A warm morning in April 2037. Career day at Boston’s International College of Architecture. Sara McNally-Ng, a student in her final year, enters the school’s auditorium.
She goes into a booth, sits down in a womblike chair, and pulls a capsule over her head. Images of gleaming skyscrapers in the world’s great cities flash past. A voice speaks:
“We are Vitruvius Giganticus, Limited. Call us ViG.
“In an industry that has been known for smallness, inefficiency, and losing money, we are large, efficient, and very profitable. ViG is the first design-construct corporation to enter the Fortune 50. We are publicly traded, with 146,000 employees, offices in 58 countries, and annual revenues of $180 billion. Do you dream of designing underground cities in Antarctica? Autonomous ocean liners? The logo for the Trans-Himalayan Bicycle Race? Only at ViG can a young architecture grad work on projects like these.”
“How did ViG start?” Sara asks. “You call yourselves a design-construct corporation, but isn’t it true that the company began as builders, not as architects?”
“I see that you are well informed,” the voice replies. “ViG was born in 2027, out of the merger of three of the world’s five largest construction companies. As in other industries — from automobiles to pharmaceuticals to accounting and law — size produces synergies. We are big enough and diverse enough to provide our global clients with all the services they demand. And we have the resources to invest heavily in R&D for new building technologies.”
“So where does architecture come in?”
The voice chuckles. “That grew out of a business opportunity,” it says. “You were probably still in high school, but I’m sure you remember the market crash of 2030. ViG was able to buy up a lot of its smaller competitors: engineering, graphic design, and architecture firms. We have our own real estate development and finance subsidiaries. And don’t think we don’t care about design. Artificial intelligence programs design many of our high-rises, but not all. We took a cue from media companies, such as Disney and acquired all available rights to the modern architectural masters. That’s when we established our Legacy Studio. ViG can design a new building adapting a design by Mies or Wright or Le Corbusier, for clients who care about that sort of thing.”
Practice models continue to diversify, shooting off in radically different directions. In another 20 years, these predictions may seem tame.
Sara doesn’t say anything. “Don’t delay,” the voice says. “You’re talented and ambitious, and I’m sure you have college friends who will be full-fledged lawyers and doctors before they turn 30. You should check out Fast-Track, ViG’s leadership training program, in which we offer salaries that are actually competitive with those in other professions.”