The Future of Building

In May and June Birmingham Museum and Art Galleryplayed host to an innovative exhibition that explores the ‘The Future of Building’.

I wanted the exhibition to be global in context but local in focus, and I aimed to bring together contributions from the city’s architects, artists and civil engineers. With over half of the world’s six billion people now living in cities and the figure set to rise to 80% by 2050, the future is very definitely urban.

My employer, international multidisciplinary engineering consultancy Buro Happold, sponsored the exhibition, which aimed to provide insight into the minds of those who will conceive, engineer and design the future of the buildings. The event formed part of the ongoing Paper Project which seeks to promote public understanding of the engineer’s contribution to a sustainable built environment.

The nature of the sustainability challenge facing society requires that conceptual thinking be married to pragmatic design and practical implementation. These three strands are embodied by the artist, architect and engineer at this pivotal moment when national public interest in ‘sustainability’ is at a peak.

I contacted architects, engineers and artists in the city to pull together the exhibition and contributors included:

Glenn Howells Architects created an installation which explores the contemporary use of traditional building materials to investigate how architects and engineers can use low-tech materials such as timber to create innovative, beautiful designs.

Bryant Priest Newman Architects explored the balance between technological advancements and lifestyle with a focus on adapting and reusing existing building stock to meet the ever-increasing need for sustainable habitation.

Anna Cottle, a Fine Art student at Birmingham City University, created a gritty, surreal video installation which looked at the development of Birmingham and its architecture, its historical buildings and how the city will look in the future.

Architecture graduates Andy Wolfe, Gavin Traylor, Kumaraguru Muniandy and Chris Bravington showcased work completed as part of the university’s postgraduate diploma in architecture, in which clues from today’s culture and society were used to speculate on what our urban future will be.

‘The Future of Building’ ran from the 4th May until 18th June at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and was open to the public.