2029: Daydreaming about the future of public spaces

How will we be building homes, businesses, apartment buildings, and retail centers in 2029?

While many cities and construction teams will be using the same blueprints and outlines they’ve used for the past 50 years, a few teams of innovative entrepreneurs will be changing the status quo. The norm may be different. In this article, let’s “reason daydream” for a second, and investigate where public space and commuting may be headed.

Because we at Portal Entryways are partial towards entrances, let’s explore this avenue first. Will we be walking through doors, touching handles to navigate from space to space? We don’t think so. We are already beginning to seamlessly integrate technology into our spaces and change the way people navigate through public doors. We are using smartphones to optimize entryways; Wheelchair users no longer have to press buttons to open handicap doors — their approaching smart phone automatically interacts with the door that they want to enter, and opens it for them. This is happening now (as in you can request this technology here).

Portal, self opening door technology integrated into existing motorized door.

Okay, enough self advertising — let’s continue the daydreaming.

Imagine if your smartphone interacted, not only with doors, but with every single space in your surrounding environment. Perhaps the walls of shopping centers and restaurants will automatically expand outward to accommodate especially busy hours. In other words, no more being trapped in a hot, stuffy, waiting room while trying to get seated at restaurants — the walls will push themselves outward to increase the square footage of one busy store, and shrink the square footage of a less busy environment. This is the technology aided space optimization of the future.

Expanding and contracting walls are one thing, but what about the ground we walk on? Will stairs automatically fold into a smooth incline according to user preference? Or, perhaps, we will not be taking stairs at all, but riding seamlessly on wheeled pods from room to room.

Your smartphone could easily communicate your navigation preferences (ie. walking versus riding, stairs versus incline, etc) and actively change your commute for you. With that kind of integration, elevator “call buttons” will certainly be a thing of the past.

What is the trend of emerging public spaces? I believe two words describe this future: personal microenvironments. In the future, public spaces will be simultaneously private and insanely personal. Smart walls may project ads featuring your loved ones, or even computer renderings of yourself as you walk by.

What about the temperature of your environment? Perhaps gym AC systems will cool certain areas more aggressively if they are filled with hotter, sweatier people. Your cubicle may change your surrounding temperature based on your body’s specific temperature at the time. This is technology aided space thermoregulation of the future.

Even the smell of your environment will be tailored to your preference. Companies like this one, are already creating customized, smartphone-integrated scents to fit your personal preferences. We can expect to see this kind of integration into public spaces soon.

Things like microclimates, automatic navigation, dynamic room sizes, personalized advertising, tailored scents, and self opening doors are the future. But how soon are changes coming?

Well, we’re already seeing a change in the way policy makers are thinking about space design. In fact, some city planners are even thinking of eliminating parking, due to the prevalence of ride sharing technology and ubiquitous use of public transportation among the younger generation.

City planners aren’t the only ones who are pushing for change. Airbnb is working on a cool new initiative coined “Backyard” that is touching on the future of living space design. Their goal is “to prototype new ways that homes can be built and shared, guided by an ambition to realize more humanistic, future-oriented, and waste-conscious design…[Backyard] investigates how buildings could utilize sophisticated manufacturing techniques, smart-home technologies, and vast insight from the Airbnb community to thoughtfully respond to changing owner or occupant needs over time.” So, perhaps we don’t need technology to change our environments — just a complete redefinition of design and construction. Airbnb is trying to redefine how we construct, share and experience our living spaces — for the second time. With big data, millions of posts with user feedback, and teams of innovative designers and engineers at company fingertips, Airbnb is in the ideal position to start realizing and testing some of these fundamental changes.

In all, the future will be both insanely technical, and fundamentally simple through innovative construction redesign. The way that we’ve viewed commutes, cities, transportation, and living space is changing. Companies like Airbnb are spearheading the effort make everything perfectly accessible, and comfortable to everyone. While this re-design may take 100 years to permeate through every major city, I think we can be prepared to see major initial changes by 2029. In the near future, we won’t be daydreaming about this stuff — it’ll be our reality.

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