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A futuristic design by zaha Hadid

Futuristic Architecture; Essential Principles that Make it

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Why do you think they make science-fiction movies? Is it just for you to have a good evening out with friends while you have your hand deep in a snack bucket with your eyebrows raised and your mouth open as you watch breathtaking scenes on the screen?

Why do we seem to fancy a little bit of imagination in movies that might sometimes seem ridiculous and overreaching in retrospect? You might have seen the 90s and early 2000s sci-fi movies and thought, “what did they think about 2030”?

It just seems like a bit of stretch to have envisioned such a groovy-looking world with robots running everything and buildings reaching unrealistic milestones in height and appearance; a vision that turned out to be wrong now that we’re approaching 2020!

We don’t want to downplay the impressive technological advances, particularly in the past two decades; but if you really think about it, a lot of futuristic visions and prediction actually turned out to be incorrect.

But there is a BIG flip-side to all futuristic ideologies in general. Like in case of cinema, a lot of film-making companies actually pursue the public’s opinion on different visions for the future in their sci-fi movies. They’re actually testing a hypothetical path that humanity might take in the future; seeing how that plays out as far as people’s opinion go.

There might be many other reasons why sci-fi franchises in different strands of art are the mainstream pop culture rage, but there’s one mission for futuristic art that sits above all.

Are you a fan of modern architecture? What about Futuristic architecture? Futuristic architecture or any other expression of a ground-breaking picture of the future may be what we need to keep going; to have something to strive for; to enjoy the ride knowing it will end up in a good place. That’s exactly why making bold transcending expressions is not entirely pointless.

Even when they are not quite practically justifiable, they help you keep your hopes high. For example, we say “sky’s the limit” but have we literally surpassed the sky above us? It’s more than just a metaphor; it is meant to give you a meaningful aspiration and energy.

Here we focus on futuristic architecture design and history and will see how this early 20th-century movement has transformed in over a hundred years since its debut. Both along the way and at the end we will savor examples of such rather radical approach to design.

Here is how the futuristic architecture definition and characteristics have shaped over the history:

combine technology, engineering, material science and imagination

Give every generation a chance to build their own

Trees Towers in China at night

One or two genuine principles of the futuristic architecture concept belong to the time when its patrons were trying to fend off classic styles in the early twentieth century.

Poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and architects like Antonio Sant’Elia were against everything that represented the status quo of their day.

One of the boldest proposals in their manifest for futuristic architecture definition is their push on giving the change to every generation to build their own city.

A bold cause that they answered with a bolder response indeed.

They believed in buildings with shorter life spans; one that wouldn’t outgrow a generation. An unrealistic long shot that, of course, didn’t happen on a scale as monumental as they hoped.

Use of natural-wrought material like architectural concrete or crude boulders that would need to be renovated every once in a while was their main technique back then to make their dream a reality.

We’ll get to how carefully they addressed the use of the material as a way to express their ideology further along.

Cut all ties with the past

That was another bold statement they made and it’s not hard to find why they loathed any connection to historic or classical principles; given the popular narrative of modernism back in the day.

Futuristic architecture, as the name obviously hints, meant to forget about any ancient style, ancient architecture and every paradigm they believed in.

One of the most striking points where the two part, is the source of inspiration for the design.

Ancient classic styles had nature as their prime origin of inspiration; while futuristic architecture design turns its eyes toward human innovation and technology.

They severely believed in our engineering abilities to dominate the environment rather than gazing at it with envy and awe and leaning on its dusty answers to problems.

Certainly a forward-looking vision that the title “futuristic architecture” beckons.

a futuristic extension to a cultural center in Scandinavia

So, not only they tried to set themselves free of all the ancient motifs, decorations, and typical geometries, they also slammed the square-based perpendicular forms of the buildings, popular in modern movement as well.

Instead, they were eager to use elliptic, curved, and slanted lines in their designs.

Technology and Science as the only hope

Cutting ties with the past was only one of the excuses to rely on technology in the futuristic architecture design process. Regardless of their disdain for all conventional solutions, futurists love cutting-edge technology, the science it is built on, and the engineering that makes it possible.

We later get to how futuristic architecture sought the expression of a bright and promising future, but here it’s important to note that they considered technology and science as wings to do unimaginable marvels; they were believed to help reach out and haul a utopia to the present day.

Science and engineering might have their differences but what are all they for?

They want to help us do the same things we do every day better, simpler and easier.

That’s why there’s no end to the passion that drives technology and the discovery of science forward and likewise the futuristic architecture movement; everything can be done better or more efficiently so there’s always room for more; for change.

A lot of Santiago Calatrava’s nature-inspired works can also be considered as futuristic because they properly showcase the role of technology as the mean to emulate natural forms.

Santiago Calatrava’s Athens Olympic Stadium

That might explain why early futurists in Italy were convinced enough to say buildings should be built to live for only a generation; they were trying to keep pace with the always-advancing technology.

They sincerely believed there was nothing more empowering than calculation and technology to make audacious messages in the simplicity of design itself; to reach a level of flexibility and lightness that couldn’t be imagined otherwise.

Display motion and change across the building

We talked about how the futuristic architecture concept revolves around keeping pace with technology and its growing and changing nature.

We also said how from the beginning, futurists were eager to broadcast their message of change, motion, subtlety, and flexibility through their futuristic architecture design and blueprints.

In almost over a century since the unveiling of Futurism in Italy and then its early decline and then recapture through the rest of the century in movements like Art Deco, high-tech design, Googie, or any other future-gazing style, there’s been numerous ways to express motion and change all over futuristic buildings.

Futuristic motion in the outer lines of an office building in London

One of the most popular ones is through using long dynamic lines that roam across different parts of the building to give it a streamlined fictional look.

You can see these lines and their lyricism in most examples we’ve brought here in the pictures.

A building with streamlined motion-inducing design

Honesty is the decoration

We’ve saved the best one for last! Futuristic architecture values honesty in every sense. It can be applied to every facet of the building.

This can mean honest use of the natural raw material in both the exposed structure and envelope of the building.

Through the century-old futuristic architecture concept, lots of efforts have been made to make sure the shape and lines of a building’s sides are the main source for its aesthetic beauty.

It is only through the proper use of raw material and right collection of shapes and lines that an architecture can dissolve in its surrounding and be honest with its users.

There shouldn’t be anything to hide; or a misleading cover of any sort. All relationships in the outer layer and interior of the building have to be smoothly blended and resolved in its adjacent elements; resulting in an honest responsive design.

To promise a bright and awe-inspiring future and more importantly sell it, you have to be honest. That might have been the best message in futuristic architecture definition that has resonated long after its short crusade.


Back in the 1920s, a lot of futuristic architecture protagonists found the change they were looking for in its forward-looking revolutionizing approach to design.

We delved into the history of futuristic architecture’s debut in Italy, its early decline and then its reawakening through movements like Art Deco, High-Tech, and less renowned styles like Googie architecture.

All these styles share at least one or two of the 5 main principles of futuristic architecture we listed here.

Like being honest in the expression of the structure and finishes of your design by using raw material and honestly-expressed shapes and forms, showcasing motion and change in the appearance of the building, cutting all the ties with conventional ways of the past, and doing all this by the most remarkable technological advances of the day;

Something that apparently seemed enough to early futuristic architecture loyalists to achieve their ambitious goals.

What do you think about the whole futuristic architecture concept and its cause? Do you find it legitimate and descent enough or do you think it's not worth sweating over?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Mitchel Sardy
Author: Mitchel Sardy
I am a Computer Engineer and an architecture enthusiast, graduated on both majors up to the master's degree from the University of Washington; I'm an advisor to early-stage architecture startups all around the globe; the ones using computer-based solutions to design in architecture.

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