P'Elizabeth Koelker

by P'Elizabeth Koelker

Principal, Director - Healthcare & Higher Ed Studio

The Future of Architecture

  • OCTOBER 21, 2015
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The greatest thing about life is that there is a future out there waiting to be discovered and explored.

I have to say I have found this career to be challenging. There are such a wide variety of skill sets needed to practice and excel in architecture and design - technical, creative, political, financial - and they are always changing, always regenerating, always evolving into something new. But that is also the beauty in it, and what keeps me interested - I am very curious to see what the future of architecture might hold!

Futuristic Architecture Futuristic community by Planning Korea

About 18 years ago, I traveled to the Netherlands for an interview to work at UNStudio in Amsterdam, with Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos. I had a young son at the time, and ultimately moving overseas proved too difficult, but the conversations I had with Ben and Caroline and their team have stuck with me. We talked about how architecture was practiced in Europe - essentially, the A/E team being responsible for drawings & specs through what we here in the States think of as Design Development. The "Construction Document" phase was the domain of the builders - you know, those folks who are specialists in the actual construction part of the project! This made all kinds of sense to me, and is today, and into the future, how I see our practice changing and evolving.

Our highest value as architects and designers comes from being great at imagining design solutions that can address our clients' functional, aesthetic, organizational and financial needs related to their buildings and spaces, understanding codes and other jurisdictional considerations and constraints, and generally helping to create a vision of the future that is responsible to individuals, communities, and the planet. The construction industry's highest value comes from knowledgeably building those ideas. With the increasing involvement of Construction Managers early in the design process, it is my hope and belief that they will take increasing ownership of the deliverable of the built thing, freeing up design teams over time to focus more on innovation and design, and less on technical construction details.

As a result, I would anticipate the overall quality of our designed environments to continuously improve, hospitable spaces that honor the human spirit through qualities such as those outlined in the WELL building standards to become more plentiful, and thoughtful, sustainable design practices and innovations to be increasingly extended which will truly craft a fully sustainable future that can support the nearly 10 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by mid-century… hopefully, leaving room for the wild places and creatures that bring us joy.

Sky Urban Vertical Farming System by Sky Greens Sky Urban Vertical Farming System by Sky Greens

Human beings have been remarkably innovative as a species. The A/E industry —in my opinion— has suffered somewhat over the past several decades from a loss of focus on innovation, but I see that tide turning. As a field, we are exceptionally well positioned to positively envision an innovative new future, through our design of individual buildings, whole cities and even environments. My expectation is that we will increasingly enjoy that opportunity, and responsibility, going forward.

What an exciting future—carpe diem!

P'Elizabeth Koelker

by P'Elizabeth Koelker

Principal, Director - Healthcare & Higher Ed Studio

P'Liz enjoys opportunities to help organizations achieve their goals functionally, financially and culturally, and feels privileged as an architect to help facilitate those efforts. She loves traveling to places she's never been before, and her favorite movie is The Princess Bride.