Visions of the Future

Visions of the Future – Thick Description – Fernando Longhi

As an Architect, I have always thought more about spaces than people – whether it is a remnant habit of Modern Architecture School curricula or a personal search for more qualified areas. I believe that the two future visions1 I have created with Dall-e 22 to answer the Quiz3 can best illustrate my journey through the profession and individual beliefs. Since I started designing spaces in the real world, transitioning plans and section drawings into actual walls and roofs, I became increasingly aware of how influential the built environment can be to people’s perception, emotions, and experience of spaces. In Kevin Lynch’s “The Image of the City”4, in 1960, the American urban theorist gives us a taste of how different urban structures and elements can create a set of mental images that impact and constitute these social spaces. Today, I question if the images we are constantly consuming through multiple screens (from tablets, smartphones,s and so on) can also play an essential part in these social spaces, including the imaginaries we create and collect.

When tasked to think about an image for the future of the city1, I found myself divided by two mental scenarios: a positive one and a negative one. The first one carried a desire for a progressive, inclusive, and environmentally aware condition. A bright future for the city and its citizens. The second scenario accounted the countless difficulties our society go through in the urban realm. Social segregation, housing crisis, climate change, wars, etc. The first image that came to my mind in this negative scenario was a post-apocalyptical cyberpunk city. After quickly assessing these two possibilities, I decided to go for what I wanted it to be like. This was possibly my architectural mind going into action, trying to idealize a more positive future for humanity. 

Rather than searching for predetermined images on the Web that would relate to this imaginary, I took Dall-e 2, an AI system able to create images from descriptions in natural language, as a tool to best illustrate my thoughts and designs. After several attempts, going from conventional smart city models to sci-fi-related images (all including agitated holographic environments, driverless cars, and colorful sunsets), I have chosen the one that best translated my desire for an idealistic future city. Dealing with mental images and written descriptions were not easy. I had to go from simple to complex explanations to achieve better outcomes. The chosen image5 shows us a utopian approach that I later associated with Ebenezer Howard’s modernized Garden City6 mixed with the Stanford Torus, NASA, 1975. The resulting city was good-looking, with greens, organized elements, and an impacting perspective pointing toward a sacred-like light. Nevertheless, this surgical urbanism may be a naïve and hygienist angle of the future, even lacking humanity, if I dare say. It may be a question of scale, but this monumental uninhabited city image triggered discomfort and made me question once again my own reality. Accordingly, I have adopted a more critical and skeptical approach to envisioning the future of housing5. Considering the current housing crisis, technology issues, and extreme social stratification in Latin America, I imagined a family in a vulnerable environment where all interactions were performed virtually. The built environment was just a ruined shelter with no regard whatsoever. This neglected materiality needed to be forgotten. I was both surprised, satisfied (I had accurately achieved the image I envisioned), and concerned about the resulting image. Dall-e was able to solidify a powerful and critical image of our contemporary condition, touching multiple aspects I am personally concerned with. That future of housing image exposes the ugly side of our social structures and systems and how technology and its use can play for and against us.This survey interaction felt like a conversation. For the first part, its various images allied with clear-cut questions provoked me to deeply reflect on the shown aspects, even though I felt some of them had an obvious point of view (like misogynistic ads) that leaned me to take a more critical approach in my answers. For the second part, dealing with Dall-e 2 was challenging, yet a fruitful intersubjective dialogue with an AI system. I was influenced by the set of images Dall-e asked me to choose and how the system was programmed. This aspect reminded me of Vilém Flusser’s “programmed freedom”7, is there freedom and free will in a programmed world?


  1. OpenAI. 2022. Dall-e 2. Retrieved December 10, 2022 from
  2. Cátedra Oscar Sala. 2022. DecolonizAI. Retrieved December 9, 2022 from
  3. Kevin Lynch. 1960. The Image of the City. The MIT Press. 
  4. Ebenezer Howard. 1946. Garden Cities of To-Morrow. Faber and Faber.
  5. Vilém Flusser. 1999. The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design. Reaktion. 
  6. George Loewenstein and Erik Angner. 2003. Predicting and indulging changing preferences. In Time and decision: Economic and psychological perspectives on intertemporal choice, ed. G. Loewenstein, D. Read, and R. Baumeister, 12, 351–91. Russell Sage Foundation.
  7. Andreas Huyssen. 2014. Culturas do passado-presente: modernismos, artes visuais, políticas da memória. Trad. Vera Ribeiro. 1. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Contraponto; Museu de Arte do Rio.
  8. Suely Rolnik. 2008. Desvendando futuros. ComCiência , Campinas, n. 99. Available at <>.