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The future of architecture is both bigger and smaller than it has ever been. People’s aspirations, coupled with volatility and change, are shifting our frames of reference for architecture, urbanism and design.

FRAME/SHIFT is a platform for exploring how scale-shifts are re-proportioning the interfaces between people, technology, and the environment, bringing out-of-scale interaction into direct contact with each other. FRAME/SHIFT looks at what’s driving these shifts with a foresight lens, imagining, prototyping, and debating the architectural futures we expect, hope for, or fear–with wild cards in-between–at scales ranging from the molecular to the planetary.

THE FORESIGHT LENS

The goal of FRAME/SHIFT is to focus attention on the points of intersection, thresholds, and impacts of design across scales and phase transitions. The scale, speed, scope, and stakes of interactions between genes and organisms, rooms and buildings, cities and regions, eco-systems and the planet all transpire at different rates and proportions. Successful design must constantly take these shifting frames of reference into account. FRAME/ SHIFT provides a catalogue of these dis/proportions, asks how they are likely to shift in the future, and what these shifts could mean for the future of architecture, urban planning, and design. Foresight comes from the Old Norse words forsjá or forsjó and means insight into the significance and nature of events before they occur and common sense when planning for the future. Until the end of the 20th century, generating foresights and futuring were niche disciplines, but in the face of accelerating local and global change, most institutions generate models about their own future in the form of images, prototypes and tools.

If one problem in the past was a lack of foresight, we are now overwhelmed with depictions and predictions of the future. However, these foresights rarely look across scales, focusing only on the local agents of change or global patterns, rather than taking into account the complex interactions across scales of space, time, impact, and desire.

The FRAME/SHIFT exhibition collects and filters artifacts, insights, and forecasts about the future from architects, planners, futurists, and speculative designers. In order to prompt thoughtful and emotional connections,

we will seek out points-of-view that are challenging, unexpected, transgressive, and even absurd, using them to the countervail people’s expectations about the built environment, urbanism, energy, and the total redesign of our planet.

WHY THE FUTURE, NOW?

The failure of the neoliberal consensus in many parts the world, massive demographic transitions, and consequential environmental change are driving people’s desires for robust and meaningful stories about the future of their homes and habitats. In one sense, concern for the future is a desire for options and opportunity. These are global concerns, and voices from diverse cultures and situations shed light on the alternatives available as well as the constraints imposed. But robust and critical foresight that takes a wide range voices into account is rare. In order to ensure the exhibition includes a rich selection of voices and visions we will spend time seeking out projects from across the global North, East, West, and South, paying close attention to exchanges and locations where the futuring activities of Europe and North America intersect with Asia and the Global South.

METHODS, ASSUMPTIONS AND DRIVERS

As an organizing principle, we will examine the methodologies, assumptions and drivers that underpin foresight around the future of architecture and make space for alternative foresight strategies. This is an attempt to re-examine the foundations of how we “make the future”, offering signals and examples of different foresight styles that project a diverse and varied array of cosmologies and assumptions about how the world works and what that means for design.

Within this approach, we want to ask what the world is it that architects, planners, designers, and participants are assembling, which other people they align themselves with, and what entities they propose will live in those future worlds with them.

From designers who create speculative prototypes about the unexpected uses of emerging technologies to city-states that redesign the ecosystem services of their entire region, the FRAME/SHIFT exhibition will cultivate visitors’ attention, serve up the components that drive people’s’ imaginations of the future, provide space for focus and reflection, and assemble platforms for ongoing debate and rearticulation.

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