This show by Business of Architecture highlights the opportunities and areas of potential for artificial intelligence to be integrated within the built environment and the building design process. Guest, Nicholas Darby who is the Director and Founder of Imagine Architects, discusses the possibilities of a reformed role and title, merging the roles of a software architect and building architect. 

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YouTube review cover image _©  Business of Architecture

Nicholas Darby debates the importance of technological innovation and research into artificial intelligence for the future of architecture and that software needs to be integrated into the profession to aid the future generations of architects. Coding software such as JavaScript and Python can be self-taught and learnt with practice to eventually integrate into architecture. Darby also talks about the varying approaches to building design and the value of leading the client through the design process. However, he explains that business culture, where he’s based in Africa, is very different and now more entrepreneurial as architects are more active and go out to find work opportunities. 

A key use of integrating software platforms into architecture, as Nicholas Darby explains in the show, is in modifying existing commercial buildings to become more automated. This involves introducing more sensors and modifications to the design, allowing the building to eventually start managing itself depending on the environmental conditions. Elements such as solar control and air-conditioning can be completely automated into the building’s function, making the architecture more user friendly through artificial intelligence

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Sketches by Nicholas Darby _©  Darby Architects

Introducing artificial intelligence early into the design process can create positive changes for buildings, including making them more energy efficient. Nicholas Darby believes that AI allows for the complexities in design and techniques used within the process to become profitable and beautiful design solutions. 

Some of his ideas include introducing machine learning, where the computer would be taught to recognise and implement patterns and where successful floor plan layouts would be utilised to suit certain contexts, depending on the design. Using a design’s location of the site, intended function and use to then put in the algorithm of the software to create a fully functional and suited design is the aim of AI within architectural design, in Darby’s opinion.

Software architects and building architects have more in common than usually described as Nicholas Darby explains, and they can feed off of each other to teach buildings to sustain themselves efficiently in the long run. Using the existing design census, the software gives architects the ability to add data and parameters about a site that AI will be able to use and therefore successfully create a design. This technique would be viable for pre-and post- building completion and would help cultivate the right mindset for software within a traditional building architect. 

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Nicholas Darby working on a model _©  Darby Architects

Nicholas Darby believes that the architectural profession hasn’t kept up to speed with reality and all the advancements of the technological world. Incorporating AI-based software into the design process of architecture may be thought of as ahead of its time but will prove a good opportunity and change within the field, making buildings smarter and more efficient. These software and coding methods are currently not utilised dominantly within the architectural profession and design process, as some argue that this change will alter the future of the next generation of architects, possibly making them obsolete. This is a matter currently debated and analysed regarding the introduction of artificial intelligence into the architectural world. 

Computers and humans have been proven to support each other, as Nicholas Darby discusses in the show; however, there are also several limitations to using the computer for design. The use of AI could lead to the loss of the human and spiritual aspect to architecture during decision making and most importantly, the design process. 

Architecture deals with a complex variety of elements, including human experience, landscapes and functional spaces, which could all be lost when utilising technological software to make all the imperative design decisions. On the other hand, the introduction of AI into the firm could also prove to be an asset and positively inform building designs into the future of the built environment. The use of AI would also lead to easier decision processes and, as a result, will save time for other tasks, due to the increase of automated devices.

Darby also explains the importance of the younger generation of architects becoming fluent in software and coding, introducing a new learning curve and approach to architectural schools. He also describes how there is a prominent culture within the students of architecture schools to reinvent the wheel of design and a pursuit for originality. However, as technological advancements are certain to change the course of the architectural profession, the comprehension and use of coding and software will become more and more prevalent within the field. Other industries will also be more suited to merge into the domain of the built environment, creating endless opportunities and a strong entrepreneurial culture.

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Render / visualisation of a project _©  Darby Architects

Technology, including coding sequences and software, is evolving on a day-to-day basis, but once there is familiarisation and clarity with this new technology, it will simplify designing buildings with a complexity of variables. Architects and designers, as a result, will be more intimately involved with the process of production, leading to the successful integration of traditional construction techniques with technology. It will eventually become an endless language used within the architectural world that encourages teamwork and new opportunities for the ultimate progression of this universal art form. 


105: Merging Traditional Practice with Artificial Intelligence with Nicholas Darby. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 August 2021].


Currently a final year BA Architecture student in the UK; Abbarnah is passionate about art and nature, an avid reader and a believer in embracing culture and spirituality. She hopes to inspire through her artwork and writing; highlighting the beauty and importance of creativity in our ever-changing world.