The Next Generation

April 1, 2008

From the Editor

It's never about us. What's new, what's hip, what's next is never determined by those of us pushing way past the point of puberty. Marketers and manufacturers look at the younger generation.

Maybe architects should, too.

I gave my old cell phone to my 6-year-old and it was amazing what she got it to do. I had no idea what I'd been missing. She and her 8-year-old sister live traditional lives of school, play, and activities but they also exist in virtual realities, interacting with friends on their online Webkinz world, a SimCity for youngsters.

Their worlds are much different from the simple life I lived as a child, and their expectations for buildings are different, too. When I was their age I went to the library for books and research. They go for books, programming, and multimedia. Technology is not foreign to them, it's standard.

Architect Mark Tweed of HTH Architects (featured in High Design and the Hybrid Center) believes that in retail designers often are building for older clients when it's the younger family members making the choices. "If I don't relate the project to the younger generation I've lost the whole family. The centers that listen to this mantra do very, very well," he told me.

When he said "centers" he was talking about "lifestyle centers." Big-box, enclosed malls that exist solely for shopping are old school. Today's retail uses technology, layouts, and a blend of vendors to create experiences and a sense of place that make these facilities stay-awhile destinations. For the shopping part of the equation, technology showcases products and builds brands in creative ways never before thought possible.

Younger generations welcome technology and will place increasing demands on facilities to deliver. With information at hand 24/7, when a fire alarm goes off in the office, why can't details be texted to our phones or run in tickers above the doorways? With the incredible range of lighting flexibility available, why can't we customize the look of our workspaces or hotel rooms depending on our mood that day, or that hour?

Just as youngsters today cannot imagine a world without the Internet, when they grow up they will expect buildings to deliver customizable, accessible technology at their fingertips. How much time are you spending integrating technology into your buildings for the next generation?

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