Envisioning architecture of the future as a reminder of history

This morning I took a moonshot at the future as I would like it written in history books when it becomes ancient. I used ancient architecture as a reference point to explore my thinking.

Old Fort in Delhi

As I looked at the history of ancient architecture, I realized that it mirrors ancient ethos. Especially it reflects the type of society and leadership existed at the time. Strong rulers have showed an obsession to build monuments to establish their presence in social memory. Some rulers built grand temples of worship for their communities, others built ostentatious palaces for themselves. Some built gigantic infrastructure projects such as bridges, dams, roads that serve people, while others built castles to protect themselves from aggressors. The pharaohs built pyramids as a resting place for themselves after they have passed.


Countries that have a rich history of aggressions and long spells of rule by authoritarian rulers also have ancient architecture that reflects its history of pain and suffering, victories and defeats.

Ancient architecture also symbolizes the history of intellectual pursuits of the era. Excavations of ancient universities like Nalanda, or of the genius of town planners like in Harappa, symbolizes the state of the art and genius of the time.

One thing is clear, strong leaders, once a sense of invincibility creeps into them, begin to obsess about how to become immortal in history. They may come to power using brutal force or deceit, leaving behind a trail of bloodshed in the streets, yet they want to erase the blood from the pages of history by building monuments that will dominate their legacy for a long time.

History has a way of surfacing with all its positives and aberrations, no matter how much strong leaders try to suppress, superimpose, erase or rewrite it. There is much to learn from history once the rulers that have control over writing it have passed on.

Excavations of the Ancient Buddhist University in Nalanda

History has been kinder to those who have built institutions, systems of governance, places of learning, and infrastructure that brings quality of life to citizens; history will have good things to say about those rulers who have fought valiant battles to protect their citizens from aggressors and diseases. It will reward those who encouraged creativity and innovation during their rule and help usher in an era of renaissance. It will celebrate those rulers who championed justice and equality as the foundation of their rule.

I am curious to know how the future will look when it is written as a history of participatory democracy. History of democracy is relatively new compared to the history of authoritarian rule. My core curiosity is- when top down authoritarian model is replaced by bottoms up, participatory model of governance, what kind of architectural icons will emerge? When a narcissist or benevolent leader is not driving history making, what kind of artistic outputs will emerge as a reminder of the ethos of such an era? What might be the qualities and characteristics that will signify a future culture of intellectual curiosity, self rule, and grass root level innovation and transformation? Imagining the architecture of the future as a repository and reminder of history may give us some clues to inspiring a new design language for a participatory democracy.



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