Tokyo exhibit: Future and the Arts

Nanjo Fumio, Director of the Mori Art museum of Tokyo, explains: “Fresh developments in science and technology have meant that we are today recognising once again the fact that we still do not understand the world  around us”, and thus that we can do something about it, to understand but also accommodate more appropriately to our surroundings.

In this exhibition “Future and the Arts”, we travel through futuristic cities, surrounded by moving furniture, robots, living materials, and high-tech medical doctors. But strangely, this futuristic view is not only about economics, technological prouesse or pure aesthetics, it also focuses on an ecological, societal and ethical well-being.

For futuristic cities, architects and designers are getting inspired from traditional values, harmony with Nature, and the current ethical and societal demands.

Look at Masdar City, a futuristic city in Abu Dhabi, entirely designed to minimise its energy consumption. This 640-hectars project is inspired from traditional arabic cities for optimal ventilation, with an underground electric car network.

Instead of building entirely new cities, what about transforming old ones? Vincent Callebaut, for example, suggests a Paris Smart city of 2050 that uses photosynthesis for an ecological corridor.

Neri Oxman and the mediated matter group from MIT, on their side, propose a new Edo for 2200, when Tokyo will disappear because of the rising sea level. They imagine a new city that recreates the canals and rivers that existed during the Edo period back in the 17 and 18 th centuries.

MAD architects from Beijing, also take inspiration from traditional Chinese culture to create a city where architecture functions as part of the landscape, like the beautiful hills and mountains along the Xi river.

Finally, others dream of artificial islands to regain from the oceans the space that it is stealing from the land. The Poweroy Studio in Singapore envisions those island as utility units for producing electricity, water filtration and waste treatment.

Along with new cities comes new fabrications means and materials.

3D printing is everywhere. The Joris Laarman Lab from Amsterdam now uses 3D printing robots to construct steal bridges.

The Hassel studio are invading space using 3D printing: The printing robots use sand available on site to build shelters that protect against electromagnetic radiations. Then, folded rooms fabricated on Earth can be inflated inside those shelters.

Artificial Intelligence also comes into the picture, for example to bring some aesthetics, as the Muqarna Mutation by Hansmeyer:

or to create shapes that change depending on the humidity level, by Achim Menges.

Robots are also here to build the architecture: Gramazio Kohler Architects from Zürich use drones to move polystyrene bricks and assemble them into modules.

3D printing, robots, artificial intelligence are also tools for indoor design and creation:

What about the haute couture form Nakazato Yuina that uses 3D printers and laser cutters?

Or the “living architecture” from Takenaka corporation, where a slight motion of the hand switches the light on and off (and makes you feel like a Jedi 😉 ). Robots are here to build the room, but also as pets and company: the new LOVOT pet toy robot has been designed to show affection, and is a tremendous thrill to children (but not only!!).

But does all this technological exuberance means forgetting about basic, realistic, and contemporary human needs and challenges? Not necessarily: a great illustration of how technology can be used to tackle urgent issues is the use of robots as traffic police proposed by Wotech, the Women’s Technology Association from the Republic of Congo. The 2.5 m tall robots cannot take any bribery.

Others put efforts to flag the dangers of biotechnology. Li Shan from Shanghai creates pictures mixing reality and enormity, to highlight that biotechnology might make those images reality. Patricia Piccini, similarly, creates a human-ourang-outang hybrid to shake your emotions and trigger reflection.

The surprising effect from the exhibit is that once outside, looking at the buildings and the shopping windows, it feels like this future might not be so far after all.