Today’s construction planning professionals juggle more hot potatoes than Trump’s press secretary after a Whitehouse pool party. Acoustics, lighting and heat conservation are just a few topics fighting for priority during the design process. For large commercial office buildings, teams of specialists develop individual solutions which are fine-tuned and selected (or rejected) by Project Architects, BIM coordinators and PM’s.
But when will we see the first buildings completely designed by artificial intelligence?
Programmer Joel Simon researched how computer algorithms could consider multiple complex themes to create optimised architectural floorpans. Key parameters are defined by the user and the computer runs through each possible outcome before settling on the optimal logical result.
Kind of like C3PO going on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Meanwhile, at Salone, Orgatec or Neocon we’re overwhelmed by endless furniture designs and interior products, with so many genres and variables we need online platforms like Architonic to catalogue them all. It’s impossible for us to consider every single available product for each element of an interior project. But cunning computers could…
If we take Joel’s floorplan-generator, the programme could be further developed to include lighting, furniture and fixtures. Right?
So what’s next?
I believe algorithm software will not only generate optimised floorplans, but integrate M&E specification, as well as full interior and FF&E schedules. Whilst initial software will be basic and limited, it will extend to include an all-in-one multi-layered cross-genre, market-wide product comparison tool. Budget and design filters will be adjusted as required by the user. Product manufacturers and a new wave of IT-led full service design firms will invest heavily in this new route to market, but how this will affect the traditional architect or interior designer (or furniture / lighting consultant!) route remains to be seen.
The American Institute of Architects’ view is that these technological advances should be embraced:
“AI isn’t a replacement for human thinking or problem-solving. It’s meant to be an accelerator that positions the computer to handle certain things that a computer is really good at.”
Can AI become human enough to really figure us out?
In the modern office, complex issues such as workplace psychology, company culture and biophilia are key influencers in the design process. With this in mind, ‘can AI become human enough to really figure us out?’ Good design is about form as well as function. And therein lies the uphill struggle for metal mickey and his mates.
Computers are devised to be logical. On the other hand, let’s consider some of the leading architects and designers of the last century; such as Zaha Hadid, Philippe Starck, Rem Koolhas, Herzog & de Meuron, Achille Castiglioni, Eero Saarinen and Peter Zumthor; all names with whom we associate beauty, symbolism, flair (and for some perhaps eccentricity). Architects whose buildings intuitively forge a relationship between their immediate surroundings and the people who use them, with the use of elegant proportions and carefully selected materials. And Designers who at times inexplicably turn mundane everyday objects into things of beauty.
Humans are flawed. Illogical. Fallible. Multi-layered, opinionated and unpredictable. We don’t always know why we like something, but we know when we do. It ain’t always science. Feeding stats into machines and pressing start will undoubtedly generate so-called ‘optimal’ results for certain mass market projects, but for those of us striving for ingenuity and creative spark, for the edgy growing businesses battling against eachother in the war for talent, a human touch is quite simply, obligatory. Anything less would be counterfeit.
Overcoming this will be AI’s biggest challenge.