Building a Future in the Dark

Designing a world without a blueprint.

In a world that is forever changing, unpredictable and – at times – unimaginable, how can we plan and plot for a future, when we have no grasp on what that future world might look like? 

When I was a kid and thought of the future, I imagined flying cars, thirteen thousand storey high rises, people teleporting from Melbourne to Paris and cities that looked like the inside of a Roald Dahl novel. But as I try to picture what the future will look like as a twenty-one-year-old recently graduated university design student – I struggle to see anything other than a lot of blank space and a vortex of unknowns. 

The first thing in architecture you are taught to consider when developing a design is context. What will this mean to the pre-existing framework? Who will this impact? How will this fit into the existing surroundings? Why will this help or challenge the current context? But when there is no context in which to model your design and ideas the space suddenly becomes a lot more daunting; but with that fear must also come possibility, and that possibility is exciting.  The fear of the unknown versus the possibilities it could bring. 

Growing up, there seemed to be a concrete life plan; a step-by-step understanding that you would go to school, get an education, study at university and then move into the workforce. However, as I move closer to entering ‘the real world’ I’m slowly uncovering the flaws and incompleteness in our thinking. It seems that no matter how hard we try we just can’t keep up. By the time we have graduated high school the theories and skills we have learnt are surpassed by a new wave of technological advancement and adverse thinking. The same stands for university. 

It seems almost impossible for schools and tertiary institutions to ensure their curriculums current and cutting-edge, that the skills and knowledge to be successful – out in the wide world – are outdated as quickly as they are taught.

There was this overwhelming feeling that as soon as I would enter the workforce, I would already be behind

Throughout my studies, having majored in Architecture, I was able to see the holes in the system to a far greater degree than I anticipated. By its nature, a design course involves forward-thinking and staying attuned to ever-changing trends. And yet, even though design is considered one of the most innovative realms of education, I couldn’t help but feel like I was always playing catch up with the rest of the world. We were being taught how to build the best buildings for today but where does that leave us for the future? How can we build a world when we don’t know what it will look like?  

There was this overwhelming feeling that as soon as I would enter the workforce, I would already be behind. As soon as a skill or software was grasped at university another better more advanced method would come to my attention and I would question why I wasn’t being educated through my ‘cutting-edge’ coursework. There seems to be a vast disconnect between tertiary education and the changing world in which we live. We are still attending university to learn about a job that might look very different in twenty years’ time. Thus, as we cannot realistically expect our teachers to assume the role of fortune tellers, the onus shifts to us as students to stay informed and relevant.   

These pressures also extend to the way in which we learn. Over the past few months complete remote learning has been added to this already messy equation. While the transition to leaning online continues to be a challenge for many it is remarkable how quickly most have been able to adapt. It seems that we are more than capable of adjusting to new circumstances when they are forced upon us and I think that is something to remember when moving forward.    

Because we can’t know or predict what our world will look like in twenty years, but we do have the power to influence it

The world is changing so rapidly with social transformation, disease, political shifts and technological advancements and it is clear that these changes aren’t slowing down – rather, they are ramping up. I guess it’s a matter of getting on the train or you’ll be left behind. Evolve with the times or you will have lost your place on the journey. 

If the current challenges that our society is facing has taught us anything, it is that of unpredictable circumstances. There is no guarantee that the world you woke up in today will be the same tomorrow and while that blank canvas can seem scary, it is also the springboard of opportunity.  Because we can’t know or predict what our world will look like in twenty years, but we do have the power to influence it.

There are no blueprints, no plans or instructions on how to tackle the future we will be left with, so we have the opportunity to design the world we wish to live in.

Watch this space.

Paige Roseman is a Bachelor of Architecture student at the University of Melbourne who refuses to give up using her typewriter.

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