that can detect if a person with reduced mobility has fallen down and automatically dial for help, or facial recognition to prevent intruders from entering your house.

Domotics also appeal fundamentally to the need for energy conservation – as buzzwords like sustainability gain traction, so do the mainstream buyers’ interest in energy-saving technologies.

As these products continue to make waves in the market and metrics are made to determine their efficacy when weighed against their cons, homeowners seem to be moving in the trend of embracing smart architecture. When it reaches that critical mass, architects and designers alike must be ready to design for domotics.

Architecture Trends #4

Rise of Vertical Farming

Skyrise greenery and rooftop gardens have become architecturally trendy in recent years, and the interest in these carbon sequestering, heat removing, food-producing crops are just beginning to grow.

Cities and suburban areas are increasingly trying to reverse the trend of urban sprawl and the urban heat island effect through growing gardens of food crops atop surfaces where you don’t normally find them – including skyscraper roof tops, wall facades, and indoors.

Architecture Trends - Visualization of self-sufficient urban villages

Visualization of self-sufficient urban villages

This trend of converting every square meter of a vacant urban area in lush greenery is not revolutionary – contemporary concepts of the Edible Garden City’ and grow-your-own-food movement have cropped up in many parts of the world and used as a multi-pronged approach to get communities and citizens engaged in the food that they consume.

The global urban farming market has been expected to reach 288 billion dollars by 2026 and is only expected to rise at a steady rate, given the numerous benefits for the local populace of doing so. Urban agriculture offers food security and greater access to nutrition to these urban cores, doubles-up as test-beds for research on crop farming, combats intense urban heat, and provides long-term educational and therapeutic benefits to getting up and close with nature.

They bring ‘farm-to-table’ to urban areas and may alleviate the immense workload of supplying cities with food. Not to mention, plants are extremely favored in cities – boosting not just the overall aesthetics of urban living but also acknowledged for their impact on emotional well-being and even as eye-pleasing barriers to noise or air pollution.

In certain countries, provision of communal greenery or crop-growing areas are increasingly incentivized by building regulations, and tax incentives are given out to encourage urban agriculture.

Architecture Trends - Urban hydroponics

Urban hydroponics / Photo Credits: Agritecture 

If you don’t have green fingers, fret not! Urban agriculture encompasses a large breadth of urban farming methods that are soilless, more specifically termed hydroponics (the growing of crops without soil and using water with minerals), aeroponics (the growing of crops without soil and using air or mist), aquaponics (a symbiotic looped system consisting of aquatic animals with hydroponics), amongst others.

Since intensive green roofs or traditional farming methods with soil may be impractical in urban areas, these alternative methods have been explored as viable means to ensure that everyone has greater access to growing their own food.

Architecture Trends - Urban farm in Moscow

Urban farm in Moscow / Photo Credit: Mos.ru

There’s a caveat: most of the global population subsist on high-caloric density foods like soy and wheat, which have been impractical to grow indoors in indoor conditions.

Most notably, yield productivity and overall efficiency of city crop systems are still studied in its early stages and urban farming may not be the panacea for every city. Regardless of the developments, architects and designers will be thinking green in years to come.

Architecture Trends #5

Renewed Consciousness about the Environment

One of the better known architecture trends is ‘Sustainable architecture’ and it has been slated to become one of the latest buzzwords that is deemed to be overused ad nauseam, with many scathing critiques on the dearth of clarity and commitment when it comes to using the word ‘sustainability’.

Indeed, with the multitude of ways that you can measure the ‘life cycle’ of buildings, how do we keep track of how truly ‘sustainable’ architecture is?

Sustainable architecture?

Sustainable architecture?

It is no secret that the construction industry is one of the most carbon-intensive activities, with carbon emissions from buildings reaching an all-time high in 2019. As the trend of green buildings grows, architects have been creatively pushed to utilize more passive design strategies and to build more innovatively such as rethinking architectural elements of façade, roof, and floors.

It is worth noting the rise in popularity of ‘net-zero energy’ buildings – buildings that purportedly produce enough renewable energy to offset the energy used by construction or maintenance. Innovative designs include algae facades: capable of harvesting biomass through absorption of renewable solar energy, which is channeled into multiple uses such as power and heat generation, all at the same time while absorbing carbon from the environment.

In future years, architects will have to work with achieving energy goals through harnessing renewable sources of energy, such as solar & photovoltaic energy and smart grids.

Concept for world’s first algae bioreactor in Germany

Concept for world’s first algae bioreactor in Germany

In this climate-conscious milieu we live in, it remains an ongoing design challenge for architects to embody the ideals of sustainability beyond merely ‘greenwashing’ buildings or having a superficial understanding of eco-living. Architecture will witness more rigorous testing and holistic design approaches, with the designer’s ethos laid on the line.

Architecture Trends #6

Embracing Digital Innovation 

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) has come a long way in history since its inception in the 1960s and it is astounding to witness the trend of digital design and fabrication in architecture today. From the upcoming development of what could be the world’s first 3D-printed community to using knitting technologies to create curving concrete formwork, this steady trend shows no signs of buckling.

Architecture Trends - Concrete structure made through ‘knitting’ technologies

Concrete structure made through ‘knitting’ technologies
Photo Credit: Juan Pablo Allegre and Oliver Santana

Automation has already made its mark on the architecture field, (thankfully) eliminating tediously repetitive tasks in drafting and documentation.

With the advent of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies and other open-source programs, it is evident that designers can no longer stick to the traditional workflows of design and will have to increasingly embrace computational design tools.

An atomizing of architectural offices is more than possible, as firms realize that they can do more with less.

3D-printed concrete structures

3D-printed concrete structures

Designers will continuously be geared towards thinking about modularity: prefabricated projects that can be easily multiplied, stored, and transported. Interest in digital fabrication, robotic prototyping and parametric design is soaring rapidly in architecture schools, as we see new courses rolled out that specialize in teaching computational methods.

Generative design algorithms provide the user with limitless iterations of design within set parameters, improving the speed and quality of design process in an unprecedented way. Combined with various forms of mixed media like virtual and augmented reality, digital tools have democratized the playing field, allowing a greater range of audiences to participate in sharing a common vision for the built environment.

As is the case with most industries, designers must quickly adapt to this rapidly changing landscape and utilize digital in setting the precedent for the next era of cutting-edge architecture.

About the Author

Dušan Cvetković is a professional architect from Serbia with international experience in the industry. Collaborated with numerous clients all around the world in the field of architecture design, 3D modeling and software education. He's been teaching Rhinoceros3D to thousands of architects through How to Rhino community and various social media channels.