With architecture, you can time travel everyday.
An 18th century colonial church.
A late-20th century, modernist skyscraper.
A 5th century temple in the desert.
A 19th century train shed.
A 16th century palace for the emperor.
The city is a dynamic history book, which is constantly unfolding, constantly looking backwards, and constantly making new histories.
We are constantly moving through the third dimension of another time (the fourth), occupying and transforming spaces, leaving traces of our lives behind.
Every building in the world has a history. There was a builder, a developer, or a person who dreamed of building and made it happen. There were people who occupied the building before you, and then there will be people that will use it long after you die. Countless decisions, agendas, values, lives, and dreams make up a building, and by extension compose a city. When we occupy buildings, we are constantly moving through our ancestors' hopes and dreams of the future. Every handrail, every stair, every building cornice - someone manifested their values into concrete form.
Architecture is about constantly looking forward to predict the future, and also about looking into the past to understand where we are going. You can say that architecture is a form of "near-time archaeology", in which studying buildings allow us to study what came before us, in the past decade, past century, or even past millennium. What makes a city authentic is its history, and how it captures the highest culture of a place, at different time periods and generations.
Golden and Silver Age skyscrapers in Chicago.
Brutalist concrete buildings in Boston.
Art Deco buildings in New York.
Metabolism in 1970s Japan.
Baroque Rome, with the small churches of Bernini and Borromini.
Mid-Century modernism (and its descendants) in Los Angeles.
Turn-of-the-century Vienna Ringstrasse.
The Belle Epoque of Paris.
Tang Dynasty China.
What will we value in 10 years? 100 years?
Will we still value technology? People? Corporate power?
What is the tallest building in your city? What does it say about your city's wealth?
What about cities that don't have a past, like colonial Hong Kong? Did the past even exist?
How are we as architects shaping the future? What is timeless and what is only a passing fad?
What does your culture value, and what will you be remembered for?
Thinking about Generational Architecture, not simply "of the moment" -- that is the question for our uncertain times.
Isn't sustainable architecture also about time, and not only the planet and the Now?