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Civic Futures is premised on the idea that automation and computation will create new and unexpected situations for architects to make sense of in the near future as robotics, machine learning, AI, and ubiquitous sensing and computing soak into the fabric of cities. These technologies present new opportunities for how we see, shape, and inhibit place, and their potential to deploy and scale rapidly demands sharp thinking in terms of how digital technologies are designed for an urban context as well as how they’re owned and who owns them. The projects entail speculation on a technological level, but are focused on the spatial impacts of those technologies in cities—how streets, sidewalks, parks, plazas, parking lots, buildings, and other pockets of urban space may be rethought. Each project is designed within the context of its own scenario projected some five or more years in the future.
As a body of work these twelve projects ask us to consider the role of the architect in translating technological possibility into new ways of life, urban rituals, and collective qualities. Technology seems to have accelerated individualist tendencies in American society and reinforced polarization as people separate into filter bubbles, but this is only one path. Technology also holds great potential for rethinking many of the institutional assumptions of the 20th century—how we care for ourselves, and each other, at scale. As contemporary technologies including computation, networks, algorithms, and robotics reshape how we inhabit cities, it is incumbent upon architects to take a leading role. Our focus is on envisioning new possibilities that are desirable—even hopeful—and that apply technology in service of broader humanist goals. In the tradition of architectural speculation, these projects are not pitches to be bought or rejected, but objects of debate.