How has AI (Artificial Intelligence) come into the lives of architects? Starting with the humble calculator to the days of plain vanilla CAD (Computer Aided Design) on to the more interesting BIM (Building Information Modelling) software, Parametric design, VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), DDD (Data Driven Design), algorithms, so on and so forth… AI has now become almost a ‘taken for granted’ with so many acronyms doing their rounds in the architectural circle to better the design process. A plethora of websites and apps also offer ‘design’ and virtual experiences of products and spaces to accomplish the same purpose. With technology moving at the breakneck pace it is, a question we tend to ask ourselves is whether architects and urban designers are heading towards redundancy? My belief is, not yet. Like all relevant creative human pursuits, Architectural Design too can be enhanced by imbibing AI. In this time of digitisation, I feel AI supports our professional capabilities to make us smarter. We have better motivation and more time on us to focus on things that add value to our role while allowing us to do more of what we enjoy, rather than having to bother with the mundane and repetitive tasks that can easily be handed over and perhaps even handled better by AI. As we move ahead, we would do well to focus our mind space on creative aspects of the job, to hone and refine our HI (Human Intelligence).
Where we stand at present on the tech front, I have discussed in my previous article here, ‘A joyride on the technological highway – Come along to uncover how things are changing for Architects…’ In this article, we shall focus on AI and its contribution to architects. For a succinct introduction of how AI is changing things on the architectural front see: www.aithority.com/guest-authors/how-is-artificial-intelligence-ai-changing-the-future-of-architecture/
To move further, areas of AI that are being used as tools for Construction, Planning and Design are:
- Machine Learning: By defining the parameters and conditions of design constraints like climatic, zoning, setbacks, fenestration, daylight requirement, etc. and using Data collection, storage and analysis, humans can teach machines to help in the planning process of design.
- Robotics: Robots are more efficient than humans for physically demanding tasks and ones that humans don’t want to do for the construction and maintenance of buildings and cities. Bots and drones for construction and monitoring construction quality and progress.
- Analytics: machines can gather and analyse data for human consumption quickly and efficiently.
- Virtual Reality: For the visualisation and experience of the design of a space, these are important tools that architects can leverage for their understanding and conveying it to the users.
- Nanotechnology: Research for developing new building materials that would be better structurally and environmentally.
- 3D printing buildings: This is an area of much work and research and development showing great potential for architecture.
- IoT (Internet of Things): We are all familiar with tools like Alexa and Google Home that form integral parts of our devices. They help with not just music but regulating the temperature, ventilation, light, security and other devices of our homes because they are connected to us through the internet making our surroundings intelligent and smart.
All this is still in the Narrow AI space here, moving towards making it a bit broader by using augmented cognition and the collective effort of human, robotics and AI where the division of labour as of today is:
– Repetitive tasks, even some design – AI
– Actual implementation – Robots
– Thinking anew and afresh, decision making – Humans
Each ‘Augmented’ by the other! There will of course, be a shuffle of our established ways of doing things and it’s going to be an interesting augmented ride ahead. Continuing from here and getting deeper, let us now explore and understand how AI will get broader and change the practice of architecture as we know it…
Architectural data about previous similar projects can be harnessed by AI to assist the architectural process in a very useful and time-saving way for the design of buildings where this data would be available to crunch. What about projects like a family home and the individual likes of each member? Have you seen the TV show Bull, where a psychologist uses online data to analyse the digital lives of jurors to gauge their most likely responses to different legal arguments? An example of HI working in concert with AI for real-life results. Can architects not do something similar (with the consent of their clients of course) to be able to understand them and members of their family better? Something to consider…
Moving to more depth, the future holds great promise for the collaboration of the architect and computer. GANs (Generative Adversarial Neural Networks) are being developed for this collaboration to generate drawing assistants from the footprint stage to the furnishing (for more details see and get amazed: AI & Architecture- An Experimental Perspective Stanislas Chaillou, Harvard Graduate School of Design | Feb. 24th, 2019. www.towardsdatascience.com/ai-architecture-f9d78c6958e0).
Smart Cities: All of us are perennially connected using our smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, laptops, etc. All the data we generate with our browsing, shopping, likes and dislikes are collated and can be analysed and used for better city-level decision making.
This is not an exhaustive list of what the future holds for us, there is so much more and keeps getting added on every so often. The fact remains though (for now) that in all the links (hope you will check them out) and sub-divisions of AI that have been discussed here, the human element is a very important part of the design and decision-making process. So, for architects and urban planners to be booted out, if at all, it is still a long way off. However, the disruption that has radically changed so many professions is doing its bit in architecture too. It is time to prepare for the change of status-quo by accepting AI for what it is and making the best possible of it…