Artificial Intelligence, or AI as it is known across the globe, serves currently as a tool that assists in day-to-day operations in many an industry. The advancements of the likes of ChatGPT and DALL·E 2 has resulted in the constant questioning of ‘what comes next’?
The built environment is one such industry that will benefit from the evolution of AI. From basic image creation to company learning modules, its immediate future will see it work alongside architects, as opposed to rendering them redundant.
This line of thinking has been adopted at Rothelowman, who have begun to utilise AI programs to reduce the timeframes of painstaking tasks. Nigel Hobart (pictured below), one of the practice’s Managing Principals, began researching the software five years ago, convinced of its inevitability.
“I think that, honestly, I think that every role in society, I can’t think of one where AI can’t eventually play a significant role,” he says.
“The question is really how long it’s going to take. It’s not going to replace architecture and interior designers in the next 24 months. But can architects and interior designers, with a combination of self-confidence and humility, see these things as opportunities to go to the next level with their own thinking, their own processes and their own mindset around design?”
Hobart believes that the ‘protectionism’ of any working fraternity is a natural reaction to new programs, which will stall the initial adoption of the technology, but describes AI as “a natural evolution of society and transition of economies.”
“You can reduce risk in the quality of your work. You can make people’s jobs less boring by getting repetitive things and making them virtually instantaneous by writing scripting around things. We’ve made lots of progress in the way we document buildings in the middle third where you’re getting into regulatory compliance, buildability and coordination.”
Rothelowman’s team members have been on fact-finding missions across the US to witness the technology being harnessed by architects in other studios. Picture-generating AI software has been occasionally utilised by the practice to assist in instantly creating a physical embodiment of a client’s brief. Hobart likens the improvement and understanding of AI in the built environment to the mentoring of a budding graduate.
“I think in time that it will absolutely change everything, and that’s not intended as a scary thought. I started five years ago on this journey and thought ‘it won’t happen in a hurry and it won’t happen to us and you can’t automate creativity.’ Well, that’s just not true. I was completely wrong,” he concedes.
“If you start with an architectural graduate out of university with talent, that person could accelerate into being useful and productive quite quickly in the early years of their career. If you invest in the talent, then the talent will become very effective and very valuable. And the same thing is happening with AI.
“I think what’s gonna happen in the very short to intermediate term is that designers are gonna start using AI as an assistant, as another part of their toolkit.”
Ultimately, the continued reinvigoration of the technologies is consistently making design executives rethink their use of AI in the workplace. Hobart says it will be a long time before it becomes industry standard, and cites the number of players in the market as why.
“Five years ago, when I started researching automation, I did start to panic a little bit, as it was coming fast and I didn’t think we were ready, but I came to realise that our industry is so disparate and so fragmented. There is no strong influence or individual player in the property industry, so these things take time,” he says.
“AI is an opportunity. If others aren’t gonna adopt these things and you find a way to use these things that save time and money. If you can buy time for your team by creating efficiencies within the creation and delivery process of our service, then that’s where the gains are.
If you’re finding ways of using AI to your advantage without compromising risk, quality or client experience and use it to your advantage to buy time, then you’ll provide a better solution than your competitors. It’s as simple as that.”
Contractors must keep up with technological advances to drive the industry forward, says Autodesk senior vice chairman Jim Lynch.
Globally, the built environment footprint is expected to double in size by 2060. For that to happen in line with net zero targets, technology is going to be critical to improving the way construction is carried out.
Jim Lynch, Vice President & General Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions.
Autodesk senior vice chairman Jim Lynch puts it simply: “The industry has to find a better way to build and digital is going to play – and is already playing – a huge role in that.”
For technology to advance our construction techniques, digital literacy is going to be required in all practices and, ideally, through all phases of construction.
“The bare minimum is that contractors use digital technology on the job site for collaboration,” says Lynch.
“Ideally, they should use digital technology during the pre-construction process. Moving on from there they should use it to drive operations and maintenance, then take that project information from design out to a digital twin, where they can use that technology to provide management capabilities for the owner.”
To make this a reality, technology must be easy to deploy and adopt, according to Lynch. “If using and deploying technology is going to need weeks of training where you’re taking workers off the job, that’s not going to work,” he explains.
However, Lynch believes the onus is on contractors to invest more in improving their digital literacy if they are falling behind.
“You have to build up that digital muscle,” he says. “And I think, by and large, contractors really do understand that they have to take those first steps around collaboration, then extend those steps into using more digital during the planning process and then continue on from there.”
He believes that today’s contractors are embracing technology faster than ever, not only because of the competition, but also because of the expectations of clients and the government. He points to the UK’s Building Safety Act, which became law in April 2022, as a driver.
“That is really all about data; it is ensuring that owners, contractors and designers all play a role in making sure that digital information is created, captured and stored throughout the entire process.”
Lynch believes a big challenge is going to be attracting the workforce to build all the future projects – but that digital could play a part in drawing people in. “I think the use of digital technologies to drive better outcomes in construction will be intriguing to the younger generation,” he says.
“How to apply technology to the construction process, especially when you think about augmented reality and virtual reality applications, will drive a greater interest in the workforce.”
He adds that the industry has made great progress in its use of technology in recent decades. “But I think we’ve only scratched the surface,” he says. “I think the best is really yet to come.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning a World’s largest floating city at an estimated eight billion dollars expense. This Giga yacht is a massive turtle-shaped Pangeos that will house 60,000 people and have beach clubs, villas, and even a shopping mall.
World’s largest floating city, worth $8bn, to come up in Saudi Arabia
Riyadh – A giant turtle-shaped structure – running 550-m long and 610 m wide – being modelled in the shape of a floating city for ultra-high-net-worths, is set to come up in Saudi Arabia.
The Terayacht project Pangeos, which is estimated to cost around $8 billion, is being designed by Italian studio Lazzarini and is likely to located at the King Abdullah Economic City, some 2 km from King Abdullah port. Once the work kicks off, it will take approximately eight years for completion.
The project, which is double the size of the Roman Colosseum, would be capable of hosting up to 60,000 guests at its peak, said Pangeos the Terayacht on its website.
“At the moment, Pangeos is just a concept, but it’s starting to his way to become something more than a computer animation,” said its founder Pierpaolo Lazzarini.
“The Terayacht proposal takes its name from Pangea, the supercontinent that existed millions of years ago during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras,” explained Lazzarini.
“Guests can unwind by staying in one of the many hotels, exploring its plethora of shopping centres, parks, beach clubs, resorts, as well as ship and aircraft ports,” he stated.
According to Lazzarini, the Terayacht would have its very own shipyard built specifically for its creation, and would be launched out of Saudi Arabia.
“A Terayacht needs a Terashipyard. The conception of a similar-sized vessel, involves the realisation of a specific shipyard/dam infrastructure that floods to levitate the terayacht when it will be launched,” he stated.
The project scope includes dredging work of one square km of sea by building a circular dam. Once dried the terrain will possible to start preparing the basement area, he added.
According to him, the floating structure subdivides the spaces in different blocks and the impressive sizes of the Pangeos structure creates an unlimited possibility in terms of layout and facilities.
“The hull is subdivided in about 30,000 cells. This space provide an unsinkable floating solution for the basement, which is composed by cluster compartments and connected by corridors,” stated the Italian designer.
“With 30 metres of draft, the ship’s enormous hull is made up of nine different bows and subdivided into several blocks. The structure also boasts a giant gate aft that allows vessels to enter this floating metropolis,” he revealed.
It would be powered by nine high-temperature superconductor (HTS) engines, each fully electric motor capable of a mind-blowing 16,800hp and powered by various onboard energy sources,” he added.
It’s an essential component of the design process, where spatial ideations are translated into built form – the design of the prototype. Architectural projects, throughout history and in contemporary practice, have been prototyped to carry out both technical and aesthetic tests, where further insight is gained into the integrity of the design. It’s the blurred line between the experimental and the practical.
Antoni Gaudí’s 1:25 and 1:10 scale plaster models of Sagrada Família can be defined as architectural prototypes, and so can the wooden model of Filippo Brunelleschi’s Florence Cathedral dome. But these are investigations conducted on a smaller scale. It can be argued that architectural prototypes are most effective when built out 1:1, from which further architectural interventions based on the prototype have the security of a design attempt that is not a scaled-down version of the finished product.
But the making of these prototypes is a protracted endeavor – necessitating the complex maneuvering of resources, labor, and capital – for a structure that aims to merely lay the foundations for how similar designs should be approached in the future.
When scrutinized from the perspective of the Global South, this dialogue is complicated further – in countries that have been historically over-exploited and are currently under-resourced, are full-scale architectural prototypes wasteful if they don’t immediately function as a working building? Is it right for these prototypes to simply exist as say, explorations of new materials without serving as a structure that will be in constant use from its inception?
In colonial Africa, architectural experimentation was commonplace, from Fry and Drew in West Africa to Guido Ferrazza in Libya. This experimentation included that of French industrial designer and architect Jean Prouvé, who in 1949 developed Maison Tropicales – prefabricated, modular housing prototypes constructed out of aluminum designed to be easily transported, assembled, and disassembled.
The design problem that the Maison Tropicales had to solve was climatic – as France’s African colonies faced a shortage of housing and civic buildings. The prototype was designed for the equatorial climate, including a veranda with an adjustable aluminum sun-screen. Internally, walls were made of a combination of sliding and fixed metal panels – as glass portholes provided protection against UV rays.
But despite this resourceful, ingenious response to the tropical climate, the Maison Tropicale as a prototype failed. It was no less expensive than locally constructed buildings, and the French colonial bureaucrats did not warm to the industrial appearance of the house. The prototype, ultimately, was a colonial project built for French administrators. A prototype built for the colonial class that proved unpopular with them, and that instead of being widely adopted, was resigned to be a traveling object, making frequent appearances in design exhibitions. This prototype of the African Tropics became a design object that to most, was known outside of its intended context.
But contemporary practice in the Global South has offered up more substantial prototypes, where investigations into materials are coupled with substantial usage. Senegalese firm Worofila’s Ecopavillon in Diamniadio, constructed in 2019, is one such example. Commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment of Senegal, it is built with earth and typha – a type of water reed found in the Senegal River. Woven typha panels provide sound insulation, and when mixed with adobe bricks, provide thermal insulation.
As the prototype is part of the Senegalese government’s initiative to build a new city to ease congestion in Dakar, its usage is still in its early stages. The intention, though, is clear. The Ecopavillon will allow the monitoring of how the building’s materials behave, and performance can be assessed. the behavior of materials and to measure the performance of buildings. Furthermore, it can act as a training venue for craftspeople, where local knowledge of energy-efficient materials can be further developed.
The most tangible example of a living prototype in the Global South, however, is arguably found in Bangladesh, in Marina Tabassum Architects’Khudi Bari. It is a modular mobile housing unit, with an area of 128 square feet. Its light footprint and elevated form mimic the architectural vernacular of the Bengal delta, but more pressingly, it responds to climate change.
In an area with high instances of flash flooding, the raised second level acts as shelter for occupants as they await the receding of the water. In the Chars of Bangladesh – low-lying islands naturally formed by silt from rivers – the spaceframe structure is a crucial response, low cost, durable, and easily assembled and disassembled with minimum labor.
The true success of the Khudi Bari project can only be measured by what happens after the housing modules are built. A pilot project initiated by a non-profit organization affiliated with Marina Tabassum Architects in conjunction with private and governmental donors aims to establish at least 80 to 100 “Khudi Bari” modules in the flood-prone communities of Bangladesh by May 2023.
More crucially, March 2021 saw the first three homes built in collaboration with families, with some adapting their modules, with the vision for the future being that people involved in this pilot project will then become part of the training collective as the modules are initiated in other areas.
Perhaps this is how architectural prototypes built in the Global South should function – as bold, inventive assemblages, that are not only for observation and display, but instead examples of architecture that is dynamic, in use, and living.
Shalini Chandrashekar, principal designer and co-founder of Taliersyn – Design & Architecture, writes that the case for sustainability is of paramount importance and relevance in the present day and future.
Architects are increasingly faced with the dilemma of building something that answers the immediate fanciful demands of their clients or orchestrate responsible end-user behaviour for generations at the inhabitant’s end.
The case for sustainability
The proposition of taking contemplative pauses that yield intimacy and delight often seems unattainable in modern-day living. Resisting the temptation to get caught up in the frantic rush of everyday life doesn’t come naturally to any of us these days. But acknowledging the psychological distress that fast-paced lifestyles are posing on our physical and mental well-being has become crucial.
Back in the day, when people weren’t so blinded by the allure of modernity and took time to unwind themselves in the lap of nature and the arms of their loved ones, daily routines did not turn exhaustive as quickly as they do now. With the electronic skein rapidly winding around us, there is a pressing need to identify the importance of hosting built environments that iterate a harmonious lifestyle.
Throughout humanity’s life history, evolution has been central to its synergy with nature. We, as human beings, are inextricably bound to the well-being of our environment. We thrive when our natural surrounding thrives. Since its prevalence, architecture has helped humans to devise this affiliation with its context through tangible curations.
But amid the prevalent technocratic paradigm, where we have resourcefully restructured all aspects of earthly life; it becomes an architect’s social responsibility to identify with the urge to express affinity towards nature where an environmental disaster seems to be pending.
Seeking the well-being of current and future generations within the limits of the natural world, architects are now trying to strike a balance between how short-term interests at the individual and organisational levels are at odds with the global systems and communities in the longer run.
Today’s conscious design behaviour at the architect’s end can orchestrate responsible end-user behaviour for generations at the inhabitant’s end. Whereas end-use behaviour can determine what happens in a situation, design behaviour often determines the case itself. While the end-user is an office worker deciding whether to put on a sweater or turn up the air conditioning device, the architect decides whether to heat that office with renewable solar energy or with mechanical systems powered by fossil fuels.
An architectural design that does not contemplate its local and global repercussions and fails to adapt to the ever-evolving future dynamics becomes infeasible for subsequent generations. Individual comfort can only be endured if achieved collectively with a sustainable consciousness on a larger scale.
Design practices worldwide, have started feeling accountable for devising socially equitable development that is respectful of nature now more than ever and, have started resorting to new approaches towards more sustainable energy usage in buildings. While technological advances pose some challenges in creating contextually sound built forms, its progressive attributes in terms of modern innovations ease the desperation to rely on natural resources. Contemporary practices like opting for solar panels, incorporating automation systems, or imbibing something as fundamentally classic as rainwater harvesting can contribute a fair share in taking care of our atmosphere.
But the pursuit of sustainability doesn’t come easy. It is a layered and interdependent network of judgments and decisions shaped by specific socioeconomic contexts and must consider both existing and preferred states of complex Anthropocene situations. Along with which architects also face challenges while narrating their environmental concerns to the clients who, on most days, are inspired by the fanciful ideas and foreign concepts for their dream abodes that might not sanction a contextually inclusive design intervention. Working on tight schedules and a decline in skilled labour furthers this dilemma on the creator’s side when, as a designer, all he aspires for are meaningful and appropriate design solutions.
We, as architects, hustle with the situational impositions and invest all our will in crafting architectural volumes that strike equilibrium amid the user, nature and the context. We identify with the moral sense of safeguarding the environment and composing poetic architectural vocabulary derived from human behaviours in response to its habitat.
Spaces rooted in the landscape and inspired by the local vernacular have been apparent in introducing a healthy living experience and motivating productivity in the work-life. Tethered to user experience and sustainability, these spatial identities offer a deeper resonance with harmonious life patterns by inducing a contextually inclusive built environment.
Conclusively, in today’s time when chronic modifications to the environment have registered a direct impact on our quality of life and health, holistically curated sustainable built forms willingly induce a sense of calmness among its inhibitors by offering them a contemplative pause they rightfully deserve amid their fast-paced lifestyles.
Originally posted on HUMAN WRONGS WATCH: Human Wrongs Watch (UN News)* — Disinformation, hate speech and deadly attacks against journalists are threatening freedom of the press worldwide, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday [2 May 2023], calling for greater solidarity with the people who bring us the news. UN Photo/Mark Garten | File photo…
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