An Architect is an Architect for life, it is the way of life you lead as a social activist, designer, promoter, visionary and above all creator of future leaders to ensure this world is a better place to live.
We are lucky to be Architects. Our strength is our unconditional love for Architecture.
Collective strengths of professionals and building materials gives us a building! Collective strengths of buildings, utilities, landscapes gives us a town! Collective strengths of these towns and human capital gives us a country! We need to capture this collective strengths to respond to our environmental, humanitarian, resilience and social issues in contemporary architecture and future directions. This collective strength is powerful enough to launch an Architectural Movement for us to be ready for next century!
But what is the mindset of 21st century Architects? What could be 21st century architecture? Is it just about designing buildings, landscapes and interiors? Is it about creativity, innovation or working with people? Is it about influencing society to understand the meaning of ‘living’ rather than just designing accommodation? Is it about being visionary and empowering others with that vision?
We are Architects and Urban Planners, trained to ensure the health of urban environment and accountable to develop preventive measures for the urban systems to cope with uncertainties for today and tomorrow. We understand society, economy, and environment and can visualise future! We can picture the past for our learnings and work for the present!
BUT are we ready, for the future? Are we capable of performing that ‘future’ role? Is our training adequate to cope with these challenges? Are we aware of our responsibilities?
I have been involved in numerous discussions on Cities and Urbanisations. I know many established practitioners on urban design engaged for number of years. But what I am going to say today is going to link Dhaka with all other Megacities and therefore the Megatrends happening around the world .All cities share the same effective ‘DNA’ because they’re made up of people; cities are fundamentally social networks, complex adaptive systems that behave similarly regardless of geography, political system or economic model.
There are thousands of networks, depending on activities, interests, professions, affiliations, but remember this, the most important network of cities is you. Cities are just a physical manifestation of your interactions, our interactions, and the clustering and grouping of individuals.
You need to take a differentiated approach and it’s really what increasingly businesses and organisations need to do if they’re going to be successful in these ever changing economies.
You can bring a fresh perspective perhaps different from the normal debate and address the challenges of 21st century by looking at the economy and society as a whole. If there is 10 billion people on the planet in 20501 want to live in places like this,how is it going look like?
Let’s talk about it.
21st century City is a collection of preferences. It’s the place where people have voted with their feet and the places that thrive, the places that people want to live in, want to work in will be the places that satisfy those two primordial human instincts to make stuff and to be with each other. It’s also about creating open spaces, creating thoroughfares where people walk, places where people mingle. People want place. They want a place that they’re emotionally attached to, a place that they live in and, at the same time they want the job opportunities.
People in that city have an absolute aspiration to be part of this successful dynamic developed world and they increasingly know about things around them as their TV, smart phone, tablet and internet tells them.
Cities, generally speaking, are the crucible of civilization. They have been expanding, urbanization has been expanding, at an exponential rate in the last 200 years so that by the second part of this century , the planet will be completely dominated by cities. Cities are the origins of global warming, impact on the environment, health, pollution, disease, finance, economies, energy — they’re all problems that are confronted by having cities.
Looking back over 150 years to megacities of the past, such as London or New York, we recognise that they suffered from much the same negative image often associated with megacities of today. Think of the Dickensian image of London: a city pervaded by crime, pollution, disease and destitution. Nevertheless, these cities were highly mobile, evolving and diverse societies, offering huge opportunities ultimately resulting in their modern manifestation as drivers of the world’s economy. Much the same could be speculated about megacities emerging today in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world.
Today we’ve got over 200,000 (2 lacs) people per day, that’s 1.5 million(15 lacs)  a week coming from the countryside to the city in a pattern of distressed migration that is swamping any megacity.
From 2% urban in 1800 to one that is already 51%, but is going to be 80% by 2050. [ 3]
Thirty-five megacities with over 10 million people will emerge by 2030, with twenty-two of them in Asia. 
By 2030 there is going to be 4.9 billion people living in African and Asian slums alone. 
Resource scarcity and climate change there are quite fundamental changes happening over the next 10, 20, 30 years. Firstly, the number of people on the planet is going to grow and by 2025 we could have eight billion, by 2050 nine to 10 billion. Those people are going to want to eat food, consume power and water; about 50% more energy, 40% more water, 35% more food  will be needed to feed, house and clothe those people to give them a way of life.
For decades now science has been telling us that we can expect to see certain levels of sea level rise regardless of whether we stop producing greenhouse gas in the global economy for the next 20 years or so. So, some of these big issues are locked in. Others are definitely reducible. We can, and will need to, improve the quality of what we do and how we do it.
So, we’ve got one of the defining challenges of the 21st century which is what are we going to do with these people?
Where are the jobs going to be? How is it going to work?
How are we going to avoid the outcome of these crime-ridden slums and the cities of future getting swamped?
Is it a product in trash out city that’s really just a giant waste processing zone?
You’ve got the chance with revolutions in energy and manufacturing to have a different vision of urbanisation where we make the countryside work, where we make the city work and we turn it not into a welter of slums, but into a series of villages in the city where people are thriving.
In the US, Detroit shows us how neglecting diversity can lead to losing that buzz. Detroit was narrowly focused on the automobile industry, which indeed spun off other associated but highly dependent industries, which led to a temporary boom. But because of its lack of business diversity, the city was unable to adapt when the ageing automobile industry hit tough times. Cities are quintessential complex adaptive systems constrained by underlying social and infrastructural networks. Diversity is crucial for their resilience, because all of their benefits, successes and problems are thereby highly coupled, interacting and continually changing.
You can’t deliver change in the 21st century without understanding deeply the technology drivers of it and how you implement and change technology . The pace of change is going to accelerate and being open-minded to that, recognising the skills and the capabilities that you need to have within your practice in order to deal with that.
The third Industrial wave is consumers particularly taking that power back. So, you’ll start to own your digital brand. You’ll start to own who you are on the web.
Look at things like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, they allow you to have a network of thousands. That transforms how you can access information, how you can organise yourself, how you can go to meetings with clients. So, on both sides, both on the consumer side and on the production side of the economy we’re finding there are just new models that are being underpinned by different ways of using technology.
The centre of global economic  gravity moving almost for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.
E7, which is the larger 7 emerging economies, so the 4 BRIC economies(Brazil, Russia, India and China), plus Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, against the G7, the established, advanced economies, the US, Japan, the big European economies. And what we’re seeing is that 20 years ago, the E7 were miles behind. Now, they’ve narrowed the gap considerably and by 2030 we actually think they’ll be relatively larger than the G7, in terms of the size of their economies. China will emerge as the biggest economy in the world. And all 7 of these economies will be in the top 12 economies in the world by 2030 by our estimates.
Beyond the E7 for some of these broader opportunities. There is another economic group called the F7, which is just the level below, in size, the E7 and the BRICs, and that includes Columbia and Peru, in Latin America, Nigeria and Morocco in Africa, and they include Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines in Asia.
These emerging economies as they continue to develop over the next 10 – 15 years will become huge consumer markets. We’re already seeing that the middle class in Asia Pacific region is actually going to become bigger than the US and Europe combined by 2015, by 2030 it will move far ahead. It’s no longer quite so simple, it’s not just all about growth and GDP, it’s more about differentiation. It’s more about being aware of the nuances, the institutional differences, the regulatory differences, the differences in social perspectives in these economies.
Why am I telling this to you? (Fig above tells us that) city modality has changed since it’s initial phase.
The people who can live in the cities are not the people who that used to be because of this change. In fact it is you Architects, Engineers, Doctors, Policy makers who are the inhabitants of a city. So there was never a better time to react than now .
We need to shift from a top-down model of governance towards one that is distributed [Michael Blowfield and Leo Johnson, 2013].
We believe that the distributed economy, while not a panacea to all of society’s challenges, can combine with the assets built up by the mass era to help create a prosperous future.
In terms of adequacy, it presents a model of growth that is both green and inclusive. In terms of achievability, it makes sense according to the underlying logic of capitalism.
Against this note of caution about the future, our final reason for optimism is anchored in the past.
One of the most fascinating collisions between demographics and another mega trend is that between demographics and climate change and resource scarcity. The huge change in salary scale happened in Bangladesh since the Multi-National companies started to employ the creams of the professions. Same happened recently during Mining boom in Australia, companies started to fill in experts from all around the globe manipulating 457 visa. Large Architecture Practises in Australia, UK and US advertises in Global cities rather than local newspapers.
There are many people aged and stubborn who, faced with the major crises on the main factors of the twenty-first century may prefer insteadto say there is no alternative to the present situation, or that solutions will arrive of their own accord.
But really what is going to happen as a fact in terms of Demographics  is –
Now, we can either allow that to happen at a pace driven by the facts or we can embrace it earlier and identify how we can improve the way in which we tap into the value that is generated by it more quickly. And the organisations that do that and the economies that do that will be the ones that are more successful in the future.
Our Society is not at a tipping point yet, but you need to take the first steps into this new model of growth by recognition of the logic and value with targeted government support to accelerate it. The transition towards the Turnaround for society’s promises for the greater congruence and prosperity. It is this civic intent, enabled further by technologies that promote empowerment, from participatory budgeting to monitoring of corruption, which will help us all accelerate towards the final shift of 21st Century.
There has never been a greater challenge for Architects to be innovative and creative to complement the reforms in social, economic and environmental arenas. We still have poverty, social discrimination, disadvantaged children, slum dwellers, economic barriers and environmental illiteracy.
Unfortunately we do not have magic wand or buckets of money! But what Architects have, is a set of skills to think outside the square, how to nurture the creative cells of our brain, how to use creativity, innovation to support human beings and to bring good to all societies.
I believe it is time to challenge the traditional mindset surrounding architecture and explore the nucleus of its creative aspirations. We need to promote the role of architects as social activists, masters of creativity and leaders of innovation. We only have a window of ‘one generation’ (85 years) until the year 2100! But the way we are doing things may not lead us to our destination. We may have to think outside the square.
The key technological foundations are already laid, and as innovation spaces in Germany, Silicon Valley outside San Francisco, Barcelona’s Fab City [Michael Blowfield and Leo Johnson, 2013] and Tonsley in South Australia  are among many others, show, it is already starting to happen on the ground. ‘Thefields’, as Ben Okri said, ‘are sprouting strange new mushrooms.’
About the Author(s):
An Architect-Planner by training and most recently Founding President of ‘Build Bangladesh’has extensive work experience in all levels of Australian governments and corporate sectors. To complement his architectural and planning ‘genre’, Farhad’s work focus is at the nexus of capacity building, social entrepreneurship, economic empowerment, housing & health and environmental sustainability. He also led the team at Infrastructure Australia to establish the first strategic policy on infrastructure for Australian remote Indigenous communities.
An Architect from Bangladesh with postgraduate studies in Building design from University of Sydney. With more than 14 years of working experience in Bangladesh and Australia, Samik has gained skills in many areas including Strategic Planning, Urban Design, GIS and CAD information management sectors. He has worked in Sydney based Architectural practices. Samik is also Former President of Bangladeshi Architects in Australia.
The article was prepared as part of a lecture by Architect, Planner, Change-maker Farhad Reza during the Architecture week event at Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology in November 2015 under the heading of “RETHINKING ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION AND PRACTICE IN THE 21st CENTURY: Responding to Environmental, Humanitarian, Resilience and Social issues.”