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Is Artificial Intelligence a threat to architects?

Updated: 6 days ago

Will the rise of AI lead to the fall of architecture? In this blog post we explore the idea of the architecture profession disappearing completely as a direct consequence of Artificial Intelligence. Does Artificial Intelligence pose a threat to architects and those in fields related to architecture, or will it be one of our greatest allies? We wouldn't want to spoil it for you, but the answers did not turn out as we expected.

Warning: Artificial intelligence should be used with caution. The results provided may be flawed in many different ways. Always be careful when sharing personal data.

Research: Round 1

Raise your hand if you have tried at least one of the latest AI chat websites that have recently popped up absolutely everywhere. If you haven't tried it yet, what are you waiting for? The options are endless with ChatGPT, Google's Bard, Bing's Chat, Notion AI... and the list is only growing and growing.

You may have tried to ask AI to help you with some school, university or work projects. However, I am sure you have all realised there are some limitations to what AI can do for you, especially as some of them don't have access to the internet unless you pay a hefty monthly membership. We decided to ask three different AI chatbots what they thought the future of architecture would look like.

Here is the prompt we used for all four chatbots.

Write a 200 word answer to the following question: Will architects still exist in 10 years' time?

Here are some relevant quotes we got to the prompt above. We have added the very first paragraph of the answer as well as any mentions to automation or artificial intelligence.

Spoiler alert: we were slightly disappointed - the reason why is further down.

AI Answer 1:

Yes, architects will still exist in 10 years' time, albeit with certain changes and adaptations in their roles. Despite advancements in technology and the rise of automated design tools, architects play a vital role in the creation and development of our built environment that goes beyond mere technical expertise. [...] In the coming years, architects may need to adapt to new technologies such as virtual reality, parametric design, and artificial intelligence-driven tools.

AI Answer 2:

Yes, architects will still exist in 10 years' time. However, the role of the architect will likely change as technology continues to evolve. In the past, architects were responsible for the entire design process, from concept to completion. However, as computer-aided design (CAD) and other technologies have become more sophisticated, architects are now able to delegate more of the technical aspects of design to other professionals.

AI Answer 3:

The role of architects has evolved in recent years due to technological advancements and the increasing demand for sustainable design. The question of whether architects will still exist in 10 years' time is a complex one and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. [...] While technology has the potential to automate certain aspects of the design process, it cannot replace the creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that architects bring to the table.

Round 1 Analysis

As mentioned, we were slightly disappointed with these results. You would think that AI chatbots would be aware of the existence of AI, wouldn't you? Well, it turns out that only 1 out of the 3 chatbots we asked directly mentioned artificial intelligence, whilst one mentioned automated design processes. Example 2 didn't even acknowledge automation, never mind AI.

Notice how the first two answers start with the exact same sentence? Whilst we used 3 different chats with 3 different language models running them in the background, they obviously share a similar answer structure as that is what natural human language would typically answer to that question. For example, you would expect the answer to the question "Will architects still exist tomorrow?" to be something along the lines of "Yes, architects will still exist tomorrow". Hence the match.

Our first thought was to write a blog post about how terrible AI is at identifying... itself? However, the best users of AI chatbots are not those who ask lots of questions, or even those who ask long questions. Rather, it is those who ask the right questions. So we decided to give it another go.

Research: Round 2

It was time for round 2 of research. We decided to change our method, and instead of asking AI such a general question about the future of architecture, we decided to cut straight to the chase and to ask the following prompt:

Write a 200 word answer to the following question. Will architects still exist in 10 years' time, as a consequence of Artificial Intelligence?

Here are the results. We have included the full answers this time so take your time to read through them. We have also highlighted some of the most relevant quotes from each of the responses.

Spoiler alert: now we're talking.

AI Answer 1

Yes, architects will still exist in 10 years' time, even with the advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI). While AI has the potential to automate certain aspects of architectural design, it cannot replace the comprehensive skill set and creativity that architects bring to the table. AI can be a valuable tool for architects, assisting in tasks such as generating design options, analysing data, and optimising energy efficiency. It can help streamline the design process and improve efficiency, but it cannot replicate the human ability to think critically, innovate, and understand the nuances of human experience. Architecture is a multidisciplinary field that requires a deep understanding of cultural, social, and environmental contexts. Architects bring a unique blend of artistic vision, technical knowledge, and problem-solving abilities to create buildings and spaces that meet the complex needs of individuals and communities. They consider factors such as aesthetics, functionality, sustainability, and the overall human experience. Furthermore, architects play a crucial role in collaborating with clients, stakeholders, and other professionals involved in the construction process. They translate the aspirations and requirements of their clients into tangible designs while considering budget constraints, building codes, and regulations. While AI may evolve and impact certain aspects of architectural practice, architects will remain essential in envisioning, designing, and implementing the built environment. Their ability to integrate creativity, critical thinking, and human-centric design principles will continue to be highly valued in the field of architecture.

AI Answer 2

The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. While it is true that AI is rapidly developing and has the potential to automate many tasks that are currently performed by architects, it is also true that architecture is a creative and complex profession that requires human judgment and expertise. As AI continues to develop, it is likely that architects will increasingly rely on AI tools and technologies to help them with their work. For example, AI could be used to generate 3D models of buildings, to analyze building performance, and to identify potential problems. However, AI is unlikely to completely replace the need for architects. Architects will still be needed to provide creative vision, to solve problems, and to communicate with clients and other stakeholders. In 10 years' time, architects will likely need to be more proficient in using AI tools and technologies. They will also need to be able to think creatively and to solve problems in new and innovative ways. Those who are able to do this will be well-positioned for success in the future of architecture. Here are some of the ways in which AI could impact the architectural profession: - AI could automate some aspects of architectural design and construction. For example, AI could be used to generate 3D models of buildings, to analyze building performance, and to identify potential problems. - AI could free up architects to focus on more creative and strategic tasks. For example, AI could be used to handle the more technical aspects of design, such as structural engineering and building codes. - AI could create new opportunities for architects to collaborate with other professionals. For example, AI could be used to connect architects with engineers, contractors, and other stakeholders in the building process. Overall, the impact of AI on the architectural profession is likely to be positive. AI can help architects to be more productive, creative, and collaborative. However, it is important to remember that AI is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used for good or for bad. It is up to architects to ensure that AI is used in a way that benefits society and the environment.

AI Answer 3

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance, it will likely have an impact on the role of architects in the coming years. While AI can automate certain aspects of the design process, it cannot replace the creativity and problem-solving skills that architects bring to the table. AI can be used to generate design options based on certain criteria, such as building codes or energy efficiency standards. This can save architects time and allow them to focus on more complex aspects of the design process. However, AI cannot replace the human insight and judgment that architects use to make key design decisions. Additionally, AI cannot replace the role of architects in ensuring that a building is functional, safe, and meets the unique needs of its users. Architects are trained to consider a wide range of factors, including building codes, environmental impact, and accessibility, when designing a building. AI may be able to assist with some of these considerations, but it cannot replace the expertise and experience of a skilled architect. In conclusion, while AI may have an impact on the role of architects in the coming years, it is unlikely that it will completely replace them. Architects will still be needed to bring a human touch to the design process, ensure that buildings meet the unique needs of their users, and consider a wide range of factors when designing a building.

Discussion: is AI a threat to architecture?

We cannot predict the future of architecture, nor can we predict what AI is going to evolve into. However, we can make some predictions.

  • For starters, it is highly unlikely that AI will replace human architects (it feels very strange having to specify the "human" factor) as long as they embrace AI and stay on top of their learning. Once you qualify as an architect, you are invited to continue your professional development by both the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Architects Registration Board (ARB) so make sure to include AI in your learning journey.

  • AI has the potential to automate most of an architect's processes. And a designer's processes, and a lawyer's, and a doctor's. There are millions of websites and businesses that have used AI for years. The only difference now is that AI has become a huge key word to attract young audiences and new customers. Google has used AI for years to load search results before you finished typing your sentence onto the search bar. If you are looking for tools to automate your processes using AI, make sure they respect your right to data privacy.

  • Architects, just like many other professionals, will need to adapt and adopt AI. They will also need to ensure they are using it correctly and efficiently. For example, imagine a large multinational architecture firm starts using AI in their site analyses or client briefs. Imagine they have to do an average of 2 attempts before the document looks like it was intended to. Each of those attempts will cost the business money, which is of extreme importance to large businesses.

Final Comments

AI is probably going to be one of any architect's greatest allies. It creates an opportunity for architects to be more creative and effective.

Architects have a privileged position as they are able to imagine what life would look like in an ideal environment, and put their plans into action in urban and rural environments. Use this privileged position to make sure we have a stable and secure society, ready for the technologies that are thriving (and those yet to come) in the 21st century.

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