Gerard Heumann

Artificial intelligence and the future of architecture

While AI offers some advantages for the architectural profession, there are innumerable and potentially disastrous downsides. AI is certainly here to stay and will impact the field of architecture big time. As most tasks in architectural offices are of a technical nature, according to OECD close to 40% of architects jobs may eventually be unnecessary.

And while architectural design technology – applied science, continues to grow at an exponential rate, why have we seen design quality hit rock bottom? AI-ChatGPT will generate soulless images for architects at blazing speed but at a very heavy price: the loss of creative intuition and the human touch. Science lacks morals and where there’s no morality there’s no society. Urgent is that the social implications of AI be studied in depth.

A highly questionable result of the digital revolution has been the evolution of enormous global architectural firms offering comprehensive services tied to the building industry. Foster and Partners based in London, has offices on four continents with over 2000 employees commanding over 100 technologies. AI merely adds several more. Yet many of their technical staff’s jobs may be in jeopardy. Smaller firms will have to master AI in order to survive. Those who decide not to proceed beyond their normal practices will surely be at risk.

Some of the largest countries in the world, among them – China, the US, Argentina and Mexico, are building at an ever larger scale. I recently forwarded Foster’s proposal for a 170 kilometer long linear skyscraper, 500 meters high and 200 meters wide, named “The Line”, slated to house nine million people! in the Saudi Arabian desert, to a friend, a Professor of Architecture. His response, a single word: “Crazy!” AI will be utilized to design these gargantuan problematic projects much more rapidly.

Another important aspect: as repetitive administrative and data analysis tasks are among the most exposed to AI, which can deal with them at incredible speed, Israel’s bloated, inefficient and inept planning and building bureaucracy can become far more compact, professional and competent. If only this were true.

The insatiable drive for short-term personal profit on the part of building developers, fully backed by our local authorities, remains the dominant factor here. AI will no doubt speed up the building project designs of the wealthy and powerful.

Seen from almost every conceivable point of view – human scale, the design of the public realm, continuity and unity, organized and coherent complexity, artistic excellence and attention to detail, Haussmann’s Paris, designed by hand and built between 1853 and 1870 for Napoleon III over 150 years ago, wins easily even today, hands down.

About the Author
Gerard Heumann is an architect and town planner in Jerusalem.