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How AI design has the potential to transform architecture

New designs by AI

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Our world is becoming increasingly digital – that’s no news to us. But over the past few years, our digital world has become increasingly intelligent, too. Artificial intelligence is the buzzword of the hour. Whether it’s a simple translation tool or a pool of knowledge for entire business plans, artificial intelligence opens up so many new possibilities that we can barely grasp the full extent of them.

But if it’s used properly, artificial intelligence, or AI for short, can provide game-changing assistance in many fields. Here we look at how AI is helping the Indian architect and designer Shail Patel to visualise his radical and interesting approaches.

Centre: portrait of Shail Patel; left: yellow floating metropolis; right: housing pods for the homeless.

They look like real objects, but they are entirely made up: Architectural designer Shail Patel creates ideas for the future with the AI software Midjourney. (Images: Shail Patel)

The magician and his staff or Shail Patel and Midjourney

How does the world of design and architecture find inspiration for a never-ending stream of new design possibilities and unexpected creations that break down the boundaries of the status quo each time? Shail Patel has found his own unique way of doing this: He uses the AI-powered design tool Midjourney to create his extraordinary ideas.

Developed by former NASA employee David Holz, the artificial intelligence behind Midjourney is able to develop AI designs. From abstract graphics and futuristic product images to realistic photos and other works of art, the artificial intelligence can visualise anything – all it needs is a simple description of what it should look like.

Based on the descriptions entered, Midjourney presents four different suggestions to users. In the next step, they can individually adapt all of them based on their own visions.

“AI is a tool that can keep up with the speed of my thoughts. You have to balance the prompts to achieve a particular effect. With AI, you can explore many ideas that we could come up with before but couldn’t visualise precisely. AI can help us to envision this unexplored territory much faster. It’s as if you were able to sketch different ideas simultaneously,” said Shail Patel as he described his fascination with AI tools to us.

On his Instagram account , he regularly posts futuristic architectural solutions that present new ways of thinking. These images invite his followers to leave the world of standards and the laws of physics behind them.

Illuminated housing pods on stilts under a bridge

How can we treat people living on the streets more fairly? Shail Patel’s bridge pods put forward an interesting possibility. (Image: Shail Patel)

Housing pods for the homeless

One of the social problems that Shail Patel has tackled in his work is the growing unhoused communities in many metropolises across the globe. As the world’s population grows and the trend for urbanisation continues unabated in many countries, the shortage of inhabitable space is intensifying in many places. Yet at the same time, every city has unused spaces that are currently not available as living spaces. These are exactly the kind of spaces that the Indian architectural designer is interested in, and he fills them with new ideas for homes. One place in particular has inspired him: the space under bridges. Here Shail Patel sees great potential for his bridge pods, either suspended from the structure or positioned on the ground. The round, stacked capsules not only provide enough comfort during the night and a safe place to sleep – the pods’ futuristic architecture also looks pretty stylish. With ideas like this, AI design is creating a promising solution for the modern cities of tomorrow.

Yellow houses floating on the water

Where can we go if sea levels rise? With Shail Patel’s floating metropolises, we might be able to turn coasts into living spaces. (Image: Shail Patel)

The swimming metropolis

From urban farming to biophilic design , there are many concepts for modern cities and metropolises that are based on nature. Shail Patel also adopts this approach in one of his numerous creative mind games. How can we manage a growing population at the same time as rising sea levels? In response to this question, he provides some stimulating food for thought with his floating metropolis. Shail Patel simply moves life onto the water, similar to the luxury resorts in the Maldives. The capsules not only give residents a home with an idyllic view – they provide everything that they need to live. Accessible on foot via bridges or on a small boat, moored outside the front door, the floating homes are as well connected to each other as houses on the land. Stilt villages such as those in Cambodia and Thailand and the European example of Venice demonstrate that this concept can work. Even today, Patel’s idea is not merely a vision of a distant future.

As intelligent as it is supposed to be?

In the search for socially responsible, environmentally friendly and futuristic architectural solutions, there is no such thing as a bad idea, at least to start with. AI design can help us to generate new concepts, question the status quo and think flexibly. But we should keep a watchful eye on artificial intelligence. Last year, AI and Midjourney came under repeated criticism. A children’s book created with the AI software was accused of plagiarising other authors. In another case, an image was awarded first prize in an art exhibition. But the jury weren’t aware of one thing: The picture was produced with the aid of Midjourney – the outcry was immense.

But failures like these shouldn’t lessen AI’s successes – just as the latter shouldn’t outweigh the former. On all accounts, Midjourney is a pioneering tool. At least in the hands of those like Shail Patel.

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