Generative Design: Are Computers Replacing Architects?

The design process is not a linear one. Often, the architect will explore many different concepts in the analysis process to decide the best outcome for the location, user, climate and program. Architectural decisions can be based on thousands of competing factors. Designers annotate and diagram these factors to complete a design solution that hopefully addresses these considerations and contributes to a holistic outcome. Through this process, the computer becomes the tool to organise these ideas and document and present them to clients and trades. Generative design can transform this process; no longer a tool in the process, the computer can become the co-designer.

Image Joel Simon; Evolving Floorplans

In generative design, instead of starting with a form, you start with a framework that provides a diverse set of design problems that you want to address and the goals that you want the building to achieve. You task these to a computer to access these parameters and generate different design outcomes. The designs are based on evolution principles, and the computer can filter for the best performing design of thousands of iterations and evolve them further into thousands more even better outcomes. Once the design is realised, data can be collected from how the space is used and reapplied back into the computer design algorithm to initiate any post-occupancy design alterations. Hence, the design continues to be functional for the years to come.

Image Joel Simon; Evolving Floorplans

 The generative design does not eliminate the need for human-based design; it offers many solutions where an architect alone may only come up with a few. It will always remain important that the architect is present for all stages of this new type of design process so that elements of human creativity and experience remain a part of the spaces we live in. The generative design allows the architect to understand the limits and values of a place much faster and more efficient than previously possible. Of course, the computer can never completely replace the architect. A key part of a design project is the client, architect relationship.

Autodesk’s new office in Toronto is the first large-scale example of a generatively designed office space. Photograph by Ben Rahn/A-Frame Inc.

If generative design takes away the long hours of problem-solving and data analysis, the architect can spend more time understanding the place and the people and getting to the core of what is needed. Focusing more on how the concept performs within the environment resulting in designs that truly reflect the community.

The generative design allows us to build faster, denser and better while still meeting sustainability targets and creating places that people still enjoy.  



Generative Urban Design: a collaboration between Autodesk Research and Van Wijnen.
Lorenzo Villaggi, Kean Walmsley

Evolving Floorplans
Joel Simon.

How Will Generative Design Impact Architecture?
Eduardo Souza.