Oct 29, 2013

Habitat Automation - Can our computers generate architectural concepts on their own?

Automation of Architecture seems to be the only way to fulfill this world dream of a home for everyone!

We all know computers are really good at visual simulation, 3D Modeling and Rendering etc., but when it comes to architectural concept design part can we also assign this task to computers or do we still have to rely solely on architects, for may be another century. We can’t really afford to wait even for another decade considering the handful of Architects in world and ever mounting unattended architectural needs of millions and more across the world, resulting in epidemic architectural indiscipline, in forms of unorganized colonies, squatters etc.  You see the problem is the moment we tag these habitations as squatter or unorganized it becomes a taboo, government and architects tend to lose their interest in such settlement thinking they will deal with it later, they simply let it happen blaming the scarce current resources, letting it morph and mutate, left unattended and when it becomes unmanageable, planners and NGOs come into picture doing their standard Slum Networking and Regularization stuff.  Don’t you think if these guys would have collaborated and helped those guys in the beginning while they just started making their home on their own, in absence of any substantial external assistance and in absence of contextual building bylaws, things would have been very different? Though we know that one of the major reason of such unorganized growth is demand supply gap of skilled manpower specially architects and planners. This gap will always be there so what will we do?

We can’t design and build home for everyone on earth with these limited skill supply, but we can sure help everyone design and build their home on their own with some robust mechanism in place, with very little assistance so that everyone in this world has a place called home.  If there isn’t enough architects and planners in world than we will have to find out some external tool which will assure a home for everyone! We will have to automate this very process of architectural design making it universally accessible at almost no cost, and please do consider that we are not at all talking here about mass housing or government welfare scheme or something. We are talking about knowledge transfer, relaxed, easy to understand and innovative and stratified building guidelines, innovative use of locally available materials and most important of all - automation of architectural design process itself. We are here talking about shear intelligence of computer to do more than 90 percent of architectural design including concept design and delivery part while architects and governing body to take up the rest 10 percent or so of task just to assure the quality of delivered options, rectifying fundamental issues, if any!
With millions of reference images floating freely on internet in form of architectural plans, schematic views, sectional profiles, site plans, neighborhood plans, area plans, city and regional plans, while many millions coming soon, along with almost unlimited supply of architectural and settlement patterns in form of satellite imageries, it won’t be a Herculean task for present and next generations of computers to understand the logic of all this and to produce a somewhat rational building or neighborhood plan and form on its own through its embedded logic and algorithm. Little bit of last mile human intervention and everyone in this world has a blueprint for their home.

Imagine feeding a set of crude data like your architectural wishlist, site location, plot dimension, uploading few pictures of site, surrounding and neighborhood, stating your financial position and budget, then exploring computer generated wonderful building options based on your data input, customizing it within the defined domain if you feel, choosing final one and downloading your own home in pendrive, or mailing it to competent authority or architect for few minutes of final approval. Now, here you are printing plans for execution on site within couple of fun hours, club this phenomenon straight with 3D-Printing thing and here is your home ready to move in, in another couple of hours.

As policy makers we need to be very realistic about finite resources at hand and look for new ways to complement the conventional process, while breaking away from certain self-imposed dogmas and diehard utopian dream built around human habitation needs and conventionally defined standards, dogmas evident from the fact that we have elaborate building bylaws for brick and mortar, and steel and glass, but no clear set of guidelines for houses made of thermocol, plastic sheet, tin sheet, gathered from here and there by poor urban sections. No efforts of technology, innovation and knowledge transfer yet to such populous, just because policy makers across world have a utopian dream of slum free world after some odd decades later, meanwhile intentionally forcing millions to live in squatters and unorganized colonies by not making simple and easy to understand guidelines and relaxed bylaws, utilizing whatever minimal resources and materials are at hand.  Caught in the centuries of dilemma of idealism Vs realism! Since these limited human interventions with limited skilled manpower supply haven’t been able to solve this world habitation scarcity and architectural indiscipline, may be its time we should look out somewhere else to fulfill world habitat needs - may be towards machines may be computers!   
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