Future-Proofing Design: How Interiors Will Evolve in 2023 and Beyond
As we take stock and analyze the year 2022 from the most visited articles in our Materials section, it is clear that issues related to interiors have strongly resonated with our readers. While humanity spends more time indoors, both in physical and now even virtual realms like the metaverse, the forms and functions that define these interior spaces have acquired greater importance and value. Experimenting with fluid, flexible and versatile spaces is a trend that we have been witnessing for some years now, driven mainly by the impacts of the countless lockdowns still present in our memory. The chaos and uncertainty we experienced made us understand the importance of buildings with spatial awareness and sensitivity –those able to anticipate and take responsibility for the effects they have on their inhabitants. Factors such as orientation, the size and distribution of rooms, the use of natural light and ventilation, and the overall aesthetics of the space are essential. Technological advances have taken center stage and disrupted traditional interior design, giving rise to new and innovative approaches to domestic efficiency and circularity.
Through three different approaches –operations, aesthetics and energy–, below we provide a forecast of how we think interior spaces will evolve from 2023 onwards.
Space and Operation: Small Gestures for a Better Life
Envisioning a sustainable and smart future, current trends are following ‘living layout’ designs through the creation of customizable, changeable spaces, which respond to the challenge of maximizing and enhancing the use of space. Allowing the connection between traditionally separated areas and playing with several spaces in one enables dynamic layouts that apply a user-center strategy.
From daily arrangements to repurposing and updating existing buildings, simple, yet high-impact gestures adapt spaces to life and not the other way around
Complementing these architectural operations, the organization of elements within a space is key to determining the flow of movement, where both integrated and self-standing furniture are allies in the design of spatially-conscious buildings.
According to the UN, reshaping how urban dwellers live through the digitization of design “encompasses various smart technological innovations that enable ubiquitous computing (making technology more seamlessly integrated into our lives, available whenever and wherever it is needed), big data collection, machine learning and autonomous decision-making”. All of this translates into futuristic systems such as robotics, visual techniques, artificial intelligence and automated processes with the ability to improve various facets of society’s well-being.
How can virtual tools influence our everyday spaces in the near future? It is already happening: technological advances linked to holographic projections are making it possible to alter the spatial experience of any environment, creating mutable scenarios that can be customized for different purposes, situations and users. By integrating artificial intelligence into architectural design, images take a step forward by helping users to inspire and visualize potential interventions in a real space. Home automation, for its part, allows efficient use of lighting resources to virtually modify spaces, making smaller rooms feel larger and more open, for instance.
The assimilation of these tools within architecture allows us to envision a future in which digitalization enables design to adapt to dynamic and ever-changing circumstances. Thus, it promotes the cohesion of architecture with ongoing living trends, such as supporting remote living through mutable layouts with changeable functions throughout the day and designing transformative spaces able to evolve (and grow over time) without becoming obsolete.
Space and Aesthetics: The Modernized Return of Rusticity
Emerging from years of unprecedented changes, we have dictated how we want our living spaces to look like: functional, appealing, calm, with a strong identity and in harmony with the outdoors. Reflecting on the aesthetic trends that gained ground in 2022, we witnessed a renewed appreciation for a “modernized rusticity” and all that it implies: tradition, the local, the richness of materials, light, views, and everything that makes us feel good and connected to our surroundings.
Soul-less, overly minimalist interiors are no longer desirable; as Nikos Salingaros once said, “We are repelled by environments that do not provide us with meaning, either because of a lack of visual information, or because the information present is unstructured.” Instead, we find value in texture, color and ornaments, leaning towards personalized spaces guided by liveliness, naturalness, and warmth. From digitization to robotics, new technologies allow architects to design with meaning while meeting modern demands.
Traditional organic materials have been updated in ways that optimize performance and sustainability without losing their ruggedness, natural beauty and intrinsic biophilic qualities.
2022 saw some notable examples: the use of cross-laminated timber in a high-rise building, and the innovative development of Structural Engineered Bamboo. Rusticity was also embraced by re-discovering the beauty of materials’ natural life cycle, whether it be oxidized copper, weathered stone, untreated wood or even high-tech materials changing their appearance as a response to external stimuli, such as self-healing concrete or thermochromic glass.
So, with this promising background, what does the future hold for aesthetics? Interiors will be transformable, modular, smarter and (literally) greener, merging nature with technology and consuming resources efficiently. VR and AR tools will create increasingly immersive experiences, biophilic design will evolve into living surfaces that grow plants or fungi, and programmable materials will be modified by computer algorithms to suit users’ needs. Along with artificial intelligence, the data revolution will govern all aspects of design, transforming the way architects work by helping them identify and measure trends and consumer preferences to create more personalized design solutions.
If we imagine a world where these visions take shape, the concept of aesthetics might even become obsolete, as nature and technology will ultimately define how spaces will look, feel and the emotions they will evoke.
Space and Energy: Powering Everyday Life Efficiently
Observing buildings, and their interiors, as living organisms is not exactly new. Currently, however, circularity adds a layer of complexity and consistency to this concept. With a circular urban metabolism, resources are conserved and waste is minimized by the reuse of materials and energy, reducing extraction and waste. Interior spaces should efficiently use the energy needed to function, while also taking care of what is wasted.
Unlike in the past, energy can be generated decentrally –through sun, wind, earth and water– and no longer requires large power plants or public infrastructure. There is a movement of self-powered homes or even off-grid buildings which work as their own ecosystems, handling all their own needs.
Although technologies such as wave power are still not very accessible, some options are becoming more affordable. This includes small-scale wind turbines, photovoltaic systems or harnessing temperature at the center of the Earth to heat and generate electricity.
But just as important as generating energy is using it in the most efficient and intelligent way. A building’s metabolism can be optimized in many ways; by using low-energy systems and appliances, with appropriate envelope materials and design, green infrastructure, and by taking advantage of the resources we receive for free, such as natural lighting and ventilation. Altogether, this reduces buildings’ energy consumption and improves indoor air quality.
In the coming years, cities and indoor spaces are expected to prepare for the great challenges of the future, namely societal changes and the climate crisis. Circularity applied in all spheres –from the home environment to urban guidelines– is a key concept for a more encouraging future. If smart lighting or digital assistants like Alexa no longer surprise us, in the near future we should have access to the integration of robotics and automation. Home automation technologies, coupled with the application of IoT (Internet of Things), should be facilitators of a circular economy, promoting a better use of resources and reducing environmental impact. Moreover, robotics and automation are expected to be further incorporated into our routines, not only revolutionizing the way we live, but also how we interact with the environment. Along with this flood of technology, we are also seeing how much we miss nature, and the biophilic design trend will surely continue (and strengthen) looking ahead.
Although it is too early to understand what the limits of artificial intelligence, robotics and other new technologies will be, the field is rapidly advancing and evolving with new innovations coming to light every day. It will be intriguing to observe how these developments will unfold in the coming years, but until then, one thing is certain: studying, appreciating and reflecting on the natural world will always be an insightful and smart move. Our future still cannot be written with absolute certainty, but we can expect three words to be present: nature, technology and well-being.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Year in Review presented by Randers Tegl.
“When creating unique architecture, visionary ideas aren’t always enough. A unique look demands character, courage, and distinctive materials. And a format to achieve the extraordinary. At Randers Tegl, we aim to add a unique touch to exceptional brickworks by bringing premium bricks to life and into the world of architecture. Making the impossible possible. We are proud to be a part of unique architecture worldwide since 1911.”
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