2020s: Entering A New Decade of Architectural Design

 In Industry Insights and Trends

Architectural and interior design trends might not have been a topic of discussion at the turn of the new decade as the COVID-19 pandemic brought builds and in-person office work to a screeching halt, but they are certainly gaining momentum two years later. Like every decade, the 2020s are expected to reflect and encapsulate the times and draw inspiration from styles-past.

With the shift from postmodernism and a heightened awareness around global warming in the 1990s and 2000s, commercial architecture and interior design firms began moving toward more environmentally-friendly concepts. In office spaces, for example, this included using natural lighting, glass partitions, and the addition of the open office, among other things.

More recently, rapid developments in technology, cities growing more overcrowded, calls for sustainability, and the COVID-19 virus are all contributing to the new developing projects of the 2020s.

Here are a few specific architectural design concepts sure to make their mark this decade, and in the future.

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Community Focus

Viewing architecture as more than a building, architects and designers are thinking about buildings’ greater purpose in relation to their communities. This holistic approach considers how a new development will affect its community at large, in all its complexities. For example, restoring a well-known, uninhabited structure for modern use can strengthen community bonds and preserve its history. When viewed this way, architecture can satisfy a need and bring residents closer together. From mixed-use facilities that reflect neighborhoods and create positive outcomes to workplace environments that optimize people and real estate, such designs are client-driven.

Adaptive Reuse

Also known as repurposing, adaptive reuse is becoming a practical, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing alternative to designing a completely new building structure. Architects and urban planners alike are increasingly retrofitting old structures – usually factories, offices, and retail spaces – for entirely new purposes, and working with their industrial features of exposed brick, steel, and high ceilings. Additionally, as past president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Carl Elefante once said, “The greenest building is one that is already built.”

Going Green

Speaking of green, adaptive reuse is simultaneously combating global warming. (Construction contributes almost 40% of worldwide carbon emissions.) Still, with steady demands for new multi-family housing and commercial spaces, architects are designing more buildings with sustainability in-mind: choosing materials that are non-toxic and sustainable, selecting water-saving plumbing systems, incorporating room-to-room energy programming for greater efficiency, and striving for better ventilation and clean air indoors. From an interior design perspective, green architecture also can mean bringing more sunlight and plant life indoors in the form of skylights, large windows, and living walls.

Universal Design

Universal design is becoming more prevalent in commercial spaces rather than an afterthought. A design philosophy that is proactive about including individuals of all ages and abilities, universal design is conscious about design elements that make buildings and public environments accessible to everyone: alternatives to stairs, wider doorways and hallways, wayfinding and directional signage, curb cuts and sidewalk improvements, etc. This is in stark contrast to even the 1990s, when accessible elements like ramps and lifts were added later.

Bold Design Elements

Blending contemporary and Art Deco, architects and commercial interior designers are moving on from the simpler and subdued concepts of minimalism in favor of strong shapes and bold colors. Trading gray and silver for shades of green, blue, and brown, they are also ornamenting spaces with brass and geometric patterns. The results are striking and elaborate, taking on more of a maximalist vibe. In many cases, regardless of the industry, it is common to see neon signs and other unique lighting fixtures.

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