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A brief dip into what would otherwise be an essay on AI:

In the media recently, there have been several articles on how AI can replace jobs and why Architects should fear AI.

As a practice, JETArch Design has been using AI for over a year now as an important tool to quickly get on paper a tangible sense of a design based on a brief. We have some clients that prefer to focus on the sense of space they are looking for rather than stating “I want an open plan kitchen/diner of this size…” and AI offers the opportunity to quickly generate a series of internal views for discussions at the beginning of a project.

We used this on a project in Reading where the client was looking for a connection to nature, openness that created a social space, that had a south American modernist architectural style and hacienda vibe. What we produced as a starting point where the below images:

Images created with Bing Image Creator

These images where then used to drive the design discussions forward to a point where we could take over with AutoCAD and Photoshop.

“Most of our clients have never undertaken any design work before and need images to help them visualise the space,” says James Taylor, director of JETArch Design. “and using AI is a revolutionary way to rapidly generate images that can be used at all stages of a project. Creating images in a traditional way can be costly and time consuming, however using AI now can allow us to provide a high quality, visual service whilst remaining competitive on our fees.”

At the beginning of a project there are a lot of conceptual images being proposed and tweaked and a quick need to understand a client’s expectations and architectural style. Previously we would have scoured the internet or books looking for similar style projects that we could propose elements of, or even quickly sketch up a view or two. Now in a matter of minutes we can write a prompt to generate an image or series of images and select the ones that highlight the much-needed points for discussion.
The thing to remember with AI is that, like any tool, you only get out what you put in. We can write a brief prompt, which would then require more time selecting and amending images to get to the desired point, or we can write a detailed prompt which has a greater chance of producing the image we are looking for.

In the world of large-scale masterplan projects, the situation is very different. AI can now generate masterplans for the likes of housing sites, hospitals, hotels that all base their principals on the most efficient use of a site. Known parameters can be programmed into the algorithm, such as a housing developers standard house types, and then multiple site options can be churned out. As it stands currently, it is more likely that these will be the professions that are impacted the most by AI, however JETArch Design does not see this impacting all of their work in the foreseeable future. “We have a few conceptual projects that push the boundaries of architecture by proposing things that previous projects have not done before,” says James. “We have projects that use materials in new ways that have no precedence and so an AI programme would have no reference to draw from. It takes a creative mind to think of new ways to push forward architecture and design and then AI can be used as a tool to help turn that concept into a visual. There are not set parameters with revolutionary design that can be programmed into an algorithm. This can only be achieved by an architect.”

There is also the quagmire of intellectual rights to referencing other designs which has been prevalent in last year’s legal battle between authors and AI over copyright issues. The same can be said for any other element of design that is covered by intellectual rights.

AI has only been brought to the masses fairly recently and is an extremely fast evolving area so who knows what the landscape of AI design will look like in a few years’ time, but if architects learn to embrace AI then we can help shape it in a responsible way.