HWKN’s Shape Tomorrow Exhibition Analysis

March 8, 2022
By Matthias Hollwich

The Future…


According to Visitors to Our Berlin Exhibition, ‘Shape Tomorrow’.


When we thought about this exhibition – it opened at the Aedes Architectural Forum last November  – we knew of course HWKN’s future-forward vision would be on show – but we wanted to add another important aspect: we thought it super important to hear what everyone else thought, too. So when we designed the show, we created a large wall on one side of the main exhibit and added ‘bubbles’ on it. On these, gallery-goers were urged to write their own ideas and suggestions.


Their comments were provoked by the following two statements.


We want ______________ in the city.


Let’s shape buildings to ________________.


The visitors to the show didn’t hold back. And their comments brought the gallery and the show to life! Now we want to share this feedback with you, and discuss how it’s impacting HWKN’s work as a force for innovation going forward.



Their Loudest Reaction? 


Dozens demanded that all future designs take into account climate change.


Matthias: “Covid-19 showed us the good and the bad about our dependence on nature. The bad: A small virus can put our life on hold: The good: Being outdoors is not just healthy, it is also enjoyable, and we should not need to leave our cities to enjoy them. All of our designs explore new relationships between people and our buildings. Nature will be even more part of this process, especially conserving nature in a global sense through lower carbon construction, cradle to cradle strategies, and simple buildings that last forever.”

The Social Reaction


Notes on the bubbles included calls  for ‘peace’, ‘the end of decolonization and discrimination’. Visitors were firm in their belief that equality and social justice had to be key elements in all future design decisions.


Matthias: “Architecture and urbanism has the responsibility to include everybody, but I do not think “inclusivity” is enough. We have to actively compensate for the inequality that already exists. This is about financial, racial, and age discrimination. Imagine a building that connects people beyond all of these barriers to shape new communities and bring people together no matter their origin, beliefs or status.


To achieve this, all of society has to come together and fight inequality – personally and professionally. Architecture and urbanism has an important role to play, allowing access to everyone and making sure that we connect people and not segregate them.


At HWKN we are very aware that we have to continue to expand the diversity within the profession  – people need to have a seat on the table to be able to actively be involved in meaningful changes in the urban context.”




Joyous Reaction


‘We Want Fun in The Future City’…’We Want To Be Naked in the Future City’. The most popular here in this genre: ‘We Want Love In The Future City’.


Matthias: “I LOVE these requests. HWKN has explored the idea of unforgettable buildings and, based on science, three elements need to be incorporated: a) contextual materials, b) emotions, c) novelty. Love is an amazing emotion and using love as one of the design principles will make our buildings more human, enjoyable, and hopefully – generate new meaningful and loving relationships.”











Personal Reaction


The ‘play figures’ truly inspired gallery goers to imagine how they might live in this new city. They called out for more space,  for quiet, and for a few others there was a further, specific demand: ‘‘We Want Sex In Our Future City.’


Matthias: “And talking about sex: without it, humanity will end. Joy, too. A very good reason to make sure sex happens often in the cities and buildings that we create. When working on co-living concepts, space for intimacy is always a vital consideration and it warrants some creative and unique solutions – literally thinking “outside the bedroom!”




Cheap Rent! Very Popular Reaction!


This sentiment was hard to escape. A reminder of the urgency of the urban housing crisis.


Matthias: “Making living affordable is one of the biggest challenges in many places throughout the world. Architecture can not alone solve this challenge, but need to be part of the solution. From economizing the use of space, working on cost-saving, construction solutions, to diversifying the notion of the hub city and exploring areas that are underutilized and offer potential for new housing locations.”

Transit Focused Solutions


Of course for everyone in a city, big and small, adapting transit to our current needs is such a pressing concern.


Matthias: “We live in a transformative moment, where we have the opportunity to correct many mistakes from  the past. The new live-work paradigm will reduce the time necessary to commute with the car, the 15-Minute city with mixed-use opportunities will increase the quality of life, giving access by foot or bike to everything needed . Road closures in New York resulting from the pandemic are a positive sign for the future: these can be expanded in so many places to retool our cities to a  future of people first, cars second, third, or fourth.”




Everyone Wants The New City To Be Culturally Forward


As you might expect from those standing in a design gallery, many insisted culture be part of all future-forward design.


Matthias: “A city has to reflect and support all wants and desires of the people it serves. Beside commercial considerations with spaces for restaurants, galleries, stores, and bars, we must find new ways to create opportunities for programs that are not focusing on revenue, but on open experiences that people can create themselves. Parks are great references, offering people places to be who they want to be. We need to explore new solutions, where we can bring the notion of the public park into the built environment with flexible spaces for creativity, communication, and enjoyment.”

HWKN Architecture:

Shaping tomorrow is what we do – thank you to the Aedes team for the opportunity to exhibit our vision, thank you to our sponsors for making the exhibition happen, and a huge thanks to all you visitors for actively deciding to shape the future with us.