Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making inroads into every sphere of human life of late. Applications of generative AI in the field of architecture are also being looked upon with awe and wonder. While it is said to assist in building designs, there is also a great amount of fear that it might leave professionals jobless. Is this fear justified? Is it a boon or a bane?
Professionals in the sector are keenly analysing the scenario. A few architects whom Onmanorama talked to had differing views on the subject. But they all unequivocally hinted, that despite the changes it can bring about, it is not going to pose a serious threat to all the architects and building design professionals. They agree that those who use AI tools in their work will definitely have an edge over those who ignore the winds of change.
AI in architecture
Gopikrishnan V, architect and CEO of BuildNext based in Kochi rubbishes the talk that AI would wipe out jobs and prospects of architects and designers. "We heard similar worries when the internet broke into the scene or when computerisation swept through the sector. In fact, technological innovations never took away any jobs. Instead, they had only made changes in business and service sectors creating more and different kinds of jobs," he said.
The quality of work was affected for those who did not adapt to the changes, he pointed out. "Architecture and building design are no different. In fact, architectural designing is more complicated, involving various realms of calculation, measurement and art.
"Designing is actually an optimisation problem. There are several variables, which are functionality-related. We opt for the most apt solution through a trial-and-error method. Where AI comes to the aid is in reducing the time in testing each option. It can also generate various designs in response to various iterations and at the same time display problems, which might crop up, and also provide solutions to them. This can improve the quality of the design," Gopikrishnan added.
Amruta Kishor of Elemental Designs said that AI can give interesting concepts. "For example, if we are planning a traditional Kerala-style house mixed with European style, it might take three to four days to conceptualise it in a conventional way. But if we are using AI tools, we get the results faster. So, that imagination process is getting faster," Amruta said. She too agreed with Gopalakrishnan that AI won't replace architects and building designers completely.
Could AI be a threat to drafters and technicians?
Sanoob Sanalkumar, a Kochi-based architect, also said that AI would never usurp architects' jobs en masse. "There are various aspects that are involved in architectural designing, including decision making, planning according to a client's needs and so on which AI cannot replicate," he said. However, he admitted that new AI tools could pose some threat to drafters and technicians.
Sanoob uses AI tools like Midjourney and DALL-E for his architectural computation. "AI Tools Adobe Firefly, ARCHITEChTURES, Maket.ai, Autodesk Forma and so on are also effective and are widely used," he said.
"What I like the most is that AI can enhance the beauty by rectifying errors in the design structure," he said adding that at present 'AI is used for generating analytical results'.
AI-generated design can be incredibly low-priced
But architects that Onmanorama spoke to were quick to point out the demerits of AI tools as well. If a particular design style is suggested, AI will generate repetitive options. Now the question is, will clients be going for the design service generated by AI, which might be priced low, or opt for an architect? The most feasible option, the architects said, was to opt for a professional who uses AI tools and provides service to more clients ensuring high quality.
"Judiciary is the best example where the capability of AI can be best assessed. A judge can definitely make use of AI in reaching a judgement. For example, if a judge takes 15 days to study several previous judgements on similar cases, AI will be able to do that same analytical study within seconds," Gopikrishnan said.
In designing, it is the architect, who navigates the quality, improvement and novelty in a design. "Let's take the example of music. If we ask AI to create music similar to John Lenon, it may create several compositions similar to that of the music legend. But they might not be as soulful as that of John Lenon himself. Only a musician will be able to improvise and create better tunes by changing and restructuring the notes," he said.
"There is also the problem with the general perception regarding what AI can do. It has its advantages and disadvantages. If we prompt AI to try alternate options, it will generate different variations. But to make it do so, human involvement is required. That's how the workflow is manoeuvred," Gopikrishnan argued.