Is Artificial Intelligence Going to Disrupt the Architecture Industry?

Aug 29, 2023

Artificial intelligence will have a huge impact on architecture in the future. So much so that the landscape of our cities and urban environments could be radically altered to an extent that is way beyond the levels of our own human sense of imagination in the current day.

Currently, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas or cities. By 2050, this is expected to rise to 68%, giving rise to megacities popping up all over the world. For most, this would represent a dreary smog-filled dystopian future with sprawling slums, as depicted in the films and graphic novels of the 2050AD Judge Dredd franchise.  

However, with the combination of AI tools and human ingenuity, new imaginings of the future have become possible and some are going way beyond our normal comprehension of city life.

Living Cities and Symbiotic Architecture

AI tools such as MidJourney can generate stunning photorealistic architectural visuals from simple prompts—highly useful for any architect handling a typical workload and looking to show potential concepts and designs to clients.

New Delhi-based architect and computational designer Manas Bhatia has taken this a step further, however. He has used MidJourney to create remarkable images of his concept of future skyscrapers with trees and algae providing air purification incorporated into the design.

Bhatia provided the AI tool with various prompts such as “futuristic towers”, “utopian technology” and “bioluminescent material”. After some trial and error, changing the command prompts around 80 times, the finished product was then tidied up with Photoshop.

Perhaps most eye-catching are his ideas around residential towers built into massive redwood-type trees with living materials that continue to grow, referred to as symbiotic architecture. This was inspired by the massive 155-metre-high tree in California called Hyperion.

Is the Future Here Already?

This idea may not be quite as science fiction as it sounds. In Southampton, there are already “living walls” put in place by a firm called Biotecture. On one of the busiest roads underneath a motorway flyover, the supporting columns have been decked out with living walls of plants built into a frame that cover the concrete columns and not only offer visual appeal to visitors and residents but also serve to clean some of the air pollution, capturing carbon in the plant life growing inside.

It would not take a huge leap to move from these solutions towards similar systems in place in larger skyscrapers as in Bhatia’s vision.

Smart Cities Will Be Heavily AI Dependant

Aside from the AI tools used to assist the design and creation aspects of architecture, there will also be an increasing amount of AI technology built into the infrastructure itself.

Smart cities could be commonplace, with autonomous residences, vertical farming in huge columns of agricultural activity and unmanned trains and deliveries linking everything together. Other AI applications that sense and monitor data and make adjustments automatically will be an integral part of this system.

 In most likelihood architects will be using AI tools to help them create infrastructure and housing that has AI incorporated into every aspect of their design.

Current Uses of AI Technology in Architecture

Even when given narrowly defined tasks to focus on and assist with, AI technology is already being used to assist architects in highly effective ways.

As discussed previously Midjourney can develop richly detailed images from short text prompts. ChatGPT and Chatsonic provide the means to write detailed technical documents within seconds.

AI-created images are brilliant for initial brainstorming and collaboration, as opposed to scribbling some terrible sketch on the back of an envelope and showing it around the room.

They can also be used to show ideas and concepts to the general public and for marketing and promotional purposes to gain funding or to sell anything that does not yet exist.

From a more technical standpoint, AI tools can generate floor plans, maximise space in a given area with set requirements and provide extra computational power for analysis over large sets of data, selecting the best materials to use or finding the correct angle to get the most out of a solar panel.

Already AI is assisting architects in a wide range of areas, from producing technical documents, processing large volumes of data and performing analysis, to creating more artistic visualisations and concept designs.

Architecture and AI—What Can We Expect in the Immediate Future and Beyond?

We are heading into a golden era of collaboration between AI and humans. The tools will become more powerful but while there are still human jobs in existence, these tools will assist human roles as opposed to replacing them fully. Within twenty or thirty years this may not be the case. 

Creativity was really the last vestige of human brain power that the machines could not replace – the ability to create artwork, music and stories that entertain us. 

AI tools can already do all this and it won’t take long until they are much better than their human counterparts. AI stories will be funnier, more exciting and entertaining. Robot artists will create masterpieces more thought-provoking than Da Vinci, and AI composers will leave Mozart looking like an amateur in his first piano lesson.

How does this equate to the architecture industry? Currently, AI tools used in architecture are extremely useful although still limited in a sense. For example, MidJourney can create compelling visual concepts but nothing it produces is actually buildable. 

The software that improves floor plans and reorganises living spaces cannot yet render these plans into finished 3D designs. However, this won’t be the case for very long and the next step will be the combining of various AI tools to create a software package that will take architects through the whole process from start to finish.

Imagine a combination of ChatGPT and Midjourney that can select the best materials to use, draft written technical documents, and then put this all together into a fully rendered and stylised 3D model.

This would be the sort of AI tool that will benefit the work of architects in the immediate future. The creative aspect of the architect’s work will still require the human element for a good number of years and as the tools become much more powerful the urban environments will be transformed in ways that cannot be imagined today.

Bhatia the New Delhi architect responsible for the living skyscraper concepts put it quite eloquently when he said, “Art is completely open to interpretation. An artist can use any kind of tool there is to create art. Anyone can use AI, but they won’t be able to achieve as good a result as a creative person.”

How can Architects Use IT Solutions to Advance Their Adoption of AI Technology?

At Lyon, we provide architects with fully managed IT solutions and cloud data storage to facilitate the effective use of the latest AI technology within their business. 

This includes a range of services, including remote Desktop as a Service (DaaS) and Workstation as a Service (Waas), along with unlimited storage in our cloud-based data centres and powerful virtual processors and graphics engines (vGPUs), with the high performance needed to run state of the art AI software.

Discover more about how we support London’s architecture firms or contact us directly to see how a bespoke IT solution and advanced AI technology can benefit your business.