Age of Adaptability


Defining the Architectural Milieu of the 2020s  

As we move deeper into the decade, it is becoming increasingly clear that the architecture of the 2020s is characterised by a commitment to sustainability, a push for innovation, and a renewed emphasis on the relationship between buildings and the people who use them. Whether through the incorporation of cutting-edge technology, renewable energy sources, or a growing focus on inclusive, community-centric design, the era is shaping up to be a defining moment in the history of our built environment.  

Exploring the balance between the form, function, and footprint that mark this decade of design, Renato Graça ofGSQUARED considers the stand-out typologies of the times.  

GSQUARED VG5 Interior 2
VG 5 GSQUARED Architecture & Interiors in Somerset West, Cape Town

In my opinion, the architectural era of the 2020s will be defined as a time of transition and experimentation. Architects are seeking to find new ways of designing buildings that are more independent and sustainable (out of political necessity), resilient (essential for climate change), and economically sensitive (due to global inflation).  

Living in a country that lacks a definitive architectural language and style, we are fortunate to have freedom in design — something I think other countries experience more restriction with.  

Architecture is primarily moving away from a singular, one-size-fits-all design approach towards a more context-sensitive, holistic approach that considers the unique characteristics of each site, building, and community.  This shift is driven by a growing awareness of the need to create sustainable, resilient, and liveable environments, as well as the desire to create buildings that are responsive to the needs of the people who will use them.  

Architects are becoming more conscious of several issues as we move into the next decade. Some of these include:  

  • Wellness 

The pandemic’s impact was obvious: humans need less closed spaces and more light and ventilation. Fortunately, South Africans can harness this simply with our desirable climate. 


  • Resilience and adaptability 

Architects are more committed to designing buildings that are resilient to extreme weather conditions, as well as being adaptable to changes in how spaces are used over time. A fight against static architecture, buildings should also adapt to their environment: i.e., lighting conditions, wind, rain, and sound to create the most optimal user experience. Think of buildings becoming less of a snail shell and more of a sunflower.  

The Shed
The Shed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration witrh Rockwell Group, New York City, United States of America
  • Smart and independent buildings 

With the increasing need to become independent and the growing use of technology in architecture, professionals are more aware of having to couple our designs with these technologies — ideally to create something that looks as if it was planned that way.  

In the years ahead, we will be looking at ways to optimise the use of renewable energy sources and reduce the carbon footprint of building materials, including the use of digital fabrication techniques and the use of circular economy principles. I don’t think we are too far off having custom components for buildings fabricated on a building site (e.g., using 3D printers for a concrete component).  

The globe’s digital interconnectedness has allowed many architects to obtain and complete work outside the confines of their office and design projects across the world. This places a greater need on preserving vernacular where possible: a modern building these days can look equally comfortable in North America as it can in Australia. The call to action for architects is to be familiar with a wide range of design traditions, building materials, and construction methods, as well as local building codes and regulations to drive context-sensitive design.  

Renato Graça  

Principal Architect and Founding Director  

GSQUARED Architecture & Interiors   


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