Sunday, March 3, 2024 | 08:28 WIB

Artificial Intelligence and Architecture Education, Quo Vadis?

Jakarta, IO – Last month, I happened to have the opportunity to attend an international conference on supply chain and operations management in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This prestigious conference was attended by various experts from all over the world, with a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including the field of architecture, which was my own particular area of interest. 

During one lunch break, I chatted with one of the industrial engineering professors from a well-known university in Indonesia, a man who happened to be one of the keynote speakers at the Conference. Together with his doctoral student, we discussed various matters, until finally we came to a topic that was currently hot in the world: Artificial Intelligence (AI). During the conversation, knowing my academic and professional background in the field of architecture, the professor then argued that in his , the architectural profession would no longer be needed in the future.

He based his opinion on the increasingly widespread application of AI in architectural design, a tool which can be easily accessed by the public. With this technology, one can get a building design that suits a person’s taste and desires, simply by writing prompts in the AI application. This discussion further developed the notion that architectural education might no longer exist, a victim of AI technological development. 

I myself was not surprised by such an opinion. This is not the first time that AI applications have been predicted to replace human roles. The opinion that over time the architectural profession will be replaced by AI applications is commonly heard, and has become a topic of discussion in the world of architectural science.

Opinions generally come from the general public, who pragmatically see architecture in its final form as a building product that is customarily accessed every day. Despite the fact that we, the actors in the architectural world, remain optimistic that the presence of AI will not immediately replace the architect, this common opinion cannot be taken for granted.

What’s more interesting for me is when this view comes from an engineering professor, whose intellectual capacity is certainly not in doubt. Of course, it is a challenge for actors in the world of architecture to be able to educate the public about what the architecture is, and how it is different from just simple AI-based design applications spread across cyberspace. 

As someone with experience in the architectural education and profession for more than 20 years, I see that there is a challenge in how architectural education responds to public views, regarding the AI-based architectural design applications that might affect architectural education. Long before the emergence of AI-based architectural design applications such as Midjourney, Roomgpt, Adobe Photoshop AI for Architecture, etc. which offer all sorts of conveniences in producing architectural designs, architectural education already had its own challenges, ones that came from the public’s perception.

Architecture studies are considered to be one of the most challenging schools in higher education, after medical school. This image indirectly influences people’s interest in studying architecture, for various reasons. The image of long hours of study, sleepless nights, lots of tasks and assignments, creates antisocial students and tends to overshadow the architectural education process. What’s more, many factors can affect people’s interest in studying in architectural school. Employment and economic trends, changes in educational policies, social and cultural factors are some of the ones that can influence that decision.

The recent Covid-19 pandemic clearly exerted an influence, with changes in architectural learning pedagogy that experienced enormous disruption, especially in the implementation of architectural design studios. In addition, the economic impact resulted in weaker interest in studying for a long duration with high operational costs. On the other hand, technology development and innovation in the field of architecture may also influence prospective students’ interest in studying the subject. The latter is viewed as the realm where AI-based architectural design applications come into play. 

In fact, these AI applications are only tools to make the work of the architectural profession easier. The shift in the meaning of its presence into an understanding that in the future there will be no need for architects could represent a negative deviation from the presence of this disruption. The public may have become very pragmatic when the intellectual process can no longer be enjoyed and given more value as a form of ethos formation, or simply the public does not really understand what the world of architecture actually is.

Reflecting on the opinion of the industrial engineering professor mentioned above, it is important for actors in architectural education to respond appropriately to today’s developments, as well as explain and provide the public with a proper understanding of architecture and the architectural profession.