Humanity is entering a new era of anthropological revolution. It is thus crucial that man’s relationship with the world be reconstructed. The invention of new techniques to shape our environment will also prove necessary. This is of particular relevance for the construction of settlements for the human species—in other words, architecture.
Architecture must address a number of fundamental transformations that require a complete reorganization of its theoretical, technological, and methodological tools. PCA-STREAM dedicates itself to this immense and fascinating challenge.
Living in the Anthropocene: a new and unprecedented challenge for humanity
Since the second half of the twentieth century, the population boom and improved living conditions have drastically destabilized the biophysical equilibrium of the planet. This unprecedented situation rings in a new geological era that scientists refer to as the Anthropocene. It is proving to be a major anthropological revolution that is subverting the very foundations of Western thought. The consequences of the subjugation of nature by man seem to have spun out of control and the threats that they pose—the depletion of natural resources, global warming, the huge loss of biodiversity, the disruption of the water cycle—are unprecedented:
The consequences on our lives could be so severe that they could surpass all other issues at stake.
They will occur in no more than one or two generations.
Their complexity greatly exceeds our current scientific knowledge.
Urbanization at the heart of the future
As a result of the dramatic increase in human population, in fifty years almost 90% of the world population will be living in some form of urban settlement. Within that period, built-up areas are set to double. Hence, cities will be assuming their role as a driving force and seat of all these future transformations. The urban phenomenon must be approached in the light of new knowledge that could foster a better understanding of the complexity of its negative externalities on the environment—which will help inoculate cities with resilience well beyond anything to date.
A new paradigm for architecture
The search for models for sustainable cities calls for the invention of new production processes. These must be in capacity to strike a balance between the expectations of the numerous concerned parties (users, nature, the community, investors, etc.) based on a meta-objective. Furthermore, these processes will have to spark a dialogue between forms of knowledge that are all too often kept apart. The challenge of the twenty-first century will then be to develop a form of collective intelligence. To get there, all stakeholders will have to incur a paradigm shift, especially architects, as they have been traditionally accustomed to merely transforming programs into architectural objects.
The metaphor of the object is to be replaced with that of the metabolism; resilience is to be favored over beauty; the program is no longer a settled matter but rather the subject of a collective invention; and the figure of the researcher replaces that of the almighty creator. It therefore seems fair to call upon architects to shift paradigms.
A profession to reinvent
If architects are indeed mounting a Copernican revolution—questioning the purpose they serve, their expertise and their models—then this may provide a unique opportunity. The understanding of the complexity of urban phenomena calls for new skills. Architects will have to incorporate more scientific knowledge in their practice. At the same time, the proficiency of architects will rely on their broad-based stance, i.e., their capacity to draw on and utilize a highly diverse body of knowledge. Architecture can no longer be a singlehanded operation. It is now the purview of a multidisciplinary team that proceeds from new dynamics and addresses the changes in the way we work (less formal employment, increased entrepreneurial spirit and innovation). Such a team relies on digital power as a tool for knowledge convergence and forms part of a global forum in liaison with large research facilities throughout the world.
A company mission
For the past decade, we have been building PCA-STREAM’s business project on this vision. It aims at linking research and action as two inseparable and permanent components of our activity. The STREAM research program establishes reflectivity in relation to the firm’s constructive practice. STREAM engages in constant exchanges with thinkers, entrepreneurs and designers of all the disciplinary fields in order to elaborate a reflection that is thematic, transversal, and prospective, as well as geared towards enabling the projects.
This vision embodies a human dimension thanks to the diversity in backgrounds of the members of the team (engineers, designers, political scientists, artists, etc.) as well as its physical design that combines a variety of places (project platforms, a research laboratory, a co-working space, an auditorium, a video studio, a projected fab lab, a collective kitchen, and so on). In the digital sphere, our vision is shared online and free access is given to all the research conducted by STREAM. Each transdisciplinary tender, each architectural innovation, and each project, provide an opportunity to generate exchanges between these two polarities and to cross-fertilize a knowledge cluster that is both open and connected to the main international research centers in fields of architecture and urban development.