World Creativity and Innovation Day 2021 #WCID: Artificial Intelligence and Architecture


World Creativity and Innovation Day (#WCID) is a global UN day celebrated on 21 April  to raise awareness around the importance of creativity and innovation in problem solving with respect to advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the "global goals". In the framework of the WCID,   ACE Executive Board Member Pavel Martinek shares his insights about Artificial Intelligence and  the architectural sector. 

Can you mention examples of AI technologies being used in the architectural sector?
Pavel Martinek: I think we should avoid using the term AI until we  have standards for levels of AI maturity. It could cause confusion in future, particularly false expectations etc. I prefer to talk more about self-learning or advanced algorithms, but for the purpose of this text I will stay with AI. In terms of architecture, we can talk about AI as a tool  and AI as technology that could have an impact on architecture -though both things are at the very beginning of development and I am waiting for any substantial software improvement. There are also specific applications on construction sites. I heard about smart cameras. They can check safety provisions on construction sites, and of course not only this, but that is far distant from architects’ core of work.     

How is AI helping to create content?
Pavel Martinek: Content creation should be a crucial feature of AI. But AI should not replace human creativity. Still, in many cases, such a future is inevitable. Already today we can listen to AI composed music. We can expect the same stylised sterility  from the building design. And it is  not possible to simply switch buildings off. I am not afraid for  creative architects. In good hands, AI could be a great tool for extending human’s creativity. I am afraid  that such so called “creative algorithms” could be very attractive to  software developers in terms of replacing “persistently unsatisfied” architects. 

How is AI helping to promote content?
Pavel Martinek: Once content is created, its promotion, by using AI, will not have limits. But there is a hidden, tricky problem which has been continuously revealed, over  time when using BIM. While it raises possibilities on the side of deliverables, it  decreases clients´ capabilities with regard to  decision-making. Virtual reality multiplies that problem. Clients ask for  never-ending changes and more enhanced presentations because, in their opinion, it is feasible. And then changes continue at the construction site. It concerns claims for variations also. It could be said it is the right place for AI, but I don’t think so, that randomised design is what we understand as a design option.  

Reaching wider audiences, in particular younger digital native audiences
Pavel Martinek: AI and all new technologies are a natural matter of interest to young audiences. Particularly in design. Outcomes, deliverables are pleasing. But designing is not only about making pictures or VR. Designing is a tool to produce products. It should be effective, the shortest way to explain the validity of the  concept and then realise the construction. It could be the task of AI to keep and regulate design within proper limits. It could be also a tool for clients to distinguish the functional concept from the pleasing one.  

Enhancing the user experience
Pavel Martinek: Today, from a distance, and judging by  advertisements, it looks as if  working with architecture software is so smart and intuitive, but in fact, it is quite the opposite. It is still hard work where mistakes are not forgiven. There are a lot of issues where AI could take a right place like checking standards  and automating project documentation in terms of legal rules for a building permit. It is crucial to keep in mind that AI must facilitate the designer´s work and not replace him with  somebody who is working on “AI ideas”.  Seeing the maturity level of current software, we are dealing with errors and imperfections that could have been solved  ten years ago. From that perspective  AI is far behind the curve . Today, software updates are coming with new functions, new tools providing wider scope of work; but updates  rarely improve the existing scope of work. In practice it means that architects are doing more and more work and client's demands  are rising. I wish AI processes would be helpful, saving time, saving energy and optimising what we are already doing.   

How is AI helping to optimise business processes?
Pavel Martinek: Going into detail from the previous question, AI could automate the deliverables in terms of project documentation:. check standards and regulations;facilitate a sustainable or circular approach from preliminary design. Interconnection  of state agencies and building authorities with AI systems would speed up the process of obtaining planning permission.        

How is AI helping to monetise content and ensure sustainability of business models?
Pavel Martinek: It would be possible to say when we know the cost of AI processes. 

Which AI technology/solution do you expect to spread more in the next five years?
Pavel Martinek: The Architectural sector is specific because too many divers professions are involved and every design is completely tailored to the concrete place, or – should be. I do not expect that Ai technology in our sector will have the same quick development as in the medical, financial, IT or mechanical engineering sectors. In the medical sector there is a huge  demand on public health and mistake avoidance; other sectors having better determined methods. If I would go back to AI for architect´s use,  I would like to see a spread of more open-sourced solutions and better offers in the market. Such development is already possible to see on visualisations and generic 3d modelling. It is due to a wider audience like advertisement design, film making and gaming. AI solutions could also facilitate BIM models and remove dependency on a single  platform that is currently, in a certain sense, abused by software developers. Probably this is also the reason why it will not occur soon. 

What kind of challenges do you foresee in the application of AI for various  uses ? (technical, skills, financial, collaboration)
Pavel Martinek: The following challenges could be the sum of those  mentioned above. It is about the direction of the next development. Whether AI will facilitate work or cause additional work. Whether risk will be based on overall  outputs, making more complicated decision-making on the client's side. Dependency on software platforms will  continually rise if one form of AI purposely will not understand another.  There  could be a general apprehension that  software developers  need to keep architects in a constant state of expectation of having to buy  new updates. But the most challenging thing I see is the general approach and mentality change towards reliance on AI solutions. Anybody who played chess on an 8 bit computer in the mid 80's has experienced that. In a certain sense a computer is every time right. Today, equipped with big data, the AI solution could be recognised as more and more as definite. People generally, but public prosecutors particularly, are afraid of taking responsibility for decisions. The AI ``big data advice” would be salvation for them, instead of development a  deeper human understanding of the problem. At that moment it is only the AI designer who can best satisfy the AI evaluator. 

How do you think AI will change your sector in the near future? Do you foresee disruptions?
Pavel Martinek: Aside from processes, tools, etc. I see  major changes in the sector by introducing AI technologies generally. What position  will AI occupy in human life. It could have an enormous impact on how we think about building, public space, transport, how we spend leisure time, how we will work etc. Designers of autonomous cars could make  technological demands  impacting on the shape of our shared streets. AI  will move  to 3D when drone transport  becomes standard. The higher position and control we give to AI, the more we will have to adjust or sacrifice the  environment for  the benefit of AI. For the architect's profession, the AI situation is not just about introducing new technologies in terms of projecting and constructing, but more importantly I see needs for an overall evaluation on that phenomenon. 

About Pavel MARTINEK  
Born in Zlin, living in Prague. Graduated from the Faculty of Architecture. Since 2008 he is a principal at Martinek/Architects studio, which is focused on renovations, private housing and public space. Regularly participating in architectural competitions. Currently he is a member of ACE Executive board and board of Czech chamber of architects.                         

Explore more about innovation in ACE Eu-funded projects: 

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