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2023 Winter Supper Debate | AI: Architects and Artists - Assistant or Assassin?

Event Review | Katy Ghahremani

Friday 22 December 2023

As an architect curious about the future of architecture, I recently attended the Architecture Club debate at the esteemed Athenaeum Club. The topic of discussion stirred the air with a question both profound and practical: Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) an assassin or an assistant in the realm of architecture?

The stage was set with notable figures — Neil Leach, a venerable philosopher of architecture, spoke against AI, while Mat Collishaw and Carlos Gomez Gonzalez, celebrated visionaries, championed the cause for its assistance. The dichotomy, however, proved less rigid than expected, unraveling into a nuanced exploration.

Leach, with a weight of wisdom in his words, cautioned against the encroachment of AI, fearing a loss of the individual touch and authenticity in architectural creations. In contrast, Collishaw and Gonzalez passionately embraced the potential of AI as a collaborative tool, enriching the creative process rather than diminishing it.

What unfolded was not a binary clash but a fluid discussion, acknowledging AI as both a threat and an ally. The consensus, though, leaned towards viewing AI as a tool—a means to streamline tasks and open new creative avenues, rather than an outright replacement for the architect's vision.

The debate, peppered with probing questions, reached a memorable juncture when the query of architects being replaced surfaced. The response, however, was a nuanced revelation—architects, it seemed, were not on the brink of obsolescence but on the cusp of transformation. AI, far from usurping roles, was seen as a collaborator, empowering architects to explore uncharted territories.

In the aftermath, the Architecture Club found itself contemplating the evolving relationship between human creativity and technological innovation. The consensus leaned towards embracing AI not as an adversary but as a partner in the pursuit of architectural excellence.

As an architect reflecting on the evening's discourse, it became clear that the conversation transcended a mere clash of ideas. It underscored the imperative for architects to shape the trajectory of AI in a way that aligns with their values, ensuring a symbiotic relationship that enhances, rather than diminishes, the rich tapestry of architectural expression.

In this unfolding narrative, the debate at the Athenaeum Club serves as a poignant reminder—an eloquent exploration of the delicate balance between tradition and innovation, where architects, armed with the tools of technology, navigate a course towards a future where creativity and AI coexist in harmonious tandem. Tools of innovation which were also deployed to create this write up for the evening.

Katy Ghahremani words
Mat Collishaw artwork