12.–16.01.2025 #immcologne

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A fresh approach to urban planning

Future cities: visions of future living

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The urban landscape is presenting town and city planners with a growing list of challenges: how can they satisfy the increasing need for environmentally acceptable solutions, good infrastructure, sufficient housing and the continued advance of digitalisation? For some time now, conventional planning tools have been unable to provide all the answers – instead, artificial intelligence is taking on a dominant role in this field, too. Discover concepts that are overturning common conventions and looking at cities in new ways!

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore: futuristic architecture surrounded by verdant natural beauty

Many impressive examples of futuristic architecture already exist. Take Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, for instance. (Victor, Unsplash)

Visionary ideas from the AI x Future Cities project

AI x Future Cities offers a striking example of the use of artificial intelligence in urban planning. As part of the project, architect Manas Bhatia uses the AI tool Midjourney to produce sketches of a surreal-looking future city featuring towering, futuristic skyscrapers with façades made of algae. The seemingly endless vegetation growing on organically shaped buildings forms air purification towers and vertical gardens, which are also meant to cool the city – an idea that would be much more difficult to develop and visualise without the use of artificial intelligence. Alongside these futuristic shapes, the images put nature’s role as a master architect in the foreground, almost appearing as if it has taken over the city. The same impression is also created by Bhatia’s Symbiotic Architecture designs. Here, for example, Manas Bhatia depicts a residential tower block that looks like it’s been built inside a giant redwood – in other words, as if it were made from a living building material.

AI-designed future cities: potential reality or science fiction?

The designs made possible by the Midjourney AI tool certainly make an impression, but could they actually be implemented in real life? A mega-city with algae façades or a high-rise built into a tree still sound like they’ve come straight out of a sci-fi novel.

Rather than producing concepts that can be implemented 1:1, the primary aim of using AI is to highlight new ideas that might not have occurred to a human architect. Tools like Midjourney are drivers of creativity that aren’t held back by existing conventions. Similar systems, such as DALL-E, are currently flooding the market and vying for the attention of architects, designers and other creative professionals. Their use raises new questions, so it’s worth jumping on the AI bandwagon as early as possible and developing expertise in this area – advice that arguably applies equally to small, two-person firms of architects as to large design studios.

The Dubai cityscape: skyscrapers as far as the eye can see.

Cool-looking skyscrapers like these on Dubai’s skyline may not be the symbol of urban architecture for much longer. (Aleksandar Pasaric, Pexels)

AI tools in architecture

Even though research into artificial intelligence began as early as the 1950s, the technology has been generating particular interest in the last few years. Many programmes, including much talked about ChatGPT, are demonstrating remarkable maturity. In the field of architecture, AI has the potential not only to assist, but also to identify new, innovative possibilities:

  • AI tools can help to visualise concepts very quickly, making them more tangible for customers.
  • Planning and construction processes can be simulated and optimised in detail.
  • AI can improve the planning of efficient and above all sustainable building concept s.
  • The tools are able to drive creativity, because they reveal new architectural forms or building materials that haven’t existed before.
  • AI tools also offer new benefits when it comes to communicating with customers. For example, they can make immersive experiences even more interactive and photorealistic.

A future city in a league of its own: NEOM

The NEOM project presents an innovative vision of urban living. In the north-west of Saudi Arabia, several unique construction projects are being built as part of this scheme, including The Line, a 500-metre-tall and 170-kilometer-long linear city in the middle of the desert. According to the plans, there will be neither roads nor cars in the zero-emissions complex. Scheduled to be completed by 2045, it aims to provide space for about nine million people to set up home, live and work . A city of the future that’s being built up out of nothing and will exert a significant influence on the everyday lives of its inhabitants by virtue of its architecture and organisation alone. The project developers claim that the city will fit into the region without destroying nature.

It will be fascinating to see which urban visions will sustain city living into the future – and make it better. If artificial intelligence and the new concepts it gives rise to can make urban planning more environmentally friendly, that alone is reason enough to give AI a good chance.

There are even more innovative ideas to be discovered and exciting new connections to be made at the upcoming imm cologne Spring Edition – be there and stay up-to-date!