Architecture ex Machina

How can we harness AI in our design process? How does ML apply to the workflow?

We see many opportunities to apply the power of AI to automate the tedious tasks that currently make up an overwhelming amount of the design process. We’ve seen many attempts to make use of parametric design to achieve this goal, but we’ve always felt that a rule-based approach would be intractable for many aspects of design and ultimately limiting in terms of creative possibilities. With ML’s use of data we can think of many new areas of design that would have been previously off limits, or at the very least, extremely difficult to automate:

  • Space planning
  • Element placement
  • Rendering
  • Scheduling
  • Data-driven design

What aspects of the design process do you think could benefit most readily from the power of AI/ML ?

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The overwhelming lesson to be learned from the last 7 years of the deep learning revolution is: more data and more layers. We see the “low hanging fruit” as any AEC-specific relationship that requires many, diverse inputs, and results in a smaller number of outputs. These kinds of functions are where we can begin to develop solutions that work roughly like an image classifier, which is essentially a solved problem.

Element placement (especially point-like elements) is one of the most immediately tractable functions that I can think of. This could work by essentially taking in the features of some subset of a floor plan, like the architectural design of a conference room, and output locations of furniture, or lights, or AV devices.

For future developments in neural generative design, this study of the details of generated faces from NVIDIA’s StyleGAN is a significant result, I think:


Because the researchers are able to generate faces where the high-level structure stays the same, but details vary between generated instances, I think it seems easy to extrapolate this to drawings or 3D models. We should be able to point some kind of Design Neural Network at a floor plan and produce many options to choose from that vary in their detailing, but keep the aesthetic and functional goals of the designer intact.

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