/txt/ The buildings of the future will keep rearranging themselves

One of the great laboratories of the future and its side-effects is science fiction. ‘The wall flickered partially out of existence as he stepped through to the corridor,’ wrote Arthur C Clarke in his novel The City and the Stars (1956), ‘and its polarised molecules resisted his passage like a feeble wind blowing against his face.’

Typical of the symbiotic relationship between science fiction and fact, Clarke seems to have got this idea from the physicist Richard Feynman, who in 1945 predicted the possibility of molecular engineering. Feynman argued that any material could one day be constructed from the atom up – and, moreover, that complex miniscule mechanisms (‘nanobots’) would become viable, ‘a billion tiny factories, models of each other, which are manufacturing simultaneously’. It was conceivable not just that concrete, for example, would be strengthened with polymers but that it could come to resemble a living substance, mutating on demand. And then where would that leave architecture? Read the rest of this entry »