Professor Carlo Ratti

Carlo Ratti is architect, engineer, inventor and educator who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, as Director of MIT Senseable City Laboratory, a research group that explores how new technologies are changing the way we understand, design and ultimately live in cities. He is also a founding partner of the international design office Carlo Ratti Associati, Director of MIT Italy Program, Richard W. Trott Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ohio State University and Rudolf Diesel Industry Fellow at Technische Universität München (TUM Munich).

‘Our new building materials are bits and bricks’

What is the main driver for change of the construction industry in the coming years?

‘Cities are undergoing a profound transformation at the convergence of the digital and physical world. We could say that our new building materials are bits and bricks. As virtual systems become spatialised – entering our world through the Internet of Things – no industry remains unaffected. Construction is certainly at the centre of tomorrow’s changes.’

What do you consider to be essential for further sustainable development in the construction industry?

‘I think it’s important to always focus on citizens – and on how we can promote behavioral change. I believe that that is one of the most powerful drivers for sustainability.’

What role should clients and architects/designers take to support that development?

‘Architects and clients should face up to a new reality. Architecture was always concerned with designing interfaces between people and their environment. That has not changed – but the material those interfaces are made of is being transformed at the digital/physical boundary. As a result, design is becoming an increasingly multi-disciplinary field.’

You have stated that smart cities needs smart (active) citizens. Is there a role for smart contractors and what is making a construction firm ‘smart(er)?

‘Of course! Urban smartness (intended as the ability to reinvent our processes thanks to today’s new technological tools) happens at all levels – nobody is unaffected!’