Will artificial intelligence replace the human designer?
Have digital design tools completely revolutionized architecture?
Fredrik Skåtar’s on-going doctoral thesis “Upgraded tools” wants to tone down the debate and connect it to examples from the architect’s everyday working situation. As the title suggests, digital design is a further development of an already existing craftsmanship rather than a drastic change.
We have always sought for new means of realising our ideas, and contemporary technology can be added to a long list. Therefore, the debate should probably focus more on skills and knowledge rather the tools used. Yet, on the whole there are very few professionals able to use the technology’s full range which ultimately leads to a confused debate.
In contrast, such tools are often subject to speculations, giving them more significance than they deserve. Instead, we must realize that the person using them is driven by skill, knowledge and design process. The tools at hand are only established to a certain extent and we need to spread more knowledge about them. In contrast, there are speculations about what they might bring about in the future: will the architect be replaced by some form of artificial intelligence? That discussion should probably be more nuanced, foremost while we have to differentiate between weak and strong AI, the latter is currently merely science-fiction. Weak AI on the other hand, is a great support for the architect, offering a vast range of facilitating features.
The rapid digital development is both bad and good for architects. Bad, in that it confuses and polarises us. The debate about what digital tools could mean for architecture is surprisingly chaotic, ranging from tool-based formalism to speculations about artificial intelligence. Often, the debate even leads to questioning the future existence of the architectural profession.
The few practitioners, with enough knowledge and experience, should make an effort in explaining what digital design tools actually are. How are they used in an everyday professional situation? How can architects, designers and engineers benefit from algorithmic design methods? What are their artistic function? How do they fit into a larger technological development over time?
  • Project: "Upgraded tools", PhD thesis
  • Conducted at: Faculty of Engineering (LTH), Lund University
  • Theme: Computer-driven and algorithmic design tools
  • Aim and purpose: to shed light on and demystify complex contemporary technology