This overall post (in three parts) will dive into: how the computer affects the creation of architecture today (the act of designing), how architecture/design is depicted ("renders" or visualizations), and the future of creating architecture.
The final post related to computers and their role in architecture culminates in predictions of how Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and AI will revolutionize the role of the architect, how buildings are constructed and how people can be a part of the design process in real-time.
Simulation and AI architects:
Where does this Computer Aided Drafting, Building Information Modeling and Photo-Real Physics rendering lead? I believe it is only a matter of a few years (5-7) before we are relying even more on complex algorithms and AI technology to generate hundreds of iterations of architectural solutions for any given site and client need.
These new software programs, driven by AI, will be able to take into account thousands of pieces of information and data - such as future urban planning, existing site conditions like prevailing wind, sun angles, and climate change; they will include client needs like room adjacencies, best views, most efficient use of space for investment, and custom material choices by future tenants; these program will also balance the efficient use of materials for real-time fabrication and efficient structural solutions engineers may not have even considered. This will all be delivered to us a complex 3D virtual building, situated in a pulsating virtual city - part virtual model and part city simulation. How will that building affect parking in the area? Will it shade the nearby church? create bad reflections and cause the coffee shop two blocks away to loose business? This we will study as designers and clients in Virtual Reality -via goggles or full rooms that project this all around us.
Image from Trevor Patt: My PhD thesis:"Assemblage Form: An ontology of the urban generic with regard to architecture, computation, and design"Advisor, Jeffrey Huang. This thesis project used real urban data to show ideal locations to situate a building within the city and then how the building would impact those parameters.
We already use virtual city simulations in our most popular video games:
First generation versions will be a "view only" mode where changes are marked and designer-programmers head back to the "drawing board" to reprogram the ai simulator with different options, more restrictions and preferences. Second generation versions will be able to do this real-time. We will be quite literally sculpting a building in VR with the client at our side and seeing real-time consequences of these decisions on the virtual city below as we fast-forward our timeline into the future. When the best option is settled upon, drawings will not really be needed anymore since humans will not need to interpret a floor plan or building section. Instead the building information will be sent to 3D printers, remote fabrication facilities and AI driven construction equipment.
example of an easy plug and play type Parametric software called Grasshopper as a plugin for a 3D CAD tool Rhinoceros - these types of advancements in architecture and computing are making algorithm driven design easier to reach.
In this (near) future computers will be the culmination of the hand drafting, sketching, watercolor paintings, modeling making, virtual renders, blueprints and construction crews that came before. The revolution of the architectural design world has taken 20 years. With computers only increasing in speed and all the technologies listed above already existing in one form or another it only a matter of time before they fully merge - arrive the architect-programmer... or the Designer-programmer. It makes the term "The Architect" from the Matrix movies seem even more tangible... and possibly scary.