AI + Architecture

[Image by Stephen Coorlas]


Jesper Wallgren of Finch 3D is at the forefront of the emerging field of adaptive design. He and his company are scripting architectural parameters into design specific programs that enable architects to quickly jumble design iterations in search of the optimal configuration that best fits their project agenda.

If we extrapolate this concept while applying recent advancements in machine learning there is a potential future that begins to take shape around AI that shifts the art of design from human to robot. Project still further, and it becomes likely that these systems will also be capable of fabricating directly from "digital blueprints" via means of 3D printing, CNC milling and other forms of onsite digital fabrication techniques.

By integrating machine learning into the design process clients will be able to input images of inspiration, enter desired project statistics, or select from a list of applicable architectural/design inputs and immediately receive an infinite amount of iterations to chose from. You will be able to assess and filter the results according to cost, build-time, program adjacencies or any number of additional criteria. The final selection may undergo a final fabrication review to check building code compliance, structural integrity, or other municipal requirements, although these elements will likely already be factored into the prior design process.

Once the design is approved and has undergone final review, onsite fabrication will commence. GPS guided Earth-working machines will precisely excavate foundations and sub-surface areas. Large-format 3D printers will extrude the concrete, clay or other engineered materials that are malleable and structural. Robotic arms will select and place steel members from categorized stock piles for reinforcing, lintels or other structural features.

In early years, interior finish work will be performed by highly specialized robots. But eventually, the components of all individual trades will be incorporated entirely into the digital fabrication process including integral channels for plumbing pipework and electrical conduit and shafts for ducting. With the ability to print in multiple materials, the integral channels can be lined with copper for plumbing or aluminum for electrical (with a conscious effort to reduce plastics in fabrication).

Are there hurdles? Yes. Are there very intelligent and determined people working on solutions for these hurdles. Yes. Evolution is inevitable. That is the natural state of our universe. It can be difficult to assess the progress of any industry while living through it; but tracking the integration of AI and automation in architecture over the past 10 years offers a glimpse into a potential future that should encourage architects and designers to welcome the change. It will help resolve engineering and material waste inefficiencies due to human error. It will help prioritize sustainability while minimizing embodied energy-use and optimizing architectural functionalities.

It is ok to gradually redefine our role as the "Architect".

It is ok to concede that AI can perform the role of an architect more efficiently and effectively than humans.

If human architects truly desire for the Earth to remain habitable, and functional while eliminating consumer waste and pollution, then there should be no reason why AI is not only embraced, but encouraged, supported and further developed. That is one potential path for architects to discover a rejuvenated sense of purpose in the realm of design.

Our purpose can be to ensure that these AI driven systems do not stagnate in replicability, but continue to evolve in pursuit of new ventures; ventures that carry the human species beyond our healed planet and deeper into the universe.