Zaha Hadid Architects’ Patrik Schumacher says AI cannot replace architects – The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – The instruction of architecture and design in educational institutions has changed dramatically along with advances in technology.

Architect Patrik Schumacher observes: “We are witnessing now that young architects and schools of architecture are shifting into engineering research and programming. This has been going on for over 10 years.

“However, I think that this is temporary, a phenomenon of the transition to the new paradigm of parametricism and tectonism,” adds the principal of Zaha Hadid Architects, one of the world’s most forward-thinking architectural firms right now.

Parametricism and its more technologically advanced iteration, tectonism, are terms coined by Mr Schumacher, 61, to refer to a field of architecture that is dependent on computer-based algorithmic design processes.

Recognising the advances in computer processing capacity early on, especially in animation, he understood the potential of using computers to process design parameters that could generate architectural forms.

These parameters include different programmatic requirements like circulation flows, or how people move through a building.

More recently, faster and more powerful computers allow for much more complex algorithms, which can include new design parameters like engineering structure and energy efficiency.

Computing power plays a big role in processing all this information and then generating design. With advances in artificial intelligence (AI), could architects and designers be replaced by computers?

Mr Schumacher thinks not. Even in light of these advances, he is quick to point out that the future of design is not just about technology, but how it must be used to create designs that improve life.

AI will enhance creativity, rationality and even automation in architecture and design. But automation “implies that more time will be available for genuine conceptual innovations, and for rethinking priorities and purposes”.

“A further aspect (of automation) is that intuitive capacities locked up in experienced architects become unlocked and multiply. This also promises the insightful, explicit grasp and rationalisation of tacit intuitive capacities,” he says.

As such, architects and designers will still be needed to intuit the needs of end-users. And this requires creative thinking. “The focus on design is the focus on user experiences and social functionality as the primary site of innovation. Innovation here must go ahead of and hand-in-hand with engineering and technology solutions,” Mr Schumacher says.

AI architecture is gaining traction in architecture and design schools. The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) has a design and artificial intelligence department and Mr Schumacher notes that its research on AI in architecture and urbanism is original. “I am following (the) progress with keen attention,” he adds.

He is also very enthusiastic about the potential of the metaverse – the online virtual realm. “We are already engaged with a number of ambitious metaverse projects. All firms, all institutions, including all universities, and all significant events will exist in the metaverse, at least partially.”

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