Architects are not known to be writers; neither does text play an important role in the design and thinking process. But project descriptions for clients, poignant copy to advertise projects, communication with local governments and communities, philosophical agendas for portfolios and websites, as well as doing PR, are part of many (bigger) architectural offices. Now – better than ever before – these texts can be outsourced to a machine named ChatGPT.
Undoubtedly, many critiques have been silenced by ChatGPT’s ability to be smart, thoughtful, and precise and its use and impact on society is just starting to come to light. But as this machine is starting to integrate itself (through its brilliance) into the everyday work of many people, architects among them, we will be exploring what ChatGPT actually knows about architecture and if ChatGPT favors a particular architectural style or design approach. To do that, we will ask ChatGPT some basic architectural questions relevant to the profession.
In particular, we may focus on the following: Does ChatGPT know more about American architecture? How does ChatGPT make decisions, for example, when the Budget is limited? How much of a site-specific help can ChatGPT be? The following article will display such and similar questions and critically reflect upon them.
Notice: This text is not written with ChatGPT; you can check by using AI detectors!
How would you define architecture?
“Architecture can be defined as the art and science of designing and constructing buildings and other physical structures. It involves the creative process of envisioning and planning the layout, functionality, and aesthetics of a building, while also considering practical considerations such as safety, sustainability, and cost. Architecture encompasses a range of styles, from traditional to modern, and can be influenced by cultural, historical, and technological factors. Additionally, architecture can also refer to the broader field of designing and planning cities and landscapes.”
Note: Unsurprisingly, ChatGPT delivers a considerate answer. However, what becomes clear here is that, compared to a human, ChatGPT answers more in an encyclopedia-style rather than having a personal taste or opinion. When asked about a more personal view, ChatGPT provides the standard “As a language model, I am trained to….” answer. Especially for beginning architects, definitions of terms, styles, and symbols can be helpful to understand a project, idea, or concept better.
What are some differences between architecture in the United States and Europe?
There are several differences between architecture in the United States and Europe. Here are a few examples:
Historical context: Europe has a much longer history of architecture than the United States, resulting in a greater abundance of historic architecture. In contrast, many buildings in the United States are relatively new, with a focus on modern designs.
Building materials: Traditional building materials differ between the two regions, with Europe often using stone, brick, and plaster, while the United States tends to use wood, steel, and concrete.
Building codes: Building codes and regulations differ between the two regions, resulting in different construction practices. For example, building codes in the United States require buildings to withstand earthquakes, while European building codes may focus on thermal insulation.
Note: Again, ChatGPT answers were considered and a suspected bias towards American architecture could not be identified. This, however, might change, depending on where (geographically and culturally) ChatGPT receives the most input from. One may ask further: Is there a different way of communicating and answering in the United States vs. Europe and which does ChatGPT prefer?
Check PAACADEMY’s workshops to learn more about how architects use artificial intelligence for design.
In the process of an architectural design, how should an architect make decisions between sustainability, design, aesthetics, integration into the broader urban context, provisions of public space facilities such as bicycle racks, and other variables if the budget is limited?
Prioritise sustainability: Given the current environmental concerns, sustainability should be a top priority for architects. […]
Focus on key design elements: When working with a limited budget, it's important to focus on the key design elements that will have the most impact. […]
Consider the urban context: When designing a building, it's important to consider the broader urban context and how the building will fit into the surrounding neighborhood. […]
Note: “Given the current environmental concern…” shows how ChatGPT is built towards a climate-friendly approach in its answers. Such prioritizing is essential in the everyday work of architects and urbanists and most likely, ChatGPT would always decide to opt for the more sustainable approach. A similar question (that exceeds the scope of this article) might be about which materials to use and probably, ChatGPT would favor the more sustainable one as well as the more local one.
How can architects use text and writing in their design process and their communication with clients and key stakeholders?
ChatGPT: Architects can use text and write in a variety of ways to enhance their design process and communication with clients and key stakeholders. Here are a few examples:
Design briefs: A design brief is a written document that outlines the project goals, requirements, and constraints. […]
Design proposals: Design proposals can include written descriptions, diagrams, and other visuals that help to communicate the proposed design to the client. These proposals can also outline the project timeline, budget, and other important details.
Reports: Reports can be used to communicate the progress of the project to key stakeholders. These reports can include written updates, photos, and other visuals that help to communicate the project status.
Marketing materials: Architects can use text and writing in marketing materials such as brochures and websites to communicate their expertise and showcase their portfolio of work.
What are architectural solutions to overpopulation and unaffordability in urban areas?
Overpopulation and unaffordability in city centers are complex issues that require a multi-faceted approach to resolve. Here are some architectural solutions that can help address these challenges:
Mixed-use development: One solution is to create mixed-use developments that include a variety of housing types, retail, office, and public spaces within the same building or complex. […]
Adaptive reuse: Another solution is to adapt existing buildings for new uses. This can include converting old warehouses or office buildings into residential apartments or repurposing abandoned buildings for community use. […]
Density: Increasing density is another solution that can help to make cities more affordable and livable. This can involve building taller buildings or increasing the number of units per building. […]
Transit-oriented development: Transit-oriented development involves building new developments around public transportation hubs, which can help to reduce traffic congestion and encourage the use of public transit. This approach can also create more affordable housing options […].
Note: The answers are generally thought through and make sense from an architectural point of view. We have tried the same question replacing ‘urban areas’ with something more specific such as ‘Beijing’ or ‘New York’. However, the suggestions of ChatGPT remained generally the same and were not site-specific.
The old Tegel Airport in Berlin is not used as an airport anymore. What should be done with this building and how should it and the site be redeveloped?
One approach could be to transform the airport into a mixed-use development that incorporates commercial, residential, and public spaces. The old airport terminal and hangars could be repurposed into office buildings, coworking spaces, retail spaces, and community centers. […]
Another approach could be to develop the site as an innovation hub or research park. The large, open areas around the old runways could be used for research facilities, test tracks for autonomous vehicles, or drone testing areas. […]
A third approach could be to create a cultural and tourism destination on the site. The old airport terminal could be transformed into a museum or exhibition space that showcases the history of aviation or Berlin's cultural heritage. […]
Note: When asked about a site-specific (and necessary) development, ChatGPT gives rather generic answers. A similar answer appeared when asked about ideas for redevelopment after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001.
Check PAACADEMY’s workshops to learn more about how architects use artificial intelligence for design.
This article is supposed to explore how much ChatGPT knows about architecture. In certain cases, architects may ask more specific questions and get more specific answers. In line with the pattern of ChatGPT-answers, here are the learnings of this little exercise as bullet points:
- ChatGPT does not have an opinion. It is a good sparring partner, that never gets tired of providing information. For a more intellectual exchange and discussion of controversial opinions, it might however not be the best.
- ChatGPT makes little mistakes: Although this can be seen as good, human discussions live from knowing better than your peer to being corrected in return. This provides a natural dynamic to an interaction, which is simply missing in ChatGPT – more so because it needs input. Although one could ask ChatGPT to provide questions, a mode that does this automatically would make an exchange more fruitful.
- Architects can rethink the heart of their profession and at the same time widen their process and ideas. ChatGPT has been extremely good in defining architecture and understanding the design process, which may help young architects, who perhaps are stuck in an office doing detailed planning of a wall for a local shopping center, to be reminded of what interested them in the profession in the first place.
- ChatGPT, being a written and text-based engine, helps architects to not only read about architecture but to also use text (and perhaps other forms of media) in their design process. Simply by consulting the engine, architects learn to think in and through text, as opposed to using drawing and personal, verbal conversation only. This may, however, also require adapting and similarly limiting the architectural process for architects, who are not used to incorporating texts in their work.
- There are hardly any general truths – (less in architecture than in other natural sciences) – and ChatGPT’s absence of personal opinion makes it seem so.