• April 23, 2021
    DecolonizingDesignResearch 02

    By Michele Rafferty, PLASTARC

    In December 2020, the AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee (SSAC) presented the second virtual panel in its series, “Decolonizing Design Research.” The four sessions, organized by AIANY, PLASTARC, and Studio Fōr, examine the history of design research as a profession and push practitioners to investigate systemic and cultural causes of bias and inequity in design. 

    The virtual panel, “Activist Scholar,” focused on the role of researchers and academics in ensuring that conducting design research is equitable. One of the perks of the virtual forum was that the panel easily could—and did—include guests from communities all over the country. Panelists included Shawhin Roudbari, Assistant Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder; Dr. Deshonay Dozier, Assistant Professor of Human Geography at Cal State Long Beach; and Joseph Kunkel, Design Director at the Sustainable Native Communities Design Lab at MASS Santa Fe, NM. 

    Moderator Gabriel (Gabo) Halili, a Designer, and Urban Planner, and a committee member of AIANY, began the session by talking about the meaning of ‘decolonizing.’; stressed that colonizing cannot be separate from the exploitation of people. Colonization embedded within the history of the US and the rest of the world, and New York City, where the event occurred, is built on Lenape land. Panelists affirmed the influence of architects on our cities—intentional or otherwise—and Halili explained that the way we make decisions on land use plants seeds ensuring we don’t perpetuate colonization. 

    Roudbari, a professor and the founder of the Spatial Justice Design Collective, felt passionate that architects must involve themselves in contentious political issues. He cited his projects combining archival research, sociological texts, and visualization through frames to examine how society views white supremacy in colorblind ways. His company has been working on creative collage projects that highlight the role architects play in social problems. 

    These projects have been stepping stones for more research on political engagement specific to the architectural profession. Roudbari contrasted two examples from the 2018 AIA convention—a women’s flash mob outside that addressed equity and discrimination within the architecture profession and a protest based on class inequality. The former greeted favorably, while some participants of the latter were denied from attending the keynote address.

    Another project Roudbari worked on was the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) project pipeline. NOMA was founded during the civil rights era to address racial inequality. It was instrumental in transferring the energy of the civil rights movement from the streets into the architectural profession. Roudbari talked about Jane McAlevey, a prominent advocate for organizing to attain social change, and John Wilson, who believes that working with existing systems is instrumental in transformation. Roudbari’s introduction segued into a discussion of Dozier’s work.

    Dozier started her ethnographic fieldwork focusing on homelessness in skid row Los Angeles. Her work protected unhoused people’s property from threats like removal by the police, who funded $87 million to ‘take care of the problem. One of Dozier’s long-time goals has been to advocate for defunding the police. She believes that LA needs to house the homeless, and she hopes that these issues will resonate with urban planners, designers, and architects. Dozier is not convinced that these professions have the same vision that her organization does but is willing to continue her activism through conversations and education.

    Kunkel’s approach harmonizes with Dozier’s vision. He is adamant that housing is a way to reflect identity and culture. Kunkel’s company collaborates with the community to promote justice and human dignity. However, he lives in Santa Fe, his work influenced by his own identity as a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. Kunkel tries to approach the topic by asking questions like: What does housing mean to you? What does home mean to you? How do we connect to this place? How is our identity attached to a site?

    Kunkel’s work on the Wa-Di Housing Project, which included 41 housing units, explored how reflecting on the community’s values could boost healing and connection to place. Kunkel tried to accomplish this through conversations with the community and understand how people gather and work. 

    The presentations concluded with attendees splitting up into breakout rooms to discuss how their thinking shifted due to the presentations and to explore the power architects have to decolonize design. The conversation generated many intriguing conversations, many encouraging a bottom-up approach to design. Others encouraged their colleagues to look beyond euro-centric patterns not just in what they design but in how they organize their design practice. One attendee pointed to the example of Minangkabau architecture, which reflects a more matriarchal culture.

    The Center for Architecture and the SSAC, situated at the intersection of architecture, social sciences, and design, frequently offer programs intended to help architects make positive social impacts through their work. As our society looks for solutions to entrenched social problems around race and inequality, design plays an important role. Please follow our discussion on this topic and others through the Social Science and Architecture Committee, and here.

  • December 18, 2020
    DecolonizingDesignV2 3

    In this time of seismic societal shifts due to the pandemic and spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement, the fields of architecture and design are questioning their role in this movement. Emerging conversations are examining the impact of architecture as a colonizing force. Minority and underrepresented practitioners’ voices are being more commonly elevated in these conversations to share their knowledge and lived experience with architecture and design’s predominantly white practitioners.

    Architecture is reckoning with the oppressive role it has played and continues to play. Looking beyond the noticeable examples of jails and prisons, the discourse is questioning spaces typically seen as “neutral” and having “good design” as spaces that reinforce existing power structures. We are recognizing that a neutral architecture or design does not exist. The methods and sensibilities taught at architectural institutions not only perpetuate, but are inextricable from, structures and cultures of oppression.

    Architecture and design are fields with an immense amount of privilege and power, as they literally shape our physical world. As architects and designers, we need to do better. We need to challenge the processes and assumptions that are so ingrained in our practice. While it may yet be unclear how to do it, it is our responsibility to try. It is our responsibility to “decolonize” design.

    On October 26, 2020, AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee held its first workshop in a series called Decolonizing Design Research. The remaining workshops in the series will be as follows:

    • 12/14/2020: Activist Scholar
    • 2/4/2021: Collective Voice
    • 4/13/2021: Measuring Justice

    This series aims to shine a light on these issues of oppression, and provide a forum for practitioners to share their approaches to conducting design research to create spaces that are anti-racist and just. The goal is to mitigate the harm being done through design research practices, and to question our methods in service of more just design.

    The topic of Monday’s workshop was “Citizen Participation.” The event was introduced by Committee Co-chair Fauzia Khanani (Founding Principal of Studio Fōr and Co-Founder of Design Advocates) and moderated by Gabriel Halili (Designer and Urban Planner). The panel of speakers included Caitlin Cahill (Associate Professor, Urban Geography & Politics, Pratt Institute), Amara H. Peréz, Ph.D. (Popular Educator, Participatory Action Researcher, and Critical Strategist), and Quardean Lewis-Allen (Founder and CEO, Youth Design Center).

    Decolonizing means giving communities agency over their physical space

    Halili opened by explaining the decision to use the word “decolonize” for this series. He described it is a framework that calls into mind our role as decision makers for the built environment. He emphasized that we as designers hold power in how our physical spaces look and function, and that our process must become more intentional.

    “The production of knowledge is not objective, or value-free.”

    Cahill emphasized the shift that is needed from “non-participation” to “citizen control,” as is outlined in Sherry Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation. This framework calls out “sham participation” and advocates for a redistribution of power through the participatory research process, by bringing the “have-nots” in to help make real decisions. Sham participation reinforces the status quo. It can be exploitative by setting up a dynamic where researchers profit from the uncompensated time and expertise of community members. Cahill encourages researchers to critically examine who is profiting from the participatory research they are conducting. She notes the “tyranny of participation,” where the imbalance of compensation coupled with the perception that nothing happens with participant’s responses and input, can lead to mistrust and a lack of confidence in the process. Growing up Policed, participatory action research (PAR) about growing up policed in NYC, was cited as a successful example of a just and anti-racist approach.

    Students as vital collaborators, rather than subjects to be studied

    Peréz shared her successful PAR project, Space Matters, at Portland Community College (PCC). Conducted through a lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT), she engaged 25 students of color for two semesters. They learned to view their physical spaces on campus more critically, and planned and conducted a research project about their campus. This approach sought to disrupt the “whiteness” that is pervasive in design and planning practices, in exchange for a more inclusive process. Peréz stressed that traditional research practices are informed by “color blind” ideologies which ignore the role of race/racism in physical space. This overlooks a significant portion of peoples’ experiences and the impact space has on them. In her team’s research at PCC, the cultural dimensions and qualities of space that are so often ignored, were foregrounded, yielding crucial insights.

    Some of the tools that Peréz and her team used for this research included workshops and focus groups, and socio-spatial inquiries such as photo journaling to expose features of white, intimidating, male exclusive spaces. They found that these new approaches went much further to validate the lived experience of underrepresented minorities and uncover hidden mechanisms of power.

    Creating equitable spaces while breaking the cycle of poverty in Brownsville

    Lewis-Allen’s experience running the Youth Design Center (YDC, previously Made in Brownsville) is rich with participatory action. His initiative seeks to break the cycle of poverty and address the lack of representation in design and technology by providing gateways into those fields for youth ages 16-24 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. YDC leverages social activism, tactical urbanism, and place-based interventions to create change. They use the Equity Centered Community Design Field Guide as the basis for their approach, which integrates equity and social justice to go beyond the Human Centered Design process. YDC is also aligned with the Blackspace Manifesto, which was created for Black designers, activists, and leaders to “protect and create Black spaces.”

    In terms of specific tools or activities, Lewis-Allen emphasized the importance of active listening, especially with communities who have dealt with a lot of trauma. YDC leverages pop ups with provocations to engage the community and start important conversations. He also uses urban design and analysis techniques such as mapping to learn about lived experience: for example, having kids map out where they feel safe in their community versus areas where they will not travel.

    We’re in this together. Try new things, and share what you learn.

    Overall, practitioners are trying to better understand the invisible forces of systemic racism in our architecture and design practices and test out new approaches. There are many challenges that we are up against – from the inertia of tradition to the difficulty in justifying a fee for this type of research to a client. As the pandemic continues, there is a need to ensure marginalized people aren’t lost on the other side of the digital divide, and that we fight to include them in our research. We are designing WITH and not FOR. We must acknowledge the importance of framing the questions for our research – as explained by Peréz: “whoever frames the questions plays an essential role in framing the narrative.”

    For those interested, please consider joining the conversation by:

    • Attending the remaining workshops in the Decolonizing Design Research series. Details will be posted to AIANY’s Calendar closer to each event; dates are listed above.
    • Joining the AIANY Social Science + Architecture Committee Monthly committee meetings. They are open to the public and typically take place at 8:30am on the last Thursday of each month.

    Kate Ganim is a designer and strategist with a background in architecture. She built San-Francisco based KIDmob and LMNOP Design, and is currently a Senior Strategist at brightspot strategy.

  • July 24, 2020
    Image courtesy of dScout
    Image courtesy of dScout

    by Beth Carliner

    Research is a vital part of the architectural process, which allows design to be as effective and inclusive as possible. The AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee held a roundtable discussion on May 27, 2020 to explore some of the opportunities emerging within the practice of Remote Research Methods. The conversation, moderated by Fauzia Khanani, co-chair of AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee and Founding Principal of Studio For, featured Tanya de Hoog, Principal at Thornton Tomasetti, and Liz Vandermark, Director of Research at SmithGroup. Participants delved into research outcomes, thoughts on improving methods, and future implications of current findings.

    As the webinar opened, a poll was conducted and 45 percent of attendees stated that they have had to modify or tried new methods of research in the last three months. Since the emergence of COVID-19, research methods have gone remote and revealed both benefits and challenges.The discussion then began with an assessment of how both the methods for collecting data and the content itself has changed. In the past, research relied heavily on in-person conversations and site assessments. De Hoog and Vandermark remarked that, since COVID-19, some of the methods their firms had been reluctant to explore, especially those focused on technology, have now become essential. Drones, 360 cameras, and virtual and augmented reality are all methods that have been available in the past but have gained new utility; skepticism has all but vanished. De Hoog stressed that there is now a hyper-awareness of space and time and a focus on the importance of human interaction with regard to research. This has resulted in rich conversations about the importance for data to lead to new insights for design whereas, prior to COVID-19, research sometimes used to support pre-design assumptions. Meanwhile, Khanani provided insight into how the inability to make site visits has forced her to rely on clients or other site representatives to provide data about the physical state of projects, be it as-built measurements or construction progress. 


    Image courtesy of Center for Architecture


    On the other hand, our panelists recognized the shortcomings of relying on technology for remote research methods. While the digital environment seems ubiquitous, WiFi connections are inaccessible to many. Additionally, many are also saddled with poor connections or home environments that are not conducive to digital communications. Many seniors are also less adept at using technology, so their voices may not be heard. These digital divides could provide unreliable results.

    The ability to gather narrative-based data in addition to quantitative data from virtual outreach was another concern of the panelists. It is easy to get lost in the statistics and patterns revealed by the quantitative data that virtual data collection enables. Moreover, virtual data collection also requires less human interaction. This can inadvertently eliminate some important findings that arise organically from conversations. The lack of human interaction also affects our ability to read body language and visual cues that are key to fully understanding each other. Finally, people may be less candid in their responses when taking virtual surveys. However, the panelists also found that open-ended questions resulted in thoughtful and unexpected personal responses.


    Early observations from a COVID-19 perspective, Image courtesy of Liz Vandermark


    These issues and more brought into question the implications of our overwhelming use of technology. Optimistically, the panelists reflected on the equalizing effects of digital communication. Participants can join from wherever and whenever is most convenient for them. While certain voices seem to dominate in teams or large in-person groups, digital spaces can allow for other, more quiet voices to be heard. Speakers also noted that participation has also drastically increased in some types of engagement. Vandermark highlighted that data collection through a website allows for community engagement at multiple points of time and across a larger population set, while also allowing participants to be involved on their own terms. Data analysis is also facilitated by digital inputs, and there is greater potential for continued, real-time trends to influence a continuous design process. De Hoog remarked that our industry has been confronted with an opportunity to improve our digital literacy and increase the presence of research within the standard design process. 

    The panelists concluded by discussing positive or surprising findings that have emerged since implementing remote research methods. Vandermark noted how the crisis has revealed an innate desire for designers to help and share resources. These efforts are aided by digital communications, as we have seen through the 3D printing of PPE and the sharing of COVID-19 safety measures. De Hoog picked up on a similar communal desire to support change in this moment, noting that “people are really open and available to giving their time, especially where it relates to creating change in the world. Things can now move more quickly because people are available.” She brought the example of a mind map that she produced before COVID-19 when she was researching Skid Row in Los Angeles. This research took fifteen months and six flights. This is a stark difference from her research today, when she is able to capture some of these insights in only a few months. 


    Mindmap documenting the interconnected considerations captured for a Non-Profit addressing homelessness in Skid Row in L.A, Image courtesy of Tanya de Hoog


    Participants in the webinar were left with ideas of how the recent data collection and research methods may become more readily available in long term practice. Among them is the idea of the shared responsibility data collection between researchers, field representatives, and participants. There is also a newfound potential for the process to be more equitable by providing “an equal playing field” through technology from which participants can be heard. 



    Tanya de Hoog, CEng, FIStructE, MIEAust, Principal at Thornton Tomasetti

    Liz Vandermark, AIA, MSc, LEED AP, Principal & Director of Research at SmithGroup



    Fauzia Khanani, Assoc. AIA, Principal at Studio For


  • January 29, 2020

    by Brenna Luczyszyn

    On January 29, our friends on the AIANY Technology Committee and the AIANY Science and Research Facilities Committee presented a program on the ways demand for innovation is necessitating flexible and highly-technical environments in several different industries, Scaling Customization: New Frontiers of Flexibility for Innovative Environments. Then evening began with presentations by Melissa Marsh of PLASTARC, Andrea Lamberti of Rafael Vinoly Architecture, Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny of SITU and Federico Negro of Canoa Supply, which were followed by a panel discussion. The panel was moderated by Nicholas Desbiens, Head of Digital Practice at KPF and Co-chair of the AIANY Technology Committee.

    Marsh kicked off the event with her presentation, “The Future of Data-Led Workplace Design.” She discussed measurement, highlighting the need for both big data (collected by systems) and little data (individual experiences) to find out what people want in a workplace. Big data includes records that a company may already have about building utilization, space-specific mobile device usage patterns, and data gathered from IoT, and surveys. Combined with little data from interviews, observations, and other qualitative methods generates much more valuable insight. Marsh shared that data is also showing that employees value using an environment that is sensorially great more than they value owning their own workspace. As a result of this focus on experience, people are increasingly connecting with individuals who share their interests and tastes.

    Lamberti then presented about trends in the design of science environments. She revealed how even a laboratory with standard elements can be designed with occupant satisfaction in mind, when she showed options for the floor plan at The Rockefeller University River Campus laboratory. The lab was being designed with a modern, open layout, but there are rules in a science lab for keeping food separate from experiments. The solution was a clear divider at the end of each write up desk, to create the concept of separation while still allowing the space to maintain the open aesthetic the scientists desired. Social spaces were included, where people could interact during breaks and meetings. 

    Lukyanov-Cherny, partner at SITU, then took the podium. Continuing with the theme of flexible and shared spaces, he spoke about the challenges of designing workspaces for clients like Google. He also discussed designing a multi-purpose space in the Brooklyn Public Library that could support dozens of uses and be changed over in under 10 minutes by one librarian. 

    Negro spoke about his company’s commitment to decarbonizing the built environment by providing a rental furniture option for small and medium businesses, so that they could design office spaces without waste. CANOA has found that the typical tenant spends only 3 years in a workspace, and furniture winds up in a landfill. Negro noted that his company is using data from the materials (wear and tear of furniture), to gauge and improve the customers’ experience.

    After the individual presentations, all four panelists came together under the moderation of Desbiens for questions from the audience, ranging from what architects can learn from social sciences, to the actual collection of data. Marsh pointed out that more incremental changes are happening more often, and we can measure anything by designing studies, and collecting data in a rigorous manner. Massive data collection is now the norm, but how that data is used to create better environments for people is a conversation that is just beginning to unfold. 

    Andrea Lamberti AIA LEED AP BD+C, Partner, Vinoly Architects
    Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny, Partner, SITU
    Melissa Marsh, Founder & Executive Director, PLASTARC
    Federico Negro, Founder, Canoa Supply Co.

    Nicholas Desbiens AIA LEED AP, Head of Digital Practice at KPF, Co-chair of the AIANY Technology Committee

  • December 20, 2019
    Experts presented on the use of AI in design and architecture.
    Experts presented on the use of AI in design and architecture.

    Data is omnipresent. Our digital interactions throughout the day represent a wealth of information about our habits, preferences, interests, and activities. Our physical movements are captured by our phones and, increasingly, the buildings and cities where we work and live. 

    Considering the abundance of data, how do we curate and analyze it purposefully? 

    In December, the AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee hosted AI and Sensemaking: Human-Centered Design in the Age of Abundant Data, where experts from the worlds of design, technology, data science, and organizational sociology examined this question. Organizations are turning to AI for the “sensemaking” that helps us understand the significance of the data.  The speakers—Daniel Pittman, partner for strategy and innovation at TAD; Will Shapiro, cofounder and CEO of Topos Inc.; Andreas Hoffbauer, founder and director of Atelier Kultur; Melissa Marsh, founder and executive director of PLASTARC and senior managing director of occupant experience at Savills; and moderator Nitzan Hermon, founder and consultant at Future-of.Agency—reflected on AI and architecture through case studies, current projects, and potential scenarios.  


    Daniel Pittman showed how TAD, which specializes in the integration of architecture and technology, is exploring AI’s relevance for user experience, data analysis, and messaging. To illustrate how AI could provide new perspectives on complex information, he described a generative content project that relies on AI to create a real-time depiction of financial markets using boids; the room-height, multi-wall installation is both an aesthetic statement and a means of providing insight into market data. 

    The firm is exploring other arenas where AI could foster insight or greater simplicity in settings ranging from corporate offices to medical facilities. Referencing the firm’s work to integrate AI into different projects, Pittman considered the implications of natural language interfaces and authentication; of process automation, in which intelligent systems help clients operate more efficiently and gain insights from their technology networks; and of the firm’s efforts to create “frictionless environments” in which technology enables seamless experiences in workspaces. 

    There is a disjunction between rhetoric and the reality of AI; his firm’s purpose is to distinguish between the two. Beyond that, the firm has three roles in this arena: it helps clients best prepare for what lies ahead; determines what are legitimate, pragmatic steps forward for AI; and provides insight about how clients should be thinking about AI and why it’s relevant to their people and customers. 


    Throughout his consulting work, Will Shapiro has taken powerful data analysis tools to, as he described it, “understand place holistically.” Topos relies on AI to discover the dynamics of people and urban environments that can be meaningful for governments, planners, and businesses. As a demonstration of the potential for discovery, he discussed his firm’s “Five Boroughs for the 21st Century,” an effort that used AI to cluster New York City regions not by geography, but by data. Using an AI technique called “k-means clustering,” he analyzed publicly available urban data to identify 17 key dimensions that define the city. The correlations that emerge—between nightlife and dollar-pizza eateries, or between a neighborhood’s pizza topping options and residents’ median household incomes—reveal surprising parallels and a basis for creating the new mappings. 

    AI creates the possibility for us to understand cities in a more granular, temporal way in the face of rapid shifts in urban life and dynamics. This analysis could be powerful in determining how cities are designed and zoned—in conceiving the way we organize elements and neighborhoods of the urban environment. AI, Shapiro said, would “allow people to use data to make those decisions, instead of intuition or arbitrary standards.” 


    Melissa Marsh highlighted the use of data in defining and improving design, placing a strong emphasis on curating information that is truly relevant to the design endeavor. Her firm PLASTARC focuses on strategic design for workplace performance and innovation, and she noted that buildings now gather a plethora of data, yes—but this data often says nothing about behavior, which is the key factor in human-centered design. “What makes data in buildings relevant is people’s actions and interactions,” she observed. With that in mind, practical applications of data in architecture must focus on human dynamics.

    Case Study:
    To highlight PLASTARC’s data-sifting approach, Marsh spoke about a consulting project to examine why a newly completed office was often 50% empty. By amassing data points about physical space characteristics, resources, and social drivers, the firm revealed the intersection between and the characteristics of places and the choice to occupy them. The firm relied on the assessment to improve the design of the spaces, using a combination of social, technological, and physical interventions—a mode of assessment that is ripe for AI. 

    Just because buildings are becoming “smarter” doesn’t necessarily mean that we are bringing greater intelligence to architectural design. In order to create more meaningful analyses, we need more time to gather data from pre- and post-occupancy periods. 

    AI is pushing us to conceive how analytic insights might apply to future projects, but “our first responsibility is to look at what we’ve already built before we focus on what the next buildings will be.” 


    When Andreas Hoffbauer visits an organization’s offices, people will frequently remark to him, “Look how collaborative we are.” Yet for Hoffbauer, an organizational sociologist who helps businesses foster innovation, there is often a disconnect between the way people aspire for a space to perform and how it actually performs. His role is to consider why these workplaces aren’t fulfilling their purpose and to help the organization address the problem. 

    Hoffbauer’s analysis has revealed the limitation of relying on data—because the under-performing workplaces were often designed using analytic insights. Yet the data and the AI analyses, Hoffbauer has found, have some invalid assumptions. Among them:

    • Workplace interactions are dematerialized to a limited set of variables that do not capture the full range of employee behavior and work culture.
    • The analyses assume, often incorrectly, that past practices are a valid basis for predicting future practices and thus designing new workspaces.
    • Most importantly, the analytical models and data ignore the behaviors, practices, norms, and social contexts that allow certain kinds of work to happen. 

    Buildings designed around current practices and current user data will not necessarily perform in the long-term as our behaviors and workplace culture change. Instead, organizations and designers have to consider how behaviors, practices, and norms fit with where an organization expects or aspires to be in the future. In this effort, sociologists can help in determining what behaviors would predominate. As an example of such a collaboration, Hoffbauer pointed to the library Snøhetta designed for Ryerson University in Toronto, “a library without books” that cultivates collaboration, conversation, and interaction, the activities anticipated to characterize the campus athenaeum of the future.


    Guardrails: The Ethics of AI

    A recurring theme throughout the discussion focused on the ethical dimension of AI as it related to architecture.  The panelists noted several potential issues:

    • AI can provide insight, but it can also perpetuate biases and self-indulgent creative loops; the result—spaces that are stagnant and employees who are disconnected or alienated.
    • Over time, analyses derived from building data can become stale because, when the information set does not change, it perpetuates a certain view of the world.
    • Organizations and governments have begun to use AI to uniquely identify individuals, creating the possibility for nefarious ends, as seen in China’s use of AI to identify Uighurs, among other initiatives.
    • Research into AI’s application for detecting emotions through physiological measures, facial expressions, and body movement could lead to enforced conformity and retribution for straying from the norm, in both organizations and societies at large.

    Designers and technologists need to consider how they can introduce a contrarian view into the data-gathering mechanism and analysis—a view that questions the assumptions built into the data and analytics.

    In using AI technology—whether natural language systems or facial recognition algorithms—it is the responsibility of design and technology firms to consider the potential impact on social norms, privacy, and other ethical considerations, and present these issues to the client. 


    Data Curation 

    In considering how to curate information that would be most meaningful for a particular project, Hermon noted that he prefers to “work with deep context as opposed to wide data.” He investigates the content that would have the greatest relevance, based on the organization’s questions or goals, rather than accumulating a wide range of data that doesn’t apply to those aims. 

    On a similar note, Marsh noted, “We need to be faster at figuring out what is impactful and not impactful and have better hypotheses going in so we’re being more thoughtful before we go into the data, or we could be just boiling the ocean.”


    The Future of AI

    Among the beneficial impact of AI, Hoffbauer noted that it could play a role in “trying to make spaces that people like to work in, spaces that make a positive impact in people’s lives.” Marsh suggested that AI could contribute to the paradigm of thinking of buildings as “living organisms that we’re always learning from and adjusting to over time.” 

    The panelists agreed that the integration of AI and architecture is still in its infancy, and, as such, we haven’t yet identified appropriate measures of success and progress; we haven’t identified the rules and objectives in this field. “We have work to do as a profession or industry about what is progress and what does good look like,” Marsh said. “Once we are able to identify what identifies success or performance within that context or environment, then we could get to better architecture and have a possibility of using computation to make a better architecture.”



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