A number of diverse, evolving factors are set to shape the way architecture projects are designed and built over the next year that will have architecture firms of all sizes scrambling to keep up. Not only will technological advancements continue to revolutionise the architecture industry, both on the inside and out, but there has been an on-going and pervasive shift in client preferences and requirements. Architecture firms throughout the world are now facing a new standard in the project research, design, and build process that will significantly impact their business model.

Here is my pick of five of the biggest and most influential architecture trends to watch out for in 2017:

  1. Functionality comes first. Form will follow function as more clients embrace “quieter,” more conservative designs that offer practical solutions to their everyday problems. On the surface it may seem like this new urge for simplification is merely a sober step down from the dizzying heights of artistic expression. Don’t be fooled. The simplicity belies a tremendous amount of complexity. It’s why I believe this will be one of the greatest architecture trends to shape 2017. There are several factors that will significantly affect architectural functionality and design:
  •     The first is the Internet of Things, which is a growing inter-connectivity between devices, buildings, and the internet. I’ve mentioned repeatedly that architects need to be technologically savvy. Here is yet another area to consider.
  •     But as clients demand connectivity, they also want spaces that allow them to detach from it- spaces that give them a sense of comfort, stability, and ease. If this sounds like a contradiction to the preceding factor, it isn’t. The technology will no doubt be there; it just will be expertly hidden.
  •     Another important factor is the concept of transformable spaces that can be quickly and efficiently altered to suit the changing needs of the users. This isn’t just about convertible furniture. Transformable elements are increasingly being worked into architectural structures in both the public and private sectors.
  •     Finally, there has been an increasing demand for the use of sustainable materials, energy and water saving designs, and the incorporation of alternative energy harvesting methods.
  1. Collaboration like we have never seen before. As the architecture design and building processes respond to new technologies, end-user needs, economic concerns, and environmental issues, we are going to see architecture firms expand their teams to include a wide range of experts from a variety of fields. Expect to see more scientists, engineers, environmental experts, and technology professionals playing active roles in building projects over the next year.
  2. The rise of private clients with high-profile, public projects. Private and public sectors will continue to merge, as an increasing number of big corporations demand buildings and amenities that serve the greater public- whether partially or completely.

For example, several major corporations, like Facebook, Google, and Apple, support headquarters that are their own mini cities. Aside from private grounds that hold a complicated network of workspaces, restaurants, recreation areas, and mini transportation hubs, these complexes often integrate with a variety of public amenities, such as parks, paths, and public buildings. Another famous example is Frank Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation museum in Paris.

  1. The increasing use of technology in project design and construction.

As I mentioned above, in our modern, hyper-connected world, architectural design will continue to incorporate an increasing number of complex factors. In order to plan for these factors in a sustainable and profitable way, architecture firms will be increasing their reliance on Building Information Modeling (BIM) and other tools, such as big data and virtual reality. When they are used in the right way, these tools will help architects reduce costs and production time and can improve project design by increasing building functionality and efficiency.

  1. Consolidation among studios. In a report released by research consulting firm Zweig Group about two years ago, more than two thirds of architecture and interiors firms stated that their strategic plans for the next five years included either a merger or an acquisition. I expect this trend to continue strong throughout 2017 as firms seek out new ways to attract clients. One strategy that’s gaining in popularity is to offer a broad range of services that tend to compliment architectural design, such as interior design, engineering, construction, and landscaping. M&A’s also allow architecture firms to enter new and emerging markets in order to capitalise on growth opportunities.

In short, the pace of change in the architecture industry is quickening. The architecture firms that will succeed in this environment are the ones that clearly recognise and decidedly respond to these rapidly evolving currents.