The Official Publication of the Indian Institute of Interior Designers

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Rishabh Wadhwa
19 Oct 2023

The AI-volution of Design

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From Pencils to Pixels to Possibilities

In the captivating world of design, the very essence of creativity and innovation takes centre stage. From the visionary architects who craft iconic structures to the ingenious interior designers shaping emotive spaces, the realm of design has always been a spectacle of wonder. Yet, defining the true identity of a designer or an architect in our modern era can prove a delightful puzzle.

Let us step into the fascinating narrative of this grand mechanism we call design and architecture, where each designer's specialisation adds a unique brushstroke to the canvas of creativity.

The 1900s was an era of profound change, witnessing two world wars, quests for independence, economic booms, lunar triumphs, and the advent of the internet. In just a century, our world, which had remained somewhat constant for centuries, underwent a remarkable metamorphosis. Not only did change accelerate,  but the rate of change itself escalated exponentially. Over the past three decades, it seems as if we've shifted into seventh gear, witnessing unprecedented advancements in our lives, lifestyles, and priorities.

So why am I telling you this? What  does this  have to do with architecture and design? Everything. As societies evolve, so do our lifestyles and tools. What designers design today and how they design today is very different from what they were doing 50 years ago. This is the age of computers, the work is different, it’s faster and it is increasingly automated. There are rarely any designers today who do not rely on machines and other digital tools to create their designs, simply because it is much more efficient and faster. But what is happening now, may again seem bygone in just a few years. We might be witnessing something as big as the internet itself.

In the past year, AI  has  emerged  as the  centrepiece of debates and discussions  among  professionals from all walks of life. With new apps  launching  everyday and billionaires forewarning us about its impact, the world's major economies grapple to comprehend and regulate this groundbreaking  technology.  Designers and architects, though often immersed in their own creative spheres, are not immune to its influence. The architectural discourse now  embraces  AI  as  design and imagery has become increasingly sophisticated. Architects worldwide find themselves at a crossroads of excitement and concern. The boundless possibilities AI offers in fostering creativity and design innovations are exhilarating. Yet, a lingering worry arises: will AI reach a point where human co-creators are no longer essential? As the lines between human and machine creativity blur, the design and architectural landscape too braces itself for the transformative potential of AI.

"As time dances forward, design has continually evolved, embracing new dimensions and accelerating transformation. We might be witnessing something as big as the internet itself."

For those who think AI just means writing a few prompts on an app and getting some pretty pictures, let me help you dive a little deeper.

AI's impact on design lies in transforming how designers deal with information and data.

Generative AI apps have flooded social media, but their true potential lies in their ability to revolutionise design processes. AI now assists in analysing sites, from sun patterns to topography, optimising orientation and form for any project. What once took hours or days to comprehend, AI can process within clicks, suggesting the best design solutions. No longer relying on general rules, designers can now make precise alterations tailored to each site's unique conditions.

Understanding human interactions with the environment is crucial for maximum comfort in design. AI becomes the key to collating and analysing vast amounts of data on on-site conditions, structures, materials, and human behaviour. With AI models evolving rapidly, tasks like site study, form optimisation, and designing for comfort are soon within their grasp. AI-driven tools for planning, 3D modelling, rendering, and construction drawings are already here, shaping the future of design.

As AI continues to advance, the design world stands on the brink of an exciting transformation, propelling us into a new era of creativity and efficiency. And that brings us back to our original question, ‘What will the designers and architects do’? 

AI's impact on design lies in transforming how designers deal with information and data.

I think the future is hybrid. The tasks that just require basic physical understanding and data will be done by AI, but these apps, at least for now, completely fail to comprehend the intangible. The mother who always hoped for a central open courtyard with a small temple in her house, the slum dweller who refuses to live in a high-storey building, the ambition of a country to be the greatest tourist destination or the simplicity of the lifestyle of an old couple, these are not data, these are emotions, and AI has no idea how to deal with them. The experience of spaces and the delicate balance between the needs and wants of a client, I think these will never be taken over by AI and they will always require a human touch. AI can build you a beautiful house, but humans will build you your dream home. Also, I would like to see AI handling the workers on the site as an architect does. People often forget that only about 30% of the job of an architect or an interior designer is design, 70% of it is bringing that design to life.  But that being said, AI will take over a lot of the tasks, which will make the life of a designer easy at first, but difficult in the long run. Because what if people decide to skip the human touch in favour of economics? What if the tools become refined enough that anyone, designers and non-designers alike, can use them, would an architect or designer still be needed? What will be our job then?

I recently interviewed Patrik Schumacher, the principal of Zaha Hadid Architects on my Youtube channel and asked him these very questions. Zaha Hadid Architects is one of the few firms that have already started dabbling with AI in the professional workspace. So I asked, will designers and architects of tomorrow be replaced by AI? His answer was a strong, ‘No!’ He believes, as do I, that AI will add to the capabilities of designers but these are still tools that need to be used, and we will be the ones to use them, only if we don’t shy away from them now and actively participate in helping build them.

Patrik Schumacher says that AI will not replace people, it will just accelerate work. There will be more outputs and faster outputs. When I say AI is a tool, think of it as a pencil, just because everyone can make markings on the paper now, does not mean you don’t need a Shakespeare or Rabindranath Tagore.

AI will not replace people, it will just accelerate work.

The world ahead is terrifying, but only because it is equally exciting. AI is a tool, to help you in your design process. And it is good at what it does. So use it.

However, I think it will reduce the workforce. If you have seen pictures from the last centuries with architects bent down on huge boards and drafting by hand, it almost seems so unnecessary today. Today on computers we draft as much as we want and we do it in minutes. So we don’t require 4 people working on one single drawing. I think AI will do the same once again, we might not need as many people doing the same tasks; tasks will be automated and much faster. 

So as designers, are we prepared to face this new future? 

No, we are not! 

But that hasn’t ever stopped us before. Designers and architects will change and adapt and will create a brand new process with these new tools. And if you are to believe Patrik, there lie bigger possibilities for architects beyond just the physical world, in the Metaverse. But that is a whole new topic we can discuss some other time. 

The world ahead is terrifying, but only because it is equally exciting. AI is a tool, to help you in your design process. And it is good at what it does. So use it. Use the generative AI as your own personal Pinterest board, use the tools out there to help you analyse sites and climate, use everything AI has to offer and just like you did when you were a student, experiment with something new. You might just discover that this is not something you need to shy away from or be afraid of or even ridicule or ignore just because you don’t understand it. It is here to help you, only if you are ready to be that curious designer that you once were. 

Every image of this article has been created using AI.

Zaha Hadid Architects uses AI text-to-image generators like DALL-E 2 and Midjourney for design ideas, as revealed by Patrik Schumacher, the studio principal in April 2023. "Not every single project is using it– I'm encouraging everybody who's working on competitions and early ideation to see what comes up and just to have a larger repertoire," he said. So we explored their design of airport using Dall-e.
London-based startup AI Build and ARUP Engineers have partnered to create the Daedalus Pavilion, a 5×5 meter latticework structure resembling a butterfly in flight. This project exemplifies how robotics and AI can revolutionise the future of construction.
An Abode generated with AI Stanislas Chaillou's research on the application of AI in space organization and architectural design has garnered considerable attention. Utilising deep learning techniques, particularly GANs (Generative Adversarial Neural Networks), Chaillou devised a system capable of creating and furnishing floor plans, taking into consideration both functionality and aesthetics. Parameters included in the program are footprint, architectural program, orientation, thickness, connectivity, and circulation.

About the Author

Rishabh Wadhwa

Millennial influencer Rishabh Wadhwa, an architect since 2018, touches the architecture landscape through his YouTube and Instagram channels, collectively known as Blessedarch. With over 250k followers across platforms, he offers a futuristic perspective, guiding aspiring architects with insights from global professionals. Through engaging videos, he empowers young students and practitioners to navigate the field, showcasing expert advice and diverse design-related experiences worldwide.

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