How are AI Systems Assisting Architects and Designers?

Since their introduction to the wider public, artificial intelligence technologies seem prone to change the working landscape for professionals across all fields, and architecture and urban planning are no different. While many fear their negative impact, AI technologies can also be viewed as a different set of tools in the arsenal of architects and designers. As revolutionary as they are, there is a plethora of applications and platforms being developed not to replace, but to aid, offload repetitive tasks, and help visualize ideas or large data sets, all to provide a basis for the architect’s decision-making process.

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Shortening the Distance between Idea and Visualization

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Cliffhouse no. 5. Image © Matias del Campo via Midjourney AI via Archipaper

Among the first AI tools to be used by architects and designers have been image generation engines such as DALL-E, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, that transform text prompts into images. This encourages designers to use language-based conceptualization, often helping to test out ideas quickly and lowering the knowledge threshold for designing, for better or for worse.

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Brainstorming with Generative Space Design Tools

Taking things one step further, generative AI tools can leverage machine learning to help test out and create plans and visual representations of spaces following the input set of criteria. Building upon widespread tools for computer-aided design (CAD), new technologies can help optimize spaces, generate plans and volumes, and improve the workflow.

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museum of a tundra. Image Courtesy of Ralph Appelbaum Associates

Among them, Hypar is a cloud-based platform facilitating generative design for building proposals, complete with analysis and simulation tools for performance optimization. Ark AI automates schematic design and fit studies, producing code-compliant feasibility studies and optimized designs. Planner 5D integrates a GPT-4-powered chatbot for real-time interior design assistance and features AI, VR & AR technologies for realistic visualizations, while ARCHITEChTURES employs machine learning for AI-powered building design, facilitating direct interaction with generated results.

Risk Assessment for Existing Buildings

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Degradation on a concrete bridge. Image © roibu via Shutterstock

Researchers at Drexel University are developing technologies similar to those used for facial recognition to detect and assess structural damage. Given the need to work with the existing building stock, efficient and accurate assessments could provide the basis for restoration and adaptive reuse projects. The researchers are using a stereo-depth camera and a convolutional neural network to identify cracks and defects in structural building elements, then direct a robotic arm to scan them with a laser line scanner, creating a 3D model. This approach enhances inspection efficiency, reduces human workload, and provides accurate data for maintenance decisions. In addition to architecture, the system can be used to also assess the integrity of infrastructures such as bridges, tunnels, or dams, thus providing a timely diagnosis and preventing potential hazards.

An Adaptable Tool for Urban Planning

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Digital twin. Image © Shutterstock/ Videoflow

AI systems are especially adept at helping in those domains that have to manage large inputs of data. When it comes to urban planning, technologies like AI-based urban planning systems like Urban Insights and digital twins enable rapid prototyping and simulation of urban landscapes, enhancing decision-making processes. AI also aids in climate adaptation, with tools like Google's Tree Canopy assisting in mitigating extreme heat waves through accurate tree coverage assessment. Additionally, AI-powered aerial mapping, exemplified by Colombia's MAIIA software, facilitates infrastructure planning by efficiently identifying informal settlements. Moreover, AI fosters community engagement through VR/AR applications and intelligent traffic management systems, promoting participatory planning processes. AI technologies are also used to assess and promote urban safety, with several applications focused specifically of urban safety for women.

Changing Architects’ Workspace

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© Fernando Guerra

Architects are also beginning to integrate artificial intelligence into their own workplace design. New York Times reports on Zaha Hadid Analytics + Insights, or ZHAI, a dedicated team at Zaha Hadid Architects that utilizes AI to personalize the workspace of the employees according to their individual needs and preferences. ZHAI's AI tools generate numerous interior design options in a fraction of the time it would take manually, facilitating rapid prototyping based on environmental conditions and human movement. They use the data to optimize layouts and relocate amenities, however, technologies such as these have raised some concerns regarding privacy and data usage.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 19, 2024.

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Cite: Maria-Cristina Florian. "How are AI Systems Assisting Architects and Designers?" 23 Apr 2024. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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