Designing a future that brings society closer together
The “Future is an attitude” podcast series presented by Audi features inspirational South Africans who think differently about the future and who challenge the status quo by driving progress within the fields of design, digitalisation, performance, and sustainability to help us shape the future.
Designers are dreamers. They imagine what we’re going to need and interpret how it could fit into the future before we anticipate it… and then, they bring those magical ideas to life. Whether we’re talking about buildings, systems, clothing, products, or services – everything we use was once dreamed up by a designer who turned an idea into the reality we know today.
In this episode, podcast host, Azania Mosaka and director at Design Space Africa, Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa take a tour of the cities of the future, exploring the ways in which designers can help us see the world that is coming and the magic that can happen when design creativity integrates with technology.
When WarnerBros’ cartoon series “The Jetsons” featuring a family of the future jetting around a city of skyscrapers in a flying car aired for the first time in 1962, the world it presented seemed like an impossible dream.
Looking back at it, the cartoon’s predictions about 3D printers, talking robots, smart shoes and jetpacks seems eerily accurate, and in fact, we’re using and designing a lot of them already.
Sixty years ago, fewer than one billion people lived in cities across the globe and if predictions are correct, by 2050 that figure is expected to balloon to six and a half billion people. So, for us to all be able to live together and still live well - cities of the future are going to have to grow upwards instead of sideways.
The future is going to be very different from what we see, and therefore we’ve got to look at building spaces and city environments that accommodate that new perspective.Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa, Director at Luyanda Mpahlwa Design Space Africa
Can you visualise it yet? Imagine mixed-use skyscrapers that become their own vertical neighbourhoods – work, play, life – all stacked on top of each other in a single building instead of being spread out.
The cities of the future won’t just be vertical, they’ll need to be smart too, and could potentially help us solve some of the problems of the past.
We’re talking about buildings that connect us, enthrall us and help us live better lives… cities that offer us a new kind of future – design has the power to solve some of our most pressing problems, and still make us feel at home.
Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa believes that the more we share those experiences and increase the level of appreciation of design and architecture, then we’ll see real progress.
You (then) are going to have to see a different kind of city emerging. If you’ve got a lot of people living in the city, you need amenities, you need schools… and we’re going to have to think about vertical schools like we see in other cities of the world because the density is so much within the city.Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa, Director at Luyanda Mpahlwa Design Space Africa
Design is constantly evolving. Mpahlwa sees it as the key that will unlock a better future for us all and, the shift to vertical density offers us an opportunity to bring our society closer together.
He believes that the idea of designing up instead of out, will enable us to bring more people in… people living and working together, instead of being separated by long commutes and socio-economic circumstances and, that results in more inclusivity, and less exclusion.
We’re getting better at putting humans at the centre of the design process, making sure that what we’re designing carries us into the future.
How design will keep us connected into the future
Technology is going to change the way we interact with our homes and how they respond to our needs.
In the next ten years, our homes are going to become much smarter, thanks to connected devices and the Internet of Things.
But what does a smart home look like?
You are able to install equipment in your house that will be able to activate or deactivate gadgets in your house without you being there. Those are developments that are going to make it easier for us to manage our environments.Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa, Director at Luyanda Mpahlwa Design Space Africa
Raised by an architect, tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana appreciates beautiful views and structures and, agrees that our physical spaces are going to be every bit as important as our digital ones, in the years to come.
She believes that that the future is going to be more about connectedness and being able to live our humanity as opposed to just being lonely and isolated in a “concrete jungle.”
To Rabana, luxury is going to be about the proximity of relationships and the people we really care about.
The COVID situation, the isolation, the lockdown… has made us appreciate how important it is to be able to share the space altogether. I am of the view that we are actually going to start appreciating the role of design more because we are going to realise how uninviting, perhaps, some of these spaces that we actually occupy really are.Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa, Director at Luyanda Mpahlwa Design Space Africa
The workplace of the future is not a place
It’s not only our homes that are going to change as we head into the future… where and how we work is on the cusp of a major change, too.
We’ve already seen that we’ve got the technology to achieve this, thanks to almost two years of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Unlearning expert, Zanele Njapha envisages the homes of the future designed to support a hybrid working environment so that employers who choose to work from home can do so.
According to her, there is a lot of unlearning to be done when it comes to the workplace. She believes that the words we use around the future of work can restrict us from being able to reimagine what it could possibly look like.
But, if we’re no longer going to the office, what do we do with it? We’ll reuse, repurpose, and refashion it and adapt it to suit our evolving needs, says Mpahlwa.
We’re going to be seeing some conversions where office buildings are converted either into mixed-use buildings, incorporating office and residential or some are going to be converted into residential.Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa, Director at Luyanda Mpahlwa Design Space Africa
The emphasis on design and rethinking of things from the inside out is what will allow cities of the future to begin to emerge.
Designing cars for the future
Designers stand in the future, they imagine the world that’s coming, they experiment, they play, they push boundaries, and they help us see the future before it arrives.
And another huge change we’re heading towards in these new vertical cities of the future is how we get around. We’re already seeing electric vehicles operating worldwide – cars, taxis, buses, trains, boats - all running on clean, quiet electric power.
Audi South Africa’s head of product, marketing and public relations, Tarryn Knight has big ideas about how cars can and will change as they go electric. She envisions a future where design flexibility is reimagined and, instead of being designed from the outside in, vehicles can now be designed from the inside out, offering space for designers to be at their most creative.”
Now, combine electric cars with another huge leap forward – autonomous driving technology (also known as driver-less vehicles) and suddenly, what you’ve got is a lounge on wheels.
She believes that the car of the future will become an experiential device and part of that is autonomous driving and the connected experience.
Futurist, Graeme Codrington agrees. In fact, he sees autonomous vehicles not only being more convenient - but safer, too.
According to research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), we can dramatically increase traffic efficiency by about 76% and see an improvement in safety of up to 96% because every vehicle will know what other vehicles are trying to achieve, resulting in a massive improvement in the traffic ecosystem, says Codrington.
The greatest designer in the world – nature
This idea of one thing being able to turn into something else, depending on what we need it for, doesn’t only have to apply to buildings or vehicles.
With smart design and cutting-edge technology, we may soon see a whole new generation of products that can adapt and change into whatever we need them to be, and many of them are inspired by nature.
As we attempt to solve one of the biggest problems: scare natural resources, biomimicry expert, Gamelihle Sibanda believes that the idea of circular design can assist.
He says circular design combines the principles of the circular economy, and systems thinking… (conscious) thinking about how it will be made, how it will be used and what will happen to it at the end of its useful economic life from a sustainability and responsibility point of view.
Our ways of living cannot remain the same.Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa, Director at Luyanda Mpahlwa Design Space Africa
The Future is an attitude. The way we imagine and embrace the future, the way we shape it with our thinking and our actions, and the way we infuse it with our hopes and our dreams... the attitudes we adopt today are laying the foundations of our tomorrow world.
Design: Marrying form and function
Audi has long been recognised for designing beautiful vehicles. But design isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s about marrying form and function. Design has the power to transform experiences, evolving the expectations of what’s functional into something transformative, just like Audi’s new e-tron range, where electric mobility delivers an evolution of the traditional drive experience – from the delicate acoustic effects engineered to share the vehicle’s presence and identity, to the animated digital matrix LED headlights. It’s not only about progressive design, but also about progressive thinking, and designing the future of premium mobility with a new global mindset and insight towards the environment and sustainability.
Visit www.audi.co.za to see why Audi's new e-tron range is the next exciting step toward a progressive future.