RoundThe other day I read an article discussing how, when architecture students are asked to design a “City of the Future,” they always draw round structures.

It seems having corners is “too old fashioned” and not “forward thinking” enough.

That design flaw — that only Round is good — is a stereotype that has been embedded in the young designers by popular culture and not by appropriate future need.

When the future is predefined, creative thinking stops in favor of a false predestiny.

If you look to the common memes of history, you can see the ideas of future transportation have been depicted as round:


Every “forward thinking” view from history of futuristic homes and work spaces are also without edges:


Flying saucers are round:


Even our robots are round:


Design and drive a around a round car of the future today:


No cutting corners allowed when you travel in your round:


We may try to imitate the future, but when it comes to our houses, round is not quite yet ready for tomorrow:


Where does this obsession with an edgeless future find purchase in our current community thinking?

Have our young really given up their free-thinking and
aesthetic wondering because cartoons and other popular culture totems
have skewed their thought process in childhood to falsely
self-determine later what the future should look and feel like?

Is “rounder” always better than “cornered?”

Is it possible to create a futuristic modern, fresh, structure with traditional edges?


  1. This is conjecture on my part –
    I seem to remember something from my dim and distant past about spheres and circles having the greatest areas .
    I am sure that curves have better aerodynamics that straight edges. Having said that houses and buildings do not have to travel through the air quite like cars and planes do.
    I suspect the “rounder” face of robots is to make them more human and to present them as more human than machine.
    A lot of the eco- housing that is built underground and into hillsides makes use of round spaces and of the honeycomb effect.
    Hardly futuristic though.
    I also found these – which are amazing
    Some of the new buildings in Dubai are amazing too.
    Maybe it is also evoloutionary as well, we started in caves, and iron age roundhouses , then moved on squared cornered boxes – maybe now is the time for rounded again?
    Do rounded buildings make better use of energy in these energy consious days ?

  2. I don’t see round things as being modern.
    Maybe it is because every “futuristic” round thing was created in the 1950s.
    Marina City in Chicago is a complex of two round buildings that were cutting edge when they were built, but seem outdated today because it features the retro round look.
    Here’s what a resident of Marina City writes in his blog post “Round Building, Round Phone Jack”:

    The good news: Marina City has 1960s state-of-the-art architecture. The bad news: Marina City has 1960s state-of-the-art technology.

  3. Nicola!
    Good thoughts! I think you’re right that not having corners gives you more space but it makes it really hard to have furniture with corners because nothing really “fits well against the wall.”
    Curved walls are also hard to build. Creating that shape takes great craftsmanship to know everything is properly level and that the giant “one side” of the room will meet at the right places.

  4. Hi David,
    The blog isn’t displaying comments properly either. The front page showed five comments, but would only show two. I had to log into WordPress to see the latest comments.

  5. Chris!
    Right! The young designers have been unwittingly “imprinted” by the 50’s idea of “The Future” and are designing futuristic cities based on a 1950’s aesthetic instead of an invented aesthetic inspired by the real needs of the future now.

  6. It is a lack of imagination, David. Students today think they’re being cutting edge when they’re really just reinventing the vision of the future their parents gave them on television and in play things.

  7. We do threaten to create the 1964 predictions into a future reality by imitation, David. That’s the danger you’re discussing today.
    The real designers of the future are those who have no sense of these “guessed” designs that are 50 years old. Will those designers have access to power and money to see their vision fit? Don’t think so.

  8. It is a sad way of thinking about the future, Anne. We get stuck in the delights of the past and that leaves a rather bland and ordinary future set of architects and designers and creators.
    We need to constantly ask, “What are our influences?” And then ask the next question, “And what are we going to do to shatter them?”

  9. We shatter them with questions, David, and with refusing to settle for what is already known.

  10. I agree, Anne, but how do we get there? Our current crop of students are stuck in the round and obsess on the edgeless. How do we begin to pull them back for the shattering?

  11. Here’s another future building I drive by when I’m going to the Daley Center. The construction crews just recently broke ground for the Shangri-la Hotel Chicago.
    The building has strong vertical lines with nice set-backs toward the top, according to the architectural drawings. If it was round and egg-like, it just wouldn’t make the same statement.

  12. Hi Chris!
    The project in question — and I obviously didn’t explain this very well in my post — dealt with asking architecture students to design a future city… let’s say 50 years from now… and what the buildings would look like.
    Nearly all the students drew rounded buildings that pretended to be new and forward-seeing while only being a 50’s rehash of a bad Jetson’s episode.
    That lack of critical new thinking about what the future would look like what is so disappointing to us who hope tomorrow will be new and better and fresher than what we already know.

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