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What Is Artificial Architecture?

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  • Written By: Lakshmi Sandhana
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 01 July 2014
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Artificial architecture is an emerging, bold, new direction in architecture that is concerned with developing computational methodologies and algorithms that create natural-looking architectural forms. It allows algorithms to generate meaningful solutions to architectural design problems, and the computer is seen as a collaborative entity in the design process instead of as a dumb workhorse. Computer science, artificial intelligence, architecture, and computer graphics all intersect in the area of artificial architecture. It is also known as algorithmic architecture or algorithmic design.

Entirely fascinating architectural morphologies can be created with the help of advanced algorithms. Traditionally, software such as CAD programs were used to better visualize design concepts in the architect's mind. The software automates repetitive and tedious manual tasks and is used as a tool. While it makes extensive computations, it only stores or alters designs or processes present in the architect's mind.

In contrast, artificial architecture allows computers to create entirely new structures by simulating complex natural phenomena or using generative processes. Scripting languages are innovatively integrated into the CAD software, allowing the algorithms to do much more. The algorithms become collaborators in the design process and use genetic systems, shape grammars, and mathematical models to design unpredictable and unique structures. This approach transcends direct programming by using scripting languages to codify design intent, ultimately allowing the software to intelligently design coherent structures.

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FormZ 4.0, 3dMaxScript, and Maya Embedded Language (MEL) are some of the scripting languages used in three-dimensional computer design software. The structures generated by the algorithms can even be printed out using three-dimensional printers. The computer goes beyond its traditional role of just being an extension of the person and emerges as a collaborative partner. This allows architects to create amazing structures that not only use the intelligence of the human designer but also incorporate the unique features of creative computational design.

The architect works at a more abstract level with the computer and isn't concerned with minutiae. The designer lays out the framework, which specifies elements like possible configurations, types of elements to use, and the size of the overall design. They also specify the types of alterations that are allowed, scale, and possible groupings. It is similar to laying out the framework and rules for a game like chess. The computer is allowed to create its own morphologies within the framework specified.

For instance, the computer can create an algorithmic design for a hotel, concert hall, or high-rise building. The software can come up with aperiodic forms that more closely resemble natural, organic things. Structures evolve with Boolean operations, morphing, and fractals. Cellular processes develop intricate, out-of-this-world designs. For example, a library can have a fractal design, and an auditorium can have a parasitic-looking structure.

An entirely revolutionary field, artificial architecture can be thought of as a subfield in design computing. It has elements of knowledge engineering and creates controlled designs. The term artificial architecture was coined in a PhD thesis at the Polytechnical University of Madrid in Spain. Artificial architecture was made even more popular by the Institute of Artificial Art at Amsterdam, which has invested a great deal of effort in using visual grammars to generate novel structures.

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