Automation and Architects
In recent years, automation and new technology has been the focus of innovation across many industries. This is no different for design and architecture. New tools are emerging to automate the design process itself, leaving professionals at a crossroad.
Can idiosyncratic practices be left to the machines?
Automation and AI will accelerate the design process. We’ve seen that progression already. But there still exists a divide between quantitative and qualitative decision making.
The job of the Architect and Designer is evolving. These new tools help offload high effort and highly repetitive tasks to enable Architects and Designers to focus on experiential design. The design industry as a whole is cultivating a breed of workers that are technically adept. This means that even more value will be placed on the conceptually strong, while the need for technicians will see a decline. It can be complicated to grasp the impact of these disparate technologies since the design field is expansive, but there are some areas that are making visible significant strides.
Programs can now generate design alternatives, formulating potential layout solutions from stored databases. Algorithms are used to set parameters for design decisions such as clearances, object type and circulation within a space. These calculative decisions are then all accessible to the designer to pick and choose which iteration works best with their design. The designer no longer has to think about how a design adheres to the site limitations, but can transfer efforts to the humanistic realm of aesthetics and spatial experience.
Virtual experiences facilitate an enhanced connection to bring the user into the space. Augmentation and digital twins have introduced a framework for construction of physical elements into a digitally simulated reality. In this digital world, we are now able to simulate potential problems and outcomes in construction and explore user experiences within a space. The traditional drafting board has now evolved into an online platform allowing real-time manipulation and interactive experiences during the design process. The speed at which these virtual experiences are also critical as the industry continually strives to shorten project timelines. From 2D to 3D to Virtual Reality, mixed realities present designers a new framework for presentation, heightening the emotional response from clients and users of the space.
With the development of 3D printing, architecture is beginning to reshape it’s approach to traditional building methods. Construction is evolving on a path to eliminate human inaccuracies and work in a realm of precise geometries and quantities. Life sized 3D printing is now a reality and provides innovative solutions to construction costs and processes. With this, entire areas like material application and construction methods can be reimagined to reduce manual labour, improving safety and project turnaround. There should be a visible shift where manual labour becomes replaced with operators and project managers that manage automated construction in the future.
3D printing has also been present in smaller scale as well. The application is now commonly used in producing physical presentation models as well as customized designs which may have been previously difficult to create. Using molds and injections, 3D printing can build in detail and mass produce on a level which might not be practical for human construction. The concept of 3D printing opens doors past our physical limitations and lets us reconsider design organically.
Rest assured, there is still a need for the architect and designer. However the roles and expectations will begin to or already have changed. The modern architect and designer will bridge the gap between subjective and systematic design. The user’s spatial experience will always require a human perspective, however industry and functionality has always driven these professions as well. It will be interesting to see what values technological advancements bring to drive architecture and design along with automation.
Can automation provide a balance between functionality and spatial experience?
If not, which one will be prioritized before the other in the future?
Ultimately, history has demonstrated that Architecture & Design prove to be difficult to automate, and is projected to be of the least likely professions to be automated in the short term. The architect and designer have the ability to innovate, areas in which computers struggle with now. The paradigm shift now is one of which automation is the companion of the architect, not it’s competitor.