The Future Of (2022) s01e10 Episode Script


It's morning,
one day in the far future,
and you wake up in your apartment.
Craving a bit of fresh air,
you step out onto your balcony
to take in the view.
But this is not a typical city.
Each building is a living organism.
It's a concrete jungle minus the concrete.
It developed this way because
urban density isn't going anywhere.
We just figured out
how to do it really well.
If we are at a place where
we can customize and grow buildings,
that could be so cool.
It's like living in a tree house,
but, like, fancy.
The skyscrapers of today
are already breathtaking.
They're incredible feats of engineering.
They're really beautiful in many ways.
Whenever I'm this far up in the city,
it just takes my breath away.
And soon they'll be
even more innovative,
both inside
The whole home can become
this Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
and outside.
All this fantastical stuff with,
algae facades and wind turbines
that are integrated.
We might stop asking,
"Does this apartment building
have laundry?"
And start asking, "Is this building
a self-sustaining community?"
That would be really amazing
to truly think about a skyscraper
as a vertical city.
You could have
the outdoor space of the 'burbs
with access to all the fun nightlife
right in your building.
Even the materials we use to build
skyscrapers could radically change.
Talking about actually using
living materials and fitting them
into the Earth's metabolism.
Everything about these buildings
could be alive.
From what they're made of,
to the communities they foster,
these buildings could be
the ultimate example of what science,
design, and nature could achieve together.
Could we roll up our sleeves,
be like, "You know what?"
Yes, we can totally change the world.
We can do this.
And it's gonna be amazing.
Ever since the first skyscraper
was built in 1884,
humans have figured out ways to build
taller and taller, and taller, and taller.
The results have been quite remarkable.
There's a reason
why it's a cliche to have people
who first visit New York do
that thing where they like do this.
Right? And look up and get
pickpocketed or whatever,
but it's because it's hard not to.
Right? It's hard not to look up
because these buildings are so huge.
It's incredible that humans
can build things that tall.
Time and time again,
Hollywood has tapped
into our fascination with skyscrapers.
The city looks so peaceful from up here.
Anything is peaceful from 1,353 feet.
Skylines all over the world
have captured our imagination.
London, Paris, Singapore, Dubai.
We've fallen in love
with the ambition of skyscrapers,
even if many of them are
filled with multi-million dollar condos
that the average person
just can't afford to live in.
But soon that may need to change.
By 2060, it's projected that there
will be over ten billion people on Earth.
With that population growth,
it's expected we'll need
twice the world's current building stock.
We're gonna double that in 40 years
at the pace of, like,
one New York City a month.
In other words,
we're going to build 2.4 trillion
square feet of new housing by 2060.
To build that huge amount of square
footage we're going to need in the future,
two of our options are:
build tall or build more sprawl.
If anything, we should avoid sprawl.
A household in the suburbs
can have more than double
the carbon footprint
of one located
in a densely populated city.
It's not intuitive because people
associate green with backyards and trees,
but the reason New York City is so
green is that the vast majority of people
who come here
or live here use mass transit.
Vertical cities could be
the answer to our future housing problems.
But, and this is a big but,
skyscrapers have some
sustainability problems of their own.
All together, the construction industry
is driving more than 10%
of all carbon emissions worldwide.
And a big chunk of those emissions
come from two materials
used extensively in skyscrapers.
Concrete and steel.
It boils down to this.
Skyscrapers are a paradox.
On one hand, the way we build them
is terrible for the environment.
But on the other hand,
they could be the key to housing
the world's rapidly growing population
in a sustainable way.
I think we're going to start
really rapidly adaptively reusing
our buildings and making them smarter.
If we're going to imagine that skyscrapers
are a solution to urban density,
then there is an onus on the people
who design them and build them
to make them better.
But I think we should keep dreaming.
If you look at the set design
that was done for Black Panther,
it has a lot of imagination in it
about what skyscrapers could be.
We are home.
So I think we need to
sort of just keep pushing.
If we want
a sustainable future,
we'll need to spend the next decade
thinking about how to live tall
and small.
How can we inhabit
densely populated cities
without making a whole lot of compromises?
You walk into this apartment,
it's like living in the future
and that's what most of our residents say.
Sankarshan Murthy
is the CEO of Bumblebee Spaces.
They design modular furniture
that makes a small apartment feel big.
Space comes at a cost.
It comes at the cost
of wilderness, rain forest,
things that other species need
to survive on the planet as well.
So we wanna make
the most efficient use of space.
Bumblebee isn't
the only company
working on this kind of technology.
Recently companies like Ori and Ikea
have been heavily promoting
their new technology
for small-space designs.
Today, this tech doesn't come cheap,
but if we're all working
with less space in the future,
this may well become mainstream
and increasingly affordable.
And soon your 50th-floor bedroom
could double
as your recording
studio/home theater/yoga studio,
all the while,
helping you live more sustainably.
To me, sustainability means do less.
If you can naturally let people do less,
consume less, less stuff, less energy,
smaller footprint, that's the ideal way
to think about sustainability.
And what about simply building less?
After all, we already have
a ton of unused living space.
Just think about that haunted house
you pass on the way to work.
That space could be fixed up
and offered to the unhoused.
What if we started thinking
about the places we live in
as more than a money-making opportunity?
But big changes will need
to come from big institutions.
And we already have
these older skyscrapers.
Could we do something
other than just tear them down?
Adaptive reuse is green.
You know, we're going to have
to figure out what to do
with what we already built.
This is Vanessa Keith.
She is an architect based in Brooklyn.
I also am actively trying to save
the world from climate change.
Why do I do that?
Well, I'm from Jamaica
and we don't really have a lot of options.
So we gotta fix this.
Every time there's a hurricane
I'm always looking at,
"Is it gonna hit us in Jamaica?"
Then I started to worry
about New York too.
Things were getting worse
and I wanted to do something.
Vanessa wrote a book called
2100: A Dystopian Utopia.
It's now being turned
into a virtual reality game.
In it, she imagines how cities
of the future might adapt
to global warming.
And one theme that emerges is the reuse
of old structures for new purposes.
You're seeing all
of this fantastical stuff with, like,
algae facades, and you're seeing,
like, wind turbines that are integrated,
and you're like, "What is that?"
Well, that's actually the bridge
that the F train goes over.
The High Line
in New York is a great example of this.
It used to be abandoned railway tracks.
Now it's an ultra-modern public park.
I think we're gonna look
back on our old buildings, and be like,
"Wow, we really wasted a lot
of usable space!" "That was kind of dumb."
"We could've done more with that."
So what more could we do
to retrofit our current skyscrapers?
Is there a way
that we can experiment with this building
to create community spaces,
where your needs can be met
within the place that you live?
One mega story could be
a giant concert venue.
Think of a Red Rocks-style Amphitheater,
but on the 40th floor of your building.
The next story could be
the most epic daycare you could imagine.
The next, a museum,
the next, a football field.
It could have everything you need.
The key thing about this idea of a space
where you have all your needs met
is that it's important that the community
actually decides what those needs are.
Not a developer saying, like,
"Ah, here you have a Starbucks and
you have a CVS and those are your needs."
"And I've decided because
I'm designing this building," right?
This system is not working
for the majority of the people.
So maybe we can actually come up
with something better.
And that something better
could also apply to new buildings.
In addition to reuse,
we'll also need to continue
to build skyscrapers
to house our growing population.
But what we can't do is use
the same old polluting materials.
Remember all that concrete
and steel we mentioned earlier?
We need greener alternatives,
and some researchers
are taking that idea quite literally.
engineered wood, spider silk
There's so many interesting things
that are happening in labs all over.
To take inspiration from nature
and find these new building materials
that might be stronger,
more sustainable, more durable.
Some of the more ambitious
architectural designs of today
have already started
to integrate organic elements.
The Bosco Verticale in Milan,
or Singapore's Gardens by the Bay.
And in the future, we might keep pushing
these green ideas further.
Plants and animals
on Earth have had a long time
to figure out how to be resilient
to things like storms
and extreme weather events,
which we're gonna see a lot more of.
I think that we're learning that
taking a page from nature is really smart.
Take mycelium for example.
Architects think it could soon be used
instead of fiberglass for insulation.
Mycelium is essentially
the root base of a mushroom.
It doesn't take too long to grow it,
and can be fabricated
into specific shapes.
The beauty of mycelium is
that it is fireproof, non-toxic,
traps more heat than fiberglass,
and is stronger than concrete.
And we could build taller
than ever before possible with wood
by using a form of high-tech wood
called cross-laminated timber.
What else could biomaterials replace?
Your carpet might be more like grass,
and your upholstery more like moss.
Talking about actually using materials
that are alive and fitting them
into the Earth's metabolism.
Timber instead of steel,
mycelium instead of fiberglass.
A tiny, robot lawn mower could do
the landscaping in your apartment.
And as all those living materials
clean the air of CO2,
you could have all the health benefits
of a little extra oxygen, less stress,
less fatigue, less anxiety.
Skyscrapers could go from
being environmentally problematic
to de facto wellness centers.
It's also possible that in the future,
as we learn how to manipulate
these organisms and have them
grow in the ways that we want to,
we can do that in a really big scale,
like building scale.
As we move
further into the future,
we could see skyscrapers
truly blur the line
between something constructed
and something alive.
I am obsessed
with the idea of city as forest.
Wouldn't it be incredible
if you could get up in the morning
and you could walk outside,
and you would hear the sound of birds
and you would see, like, lush vegetation?
You're happier when
you're in a natural environment.
Skyscrapers could be
made out of high-tech living timber,
and pitcher plants
could collect rainwater for your plumbing.
Forget a maintenance person.
You'll need a botanist.
Tree roots could serve as a strong
yet flexible foundation for the building.
Instead of curtains,
you'll have branches with leaves.
They'll insulate your home in the winter
and block out the sun in the summer.
Can future cities
look like forests? Why not?
I don't think we should make 'em
look like Elven Villages from Tolkien.
Organic gardens could grow
right in the middle of skyscrapers.
Kind of like a personal Farmer's Market.
I envision a community where,
it's almost like a cooperative, right?
I do a certain amount of work
on the urban farm
and I get my vegetables
from there at a great discount.
Everything could be farm-to-table,
except both the farm and the table
would be in your skyscraper.
Imagine yourself
on a rooftop bar sipping wine,
wine made from grapes
grown just 30 stories below you.
Mother Nature would be
your building's general contractor.
Starting a family? Need to turn your loft
into a two-bedroom?
Just graft and sprout new walls.
These living buildings
could be organically customizable.
If you go to any
major architecture school,
they will draw exactly the kinds
of things that you're talking about.
Why is the reality so different?
And a lot of it has
to do with the fact that
skyscrapers are
incredibly expensive to build.
If we really want
to invent skyscrapers
and reinvent skyscrapers
for people to access,
I think it would take a lot of risk-taking
because a lot of these buildings
are built by investors
who have built them to recoup their money.
To make this work,
governments will have to incentivize
new kinds of sustainable building,
and banks and developers
will have to be bold enough
to take some big risks.
Could we sort of jump
into this vision and roll up our sleeves,
and be like, "You know what?"
Yes, we can totally change the world.
We can do this
and it's going to be amazing.
Back in the present,
we're stuck with the skyscrapers of today.
To be fair,
they're still pretty impressive.
Feats of architectural
and engineering genius.
But most people are stuck enjoying them
from the ground.
I think today, at least for me,
when I walk around skyscrapers
in many cities, they feel very exclusive.
They do not feel like a place
that I could go into.
And ideally in the far future
when we've reimagined cities,
we've reimagined these buildings,
they are places that are welcoming,
that are open to everyone,
they are actually accessible.
I would love to see
all of our tall buildings participating
in making our cities
both more ecological and more equitable.
There's a lot of things these buildings
can be other than Don Draper land.
We could think about these things
as being something that was just
much more open to everyone.
In that changing and that shift,
that's going to be magnificent.
I think we should look forward to that.
We should look forward
and envision all the amazing things
that we could do
and remake human life on this planet.
Previous EpisodeNext Episode