How Future Smart Highways Can Positively Influence Architecture

The designs for highways of the future are emerging, and it is interesting to see how designers are solving for some old problems while still meeting the new needs that present themselves with car innovations. Studio Roosegaarde, for example, has created a concept for the future of highways where there will be “glow-in-the-dark roads, asphalt paint that transforms in response to road conditions, and lanes that double as electric car chargers”. (1) Needless to say, such roads may help cars to be not only more energy efficient, but also to travel more safely as they make their way down the road.

So, what does all of this have to do with architecture?

You see, some of the same design thinking involved with creating a smart highway of the future parallels creating smart architecture of the future. For instance, by thinking about the car (and drivers/passengers’) needs in real-time, some very interesting solutions spring forward. For example, the road of the future can adjust its paint according to weather changes to help the car and driver stay safe while on the road. Similarly, a smart architecture can adjust its building skin to changing weather conditions impacted by light, wind, rain, and so on. Thus, both highway and building can adjust themselves based on “contexts”. (1)

Also, by creating lanes specifically for charging cars, the designer is giving multiple uses to a road surface. No longer is it meant only for driving, but will also be available for recharging cars. Similarly, within architecture many installations are taking on more uses. In fact, I predict that architectural “surfaces” will be highly important in providing for multiple needs. Take for instance, a smart window or a smart mirror — with each you can use gesture based computing to control the environment, get important information (news, weather), and to communicate with others (audio or video calls). No longer will all windows be “only windows”, and no longer will all mirrors be “only mirrors”. Think multi-use architectural surfaces.

So, I invite you to design your architecture by thinking about the latter two strategies:

  1. Design architecture that responds dynamically to its contexts
  2. Design architecture that has multiple uses for architectural surfaces

By beginning to think differently about just these two aspects, you may find you begin to come up with ideas that make your architecture highly responsive and in tune with occupant needs. Also, when designing, think about how you can enhance safety, comfort, function, and beauty for your occupants — with an architecture that responds to contexts and has multiple uses for its surfaces. You may be surprised with what you can create when you keep those four targets as your goals.


(1) Lecher, Colin. How Designers Plan to Create The Route 66 of the Future. Popular Science. October 26, 2012.

Image Credit: © Undazir | Flickr




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