How will we be living tomorrow? Maybe we should be asking a different question: How are we living in the here and now? Or, if we want to get all philosophical about it: Are we really living at all or are we just existing?
The concept of “living” is a tricky one since the term has so many different nuances in English. Social philosopher Jürgen Habermas defined culture, society, and personality as the three aspects of a lifeworld.
It was also Habermas that used the term “lifeworld” because he felt that it better captured the problems of modern society. And here we find ourselves at a crucial point if we are hoping to find an answer to the question of how we can improve our way of living in the future. In other words, if we want to bridge the gap between primitive huts and a science-fiction-style life in orbit or anywhere else. Our lifeworld has become more rationalized, which has led to people moving away from our increasingly machine-based modern society. They are starting to dream again of those primitive huts that they called home in the city suburbs in recent decades.
If a lifeworld is defined by culture, society, and personality, it looks like we are going to have to start thinking about new lifeworlds (and workworlds) in light of the upheavals facing our society. And we are going to have to do this in theory and in practice for better living.
The following areas are our driving forces when it comes to the lifeworlds and workworlds of the future: the demographic shift toward an aging population, the balance between work and family life, the change in structure from an industrial society to one focused on services in a country that is short of raw materials yet puts in a lot of effort to exploit the potential in people’s minds, the contrast of shrinking processes and city revivals, high costs of mobility, and a labor market that demands serious social mobility.
These worlds may be more fabricated but they are also more flexible when it comes adapting to people’s situations at different stages of life. Architecture and design are instrumental here. And the market works closely with customers. Basically, what this means is that the concept is what gets the ball rolling on a project rather than the location. This gives rise to detailed, reproducible product concepts that can be placed on the market and rolled out at several locations with similar parameters.
Individuality is key here given that personality is important within this society. Our own homes have always been the perfect canvas for our own self-realization or “self-design” to quote Peter Wippermann from Trendbüro (http://www.pop-up-my-bathroom.de/en/blog/2012/05/interview-wippermann.html).
It’s all about expressing where we stand in society. Individuals have a soft spot for things that are new and unique. And the market is more than happy to respond to this, giving us plenty to lust after. In the home right now, we are seeing highly customized lifeworlds forming, with a strong focus on the long term, as can be seen by people considering their situation in old age. The concept of space that can be used flexibly, based on the principle of change, is set to become a symbol of our private lifeworld.
Times are changing. And it looks like we may be moving away from social isolation and heading toward a more social society. Bring on the future!
By Xaver Egger
Xaver Egger is an architect and co-founder of SEHW, a multi-award-winning architecture firm and network partner to allmyhomes. Egger covers everything from the demographic issues of our time to return and investment calculations for development projects. He is a professor at the Bochum University of Applied Sciences, where his master’s course addresses urban planning, project development, and architecture in one.