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Architect’s Sketchbook: How a top architecture firm is using generative AI

Text-to-image generators are visualizing the next wave of architectural innovation.

What’s new: Patrick Schumacher, principal architect at Zaha Hadid Architects, explained how the company uses generative AI to come up with ideas. He made the remarks at an industry roundtable called AI and the Future of Design.

How it works: The architects use DALL•E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion to generate exterior and interior images of concepts in development. Schumacher showed generated images for projects in development, including a high-rise complex in Hong Kong and Neom, a massive smart city planned for Saudi Arabia.

  • The firm uses between 10 and 15 percent of the models’ output to present rough ideas and/or guide further development. Then 3D artists use traditional methods to build 3D models of building interiors and exteriors.
  • Prompts frequently include Zaha Hadid’s name, evoking the curvilinear style associated with the firm and the deceased founder whose name it bears. Prompts also describe the project’s setting and context; for example, “Zaha Hadid museum aerial view Baku, high quality” and “Zaha Hadid tower in mountainscape, high quality.”
  • The firm deploys its models on the cloud, but in the future, it plans to move to an in-house data center.

Behind the news: Text-to-image models are finding their way into a variety of design disciplines.

  • In the same roundtable, artist Refik Anadol described how he uses DALL•E 2 to create visual installations such as immersive projections of AI-generated images.
  • Industrial designer Ross Lovegrove described using Midjourney and DALL•E 2 to create concepts for consumer products like cars, furniture, and suitcases.
  • In April, the first AI Fashion Week showcased clothing collections from over 350 designers who used generated imagery in their creative processes.

Why it matters: Zaha Hadid Architects has worked on Olympic venues, international airport terminals, and skyscrapers. Millions of people soon may interact with buildings visualized by AI.

We’re thinking: What a great example of human-computer collaboration: The models learn from the architects’ past designs to help the them envision fresh concepts.


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