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  • Writer's pictureLeonardo Agrelo

Advanced Design Theories? Advanced? What Theories?

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Architecture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence: An Introduction to AI for Architects was the base for this class. A book, work in progress by the way, written by our professor. This course seeks to analyze the theory behind the application of AI and its implications for all of us, including the field of architecture. That's why we even fantasied over the dark side of it, many of us spent some hours watching a few Black Mirror's episodes on Netflix because it was "something to draw inspiration from".





Like everything I post here, this is only my opinion, to which I'm entitled, opinion that most of my peers share when it is "safe".


I don't know who comes up with this honestly. It's incredible that in COLLEGE, you have to take this type of classes, and pay hundreds of dollars to listen to some random guy rambling about things that won't happen in our lifetimes and that anybody can predict and talk about. Obsessed with AI playing Go and Chess, generating millions of images from some data and calling it "the future of architecture" for weeks and weeks. This class could have been 2 weeks long, 2 lectures the first week, and the final exam the next week. Done. Literally.


But the real question?

How many of us really know Architectural Theories? Imagine being 1 year away from graduation and not knowing shit. At least theoretically speaking, because nobody knows shit in the real practice once they graduate anyway.

Imagine facing that harsh truth. Because you can lie all you want, you can pretend, you can wear fancy clothes, walk like a super model wearing all black, but you know you know shit, look me in the eyes, and I will know, everybody will know.


I recently stumbled on Tschumi's essay about the Paradox of Architecture. What a great read. I built my Design 7 project on that; you can find it in my projects in this same website. The fight between perception and reality. In the words of Tschumi, the pyramid and the labyrinth. From that essay I quote: "The concept of dog, does not bark; the concept of space is not space".

It made me look further, and I even bought Event Cities 4 which Tschumi graciously signed for me a few semesters after this course. This way I could go deeper into his understanding of concept and form and all this theory behind his work. THAT'S WHAT A CLASS SHOULD DO, WHAT A PROFESSOR SHOULD INSPIRE YOU TO DO.


We know shit about the Avant-Garde movement, its implication in architecture, aesthetics, its progressive, marxists affiliations and its fight against the institutionalization of art. Looking for good reads I also found about this, with Theory of the Avant-Garde by Peter Burger on Amazon.


But this is not about what I have found, I'm nobody, it is not up to me to educate the new generations, I know very very very little if not nothing about architecture. But then, why are we paying for this crappy education?

There's so much more that we students don't know, behind every architect Rem Koolhaas, Louis Sullivan, Renzo Piano, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, etc... you can find movements, ideas, theories, many failures worth studying, many more successes worth studying as well.

Instead, we got 1 full semester studying the Sun and someone forcing us to believe in the huge disparity and inequality in Miami, and another full semester playing to predict the future.





Now, here, my weekly takeaways notes, from these repetitive lectures.


Week 2:


HUMANS > ROBOTS


One of the first things that caught my attention was the statement that having the world under surveillance makes people feel safe and protected. It is crazy how some people, not all, are so eager to let go of their freedom. Maybe they don’t understand the implications of letting go such basic and elemental principles. It’s even funnier the fact that architects are now engaging in this kind of conversations because they have never been able to do anything for humanity. Instead, we are so much preoccupied for making statements, engage in political and futuristic issues, and protect other species. Architecture has a great power over social behavior, but instead of exploring that, so we are better humans, kind, gentle beings, we are obsessed with technology, so now we are worried about our security. Makes no sense to me. This is the only reason why I would compare Architects to ostriches walking into oblivion. We always miss the big picture trying to please this kind of statements and education. Think about it. Are we better people than 2000 years ago? Do we have less crime? Wars? Can Architecture make a difference? Of course, it can. But in this mission AI has no role because it’s a matter of consciousness and creativity, and a robot will never be capable of that.

But it’s true that nothing has inherently good or evil characteristics. We humans, decide the use we give to everything around us. We are evil and we are also good, and we also, as robots, can always be better.


Week 3:

Creativity > “to create”


It’s interesting that from the study of our own brain, its functionality, and properties, we play to reproduce these and then proceed to call it discovery: “neural network”. It’s certainly innovative and bold, I’m sure it was a hell of a challenge to reproduce digitally. It makes me think of the Matrix, all the layers of consciousness, worlds and even things that we don’t know yet.

But even bolder than that is the statement that just because a computer can “create” something it’s applying its creativity. Perception occurs, not in pieces, as a whole. That’s rather reproduction. Random generation of patterns. A very ugly and psychedelic one. The only thing that it can produce as a reaction in someone is probably at first curiosity, then straight insanity. Image generation has nothing to do with perception and even less with creativity. Creativity involves consciousness, along with precedents, subject, media, feelings, context, message/impact and many more things that computers can’t put together to then CREATE.


Week 4:

HUMANS > AI


Does consciousness matter? What a question! Of course, it matters. Our world becomes every day more insufferable and people still thinking about these things? I know that if one day we put half of this effort into being better human beings and creating the environment and conditions for it, we will make it. Technology is already taking a lot from us, it doesn’t need consciousness, AI will never develop consciousness anyway but it sure is important to us.

For a computer to learn Go, or chess or checkers or even monopoly doesn’t make it creative. These games are analytical. I won my first game of chess when I was only 5 years old against a grown man. I wont even forget it. He obviously underestimated me because of my age. I won because I memorized the only strategy I knew at that time, Scholar’s Mate, and because I was given the whites of course. Nobody expected me to know that. Computers can and will do the same. Analysis is not creativity.

Who still thinks human are the center of the universe? We have never been in the first place. If only we were able to understand this the world would be a better place. Not the second Copernican revolution, any revolution can surpass human abilities, we are limited in every sense, and we are irrelevant. We can’t even stop going to war with each other, killing each other, robbing each other, lying each other. Doesn’t matter how much technology advances, we can’t fight against the mighty nature, the oceans, and the earthquakes. We are nothing.

Again, something that can just generate, not creatively think and from there create. CLIP is nothing different from the previous experiments discussed where AI generates an image from recognizable features.

For last the worse, that TEDTALK was unbearable. 18 minutes of talking a lot while saying nothing. I felt like reading MORPHOSIS or one of those SCI ARC captions from their publications.

- Might

- May

- Idea

- Fundamental

- Laws

- Postulates

- Consciousness

Lots of fancy words mentioned couple hundred times, a speech purely speculative, constantly talking about past to go nowhere in the future from there. Proves nothing, demonstrates nothing, and worse than that, wouldn’t improve human life or our relationships with this world and with each other.



Week 5:

ANALYSIS different than CREATIVITY


It’s certainly a disappointment that an era of a few people willing to push the development of AI and new technologies is sometimes met with resistance from part of the government. But it is not surprising at all, lately the government is behaving like it can decide for its citizens what is good or bad, soon you won’t have the options. The debate will be between what is banned and what is mandatory. Better known as a dictatorship. Of course, until some extent, when is useful for its interests the government will fund anything, you have out there what been known as OBAMAGATE.

It is also very interesting how this process can be divided into these kinds of families for a better understanding: Rules and decision trees related to the Symbolists, Naïve Bayes or Markov, Neural networks related to the Connectionists, Genetic programs, and support vectors.

Chess, Checkers and even Go are analytical games. Most of the people who learn these, memorize a certain number of movements and strategies, and respond to the movements and strategies of the opponent. If my computer can memorize all my passwords, I’m pretty sure it can memorize every single movement there is and lay down new ones in advance since its access to that infinite data would be incredibly fast. 20 games per second? How is this a surprise? The question is, in what ways it improved human lives? You have the answer? In what way are we different? Do we care about each other more than 10 years ago? Do we care about nature? The ocean? The forest? Are we solving our problems? I would say we are creating new ones. The longer we go in these witch hunts the more humanity suffers.

Generating movements can’t compare to generate buildings. Even less when it is only accounting for its exterior appearance.

We are probably suffering already the marketing side of AI. We can’t even react to what we like online. We will be flooded with advertising regarding that. Social media platforms clearly abuse it.


Week 6:

TIME TO RETHINK CREATIVITY?


Even though we use instruments to play, and the music is made with it, the creator, author and composer of such music will always be man, instruments are tools. Same happens when a mechanism is used to produce something, the one using the mechanism is the author of whatever product results from it.

I don’t believe it’s time to rethink creativity. I actually don’t think is time to rethink anything at all but the betterment of ourselves. We just waste time rethinking the wheel. Human beings will always be more creative. Always. Computers will never come closer to our creativity. Because they are that mechanism described in the first paragraph.

When it comes to Judith Butller and this theory of copying everything, even behaviors, it is true. It is exactly like that. That’s where marketing makes its profit. But one thing is that, and the other is trying to find the way of creating or producing a behavior that would be emulated by everybody and that furthermore will be the “NORM”. I sometimes wonder what’s wrong with this class, especially this world. It is out of place and against the natural way of living. The norm is leaving the people and their decisions alone. Minding your business and giving others the opportunity of minding theirs. Like this covid 19 vaccine thing, should it be mandatory? NO! People should have the freedom to make their choice.

Another interesting point is the fact that a building that looks like an apple is bad, but if it looks like one designed by Zaha Hadid it’s good architecture. Let me tell you, that’s an opinion. For me any building that looks like that is ugly and bad architecture. Architecture is more than looks and certainly a matter of perspective and well based experiences and opinions. I remember my Theory 1 class, where I learned that beauty is relative. For some people what I hate might be beautiful and vice versa.

It’s the work of professors not taking sides and not pushing agendas.

At last I believe Alpha Go and creativity shouldn’t be in the same sentence. We know that a computer has infinite storage and speed to come up with something that was planted there all along. That’s not creativity, more like generation, memorization, anything but creativity.


Week 7:

Didn't even submit anything because it was literally the same talk over and over again.


Week 8:

DESIGN EXPLORATIONS


What bothers me the most with these design explorations is the fact that these research and even architects keep pursuing whatever is interesting to them. There’s no good in forcing your concept on others because you can use the technology and make it presentable. Everyone can find some interesting topic in which apply new technologies and somewhat AI. Now the real interesting thing would be to find a practical and real solution to most issues we face today. Architects criticize everybody not taking climate change seriously. Architects want you to focus on social issues like equality and inclusion. Yet, Architects go to China (because China pays good money so you can forget about principles) a country that is destroying this world and is also destroying the health of its people. It also promotes all kind of communist agendas that take people’s rights away. The hypocrisy is real.

Instead of reimaging new worlds and new solutions for problems that don’t even exist yet, let’s do something for humanity. Let’s forget for a minute about PERCEPTIONS, CONSCIOUSNESS AND EVEN AI. Let’s put our attention in reality and in the huge degradation of the souls, spirits and faith of our fellow human beings. Let’s start at home. People whose own life and family are not in order often think they have all kind of solutions for the world. Ridiculous.

All this content is interesting. But lacks empathy and sympathy for real troubles.


Week 9:

HUMANS > AI


Predictions of the future shouldn’t be considered at all good material or content for architecture. This whole story of robots taking over has been predicted for the last 50 years and yet nothing has happened. It will take probably another 50 to see some progress and yet another 50 to see actual change. This is absurd. 150 years talking about something that will accomplish nothing but efficiency in our production and probably will make the rich even richer. Makes no sense to me that architecture is somewhat being part of this when architecture should have a social responsibility, not a technological one. Instead of experimenting this much with little, tiny advances that took years to develop we should focus our attention in bigger and current issues. This agenda won't do any good to human beings. For the last 100 years architects thought to have the key to solve human problems, yet we went to war many times in that period, crime is above and beyond any possible modest description and even big, medium and small companies take advantage of people. Hell, you don’t even find a job here in Florida that will post salary information. And let's not forget that inhumane practice of unpaid internships so college students can have a mediocre experience working with mediocre people. I think there are more important and real issues out there. AI won't solve them and architecture is too busy dreaming about the future when the present is falling apart.


Week 10:

WHERE IS ARCHITECTURE?


It’s pretty confusing to me why humans given the lack of real preoccupation and distress start to make up problems. Difficult situations that were never there in the first place. Imagine going through such level of stress to come up with a code or a method of representation using digital elements as data for example, just to make it look a certain way. Why not, just go for it in the traditional way, if at the end it is everything about how it looks. No real concept or idea born from an issue that you want to solve. You are just bored in your lab, and you need the grant money and you have to come up with something that looks cool right?

I mean, because this swarm intelligence thing…how does it help me to become a better architect? What kind of knowledge am I getting? Is this like the sine and cosine equation I learned 10 years ago and haven’t used since then?

I don’t see any correlation in the behavior of starlings, fish, and ants to Architecture. I mean real Architecture. If you go about looks, then you can probably use this. I want to be a real Architect.

The pheromone trail is another absurd concept that I don’t understand. When you look at this:





You aren’t looking at a group, making decisions, you are looking at individuals making decisions individually, and the only explanation behind this is that humans gravitate to a simple rule: the rule of least amount of effort.

Also, swarm urbanism doesn’t exist. These people don’t care about looks, or keeping the same ‘language”, or any of that, these people are just really poor. Of course, is very easy to make assumptions from a privileged point of view, when AC and running water is normal. These people only care about having a roof over their heads. Doesn’t matter the color, doesn’t matter the material, and doesn’t matter where or who is your neighbor. Most of the times these materials are very very cheap or recycled. Nothing to do with vernacular or traditional, most of these people don’t even build with permits or regulations at all, that’s life. Still, how is this helpful?



Week 11:


CITIES


The city of the future will be different from the cities we know right now. Since we don’t say how much into the future, we can’t really make some specific predictions. It all depends on how much the technology advances. Let’s say it will be 50 years in the future, the difference won’t be much. But if we say 100, 150 years from now, it might be quite different. But this isn’t a smart prediction. It’s a fact that cities, buildings and even people change. It’s not an achievement to predict such a thing, it will happen, it always happens.

How it will change is a more difficult thing to predict.

We live in the era of information; we carry in our pockets a window that with a tap of a finger can take us everywhere and give us all the knowledge we could take. But going as far as saying the cities will be shaped by these technologies is absurd, at least for me. Cities will continue to be the home of people, not machines. The needs of these people will continue to be the focus of any urban environment. We will build to keep information, to have space for servers to maintain this information but it won’t be the thing structuring our cities. At best, it will be fundamental to manage the city, which is not that different right now.

Aren’t architects of our time using data to tackle social and environmental issues? If anything, the future will make it more efficient and faster, but right decisions are always made based on this information. New technologies according to the material, will allow architects to use this data and tackle the issue while using in the material world all this data to recreate a unique form, unique because this data will be from a very specific field. But again, we go back to the look of architecture. What we see. You think someone looks at the architecture of Zaha Hadid and wonders if it is generated using traffic data or wind data? No. Nobody knows, nobody cares. It might be, as usual, just an extravagant form, forced into the ground, to then be justified with words like sustainable, equality, inclusion and many more, so it sells.



Week 12:


NATURE>HUMANS


This time and only this time I must take side with something different from us. It’s for me, almost a mandatory thing. Because we inhabit nature, nature is in fact above us. We have learned a lot from it, and even now after so many advancements and technologies, we keep learning from it. It would be great to really use what we have at hand and think of nature as our opportunity to save ourselves and guarantee the future of the newer generations.

All these steps can help us in doing that, from 3D printing to a combination of the digital and biological world. 3D printing presents a wide range of opportunities for the application of new construction methods and materials, while it makes it more attractive since sustainability is such a big deal these days. And the addition of natural organisms and other natural elements into architecture seems the right thing to do at a moment when we think only about us, and in reality, we are as fragile as a flower.


Week 13:


FUTURE


Predicting the future is easy, predicting the future accurately is hard. But nobody is trying to accurately predict the future, nobody will take the risk of making a fool of themselves in front of their friends and coworkers. Instead, people will say dumb stuff like, the change in the future will be gradual, at different moments and speeds, and we might not even notice it. Of course, it will happen that way, as everything else in this world. You don’t just wake up one morning and everything is different. It’s the most obvious thing someone could say about the future, and even a 3-year-old toddler can predict that.

AI, as it has been doing, will eventually take over many technical and analytical fields. It will influence others. But if we architects remain conscious of this, true to our creative instinct and active, it will never represent a risk for us. Generative design has nothing to do, with creativity. The sensible aspect of it, is probably the most important one.


There's no doubt in my mind, that in the case of these being reviewed my grade would have been seriously affected. Again, because it happened before, many times.

But that's just another topic. Hiring people with no interest in teaching and just self-gratification, and the pursuit of their own interests and agenda is the same as frustrating good young talent and dreams. What kind of education does that?


I will tell you, it's called indoctrination, "either you follow this path, or you have no path".


But that's just another topic.

Thanks for reading.

Please make sure to check all my other content.





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