The societal function of architecture was described by the Austrian architect Adolf Loos as follows back in 1901: "A house has to appeal to everyone, unlike a work of art, which does not have to appeal to anyone. A work of art is a private matter for the artist. The house isn't." This pragmatic approach was a central theme throughout the 20th century. This is because the architecture of the time had to meet the needs of increasing urbanisation. Steel frame construction and the electric lift made it possible to construct buildings so tall that they practically scraped the sky. The technological progress and new construction materials such as steel, concrete, glass, aluminium and plastic had a permanent impact on architecture.
The names of the different stylistic concepts in modern architecture alone, such as New Objectivity and Rationalism, imply that practicality had overtaken aesthetics. From that point on, the house had one task only: being useful for everyone. Between the 1950s and 1970s, this revolutionary approach to the construction of buildings was taken to its logical extreme by a movement with a name that says it all: Brutalism.
These days, bulky functional buildings, sometimes made of environmentally hazardous materials, are no longer an option for urban development. Our situation on the earth continues to become more precarious, necessitating another paradigm shift. Increasingly, living is becoming less of a private matter. New visions of our future lives together are needed. Functionality and rationality remain relevant in the 21st century, albeit under consideration of different factors. As of late, architecture takes into account both the needs of humankind and those of nature.
The architecture of the future will be based on sustainability. Two ambitious projects in Beijing and Moscow illustrate this development. The British architectural firm Orproject is planning a gigantic covered garden that could offer people a refreshing break from their smog-filled environment in the Chinese metropolis. In the Russian capital, the New York-based company Diller Scofidio + Renfro hopes to combine different forms of vegetation and climate zones under the name "Wild Urbanism." Both projects are reminiscent of D+H's philosophy: Building atmosphere.