In a land dominated by brick and steel and concrete, what will the homes and offices of the future be made from?
Could steel-reinforced concrete be replaced by bamboo reinforcements? Could stone cut from quarries be replaced by custom grown stone from scraps?
This is the question that a new display at the Building Centre seeks to answer.
Overlooked by a floating fish, the display is mostly a collection of material samples, with small notes about who made them and from what.
The display cards are a bit basic, for example, are the glass blocks actually special in some way or are the fashions of the 1980s making a return?
Some of the materials are designed to work more closely with nature, such as encouraging, or using fewer chemicals means of discouraging plant growth. Concrete that breaks down pollution is already around, although still more expensive than would be viable for mass use.
Elsewhere though, the materials are very obviously different, and very organic.
The question there is will the buildings of the future also adopt this organic aesthetic, and end up looking like a vision of a sci-fi alien world, or will mankind insist on supermaterials looking rather more conventional?
Then again, with additive printing allowing the construction of materials in almost any shape now, maybe outwardly conventional materials will lead to outlandish buildings.
One missing aspect is whether the buildings of the future will be quieter. Buildings don’t generate a lot of noise themselves, but their often flat solid surfaces are very good at refracting road and rail noise. Supermaterials and a more sensible design of flat surfaces to to absorb or deflect the energy in soundwaves could help reduce the din from urban living.
The exhibition is open until 27th April and is free. It’s open Mon-Fri: 9.00 – 18.00 and Sat: 10.00 – 17.00.