In this article, we tap into how AI could be augmenting, changing design processes, and how architects and other professionals are responding and incorporating these technological advancements into their design work. What kind of innovation can AI bring to this industry, and what has been experimented with so far? This selection of projects can help form an opinion on the architectural application of AI.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with the development of systems able to perform tasks typically requiring human intelligence. The technology is advancing at a high pace, and it shows great potential for implementation across many fields. AI brings along opportunities that would radically change the existing workflow within the architecture profession. Although for now, the progress manifests itself at the fringes through research projects, art and cross-pollination between different study fields, it might not be long before this body of work reaches a critical mass, thus penetrating main-stream design workflow. Whether we are talking about well-established architecture practices, tech startups, architects with backgrounds in computer science, the following series illustrates the advent of AI in architecture.
AI+ Architecture / Stanislas Chaillou
Stanislas Chaillou's study of the potential of AI in space organization and architectural layouts has already gained significant notoriety. Through the use of deep learning and more specifically, GANs (Generative Adversarial Neural Networks), Chaillou developed a system that generates and furnishes floor plans, accounting for functionality and style. His thesis research is an example of viable tool architects might benefit from soon, as it would enable multiple iterations of the projects and produce legitimate floor plans that would, in turn, serve as the basis for further analysis and ideation by the designer. Such enhancement would allow for more informed decisions within a significantly reduced time frame.
Artificial Intelligence in Architecture / 3XN
Although this is solely a research project, the example shows how a renowned architecture practice positions itself with regards to emergent technology. In preparation for a paradigm shift, 3XN, through its research division GXN, has already undergone a thorough analysis of its design processes and AI technology. The research identified three major activities where AI could have a positive impact: Research – organizing information, Design- a better iterative process and Knowledge Management—developing an internal database of experience. The research project developed scenarios of what could be achieved within the next five years, with the primary objective of preparing the studio for the onset of AI into architecture practice so that the company can reflect on a proper response.
Daedalus Pavilion / Ai Build
AI Build, a London-based startup producing autonomous construction systems has teamed up with ARUP Engineers to create Daedalus Pavilion, a 5×5 metre latticework structure resembling a butterfly in flight. The project was meant to illustrate how robotics and artificial intelligence can change the future of the construction industry. The installation was built out of biodegradable filaments by Kuka construction robots. The latter used computer vision and machine learning algorithms to analyze any mistakes they made during construction and improvise solutions.
Plaza Life Revisited / XL Lab SWA Group
The firm's research division, XL Lab, revisits the findings of William H. Whyte's in his 1980 study The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, aiming to understand what changed in the way people use the public realm today. The team employed a machine learning algorithm on video footage to develop heat maps describing dwell time, frequent and infrequent usage, and pedestrian counts. The Plaza Life Revisited research provides robust metrics to back up assumptions of how individuals occupy public space.
Generative Design Tool / Sidewalk Labs
Last year, Sidewalk Labs announced the development of a generative design tool that uses machine learning and computational design to create urban planning scenarios. Using geographical information, regulation, street layouts, orientation, weather patterns, building heights as input data, the tool generates a series of possible scenarios for architects and planners to assess and refine. With machine learning, the system has the ability to get better at the task and generate improved designs as it accumulates experience.
Ada / Jenny Sabin
Created as part of Microsoft’s Artist in Residence program, the installation Ada, named after first computer programmer Ada Lovelace, uses AI to create a performative environment. The first architectural pavilion project to incorporate AI, the exoskeleton translates data from visitor’s facial expressions and their voice tones into specific sentiments. The latter are then correlated with colours, spatial zones within the project, and responsive materials, to create an experience of photo-luminescence, exploring the idea of an interactive, genuinely responsive architecture.
The list of examples is by no means exhaustive, but through its diversity, it paints a comprehensive picture of the phenomenon. For the time being, the implementation of AI in architecture is driven mostly by tech companies and highly specialized firms, but architects are picking up the pace through research studies and installation projects. The penetration of Artificial Intelligence within the architectural field adds up to the profound changes that call for a reinvention of the profession.