- Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z have long dominated the conversation around how different generations influence architecture and the built environment.
- From views around city planning and zoning efforts to the great debate about whether workplaces should be completely open or office-intensive, each generation has had its strong opinions about how spaces we inhabit are designed- largely shaped by the socio-economic, political, and technological influences that have shaped our lives in different ways.
- Looking ahead, what can we expect next?
- Enter Generation Alpha, the first generation born entirely within the 21st century.
Defined as anyone born from 2010 to 2025, Gen Alpha will begin to enter the workforce almost ten years from now. These children are increasingly accustomed to digital solutions and personalized technology, strengthened by the nearly two years that many of them spent learning remotely during the height of the pandemic. Many of the analog or manual practices that older generations are used to, may never be introduced or at least accepted by this new generation, as they seek out fast-paced and quickly-absorbable information. Gen Alphas are also expected to be “upagers”, or more socially aware and more likely to become consumers at a young age. As the most diverse generation in history, Alphas will be hyper-aware of equality and fair representation in the media and in their own personal lives. They’re also concerned with global issues, especially the impacts of climate change.
So what does this mean for the physical environments we build as Generation Alpha begins to interact with them significantly? Most importantly, it means we will have to find new ways to seamlessly bring digital elements into our everyday lives and design spaces that will provide a sense of community and belonging. Specifically, in the office, millennials pushed for remote work and flexible schedules, Gen Z called for more social responsibility from their employers, and Gen Alpha will want spaces that promote their physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Being born with an iPhone in hand means that all physical experiences will need to be translated into a digital world. Not necessarily through the means of the metaverse, but anything experienced in real life should be expanded upon through the internet. In 30 years, if a Gen Alpha visits a museum, they might expect half of the exhibits to be digitally immersive or connect them with a way to easily find out more information on their own. When returning home each night, every light bulb, television set, door lock, and the appliance will be able to be controlled from the comfort of their phone, significantly more than the smart technology that already exists.
Generation Alpha, having the ability to quickly consume information, will strongly believe in the power of data and how it can be leveraged to make decisions. For them, it will be critical to understanding demographics, surveys about what the majority wants for a space, and the overall sense that everyone’s voices are heard and incorporated in the design of a space. Before the initial design phases, Generation Alpha will find value in visioning sessions and the exploration of large-scale design trends to help them understand what underlying themes should be included in a particular space. They value the “why” before the “what”, and will seek out companies and organizations that uphold their values. A diversity of voices and a sense of inclusivity are top of mind for people of this generation.
Just as we were accustomed to designing for Millennials and Generation Z, Generation Alpha will soon be interacting with our spaces and joining the workforce. Their upbringings and experiences with technology will largely change the built environment and shape it to how they believe it should be designed.
Author: Kaley Overstreet
This article was first published in ArchDaily and is republished with permission.