.‘Starchitect’ Killed by AI

Making buildings smarter, more sustainable

In the next 30 years, sea levels will rise as much as they have in the last century, threatening urban areas all over the world.

Unfortunately, most of our existing cities aren’t built to withstand encroaching salt water or other climate-change impacts like floods and extreme storms. And while we need new infrastructure in order to adapt, construction is a major polluter. Today’s built environment is responsible for close to 40% of energy-related carbon emissions.

Architects can help us get out of this double bind—but only if they embrace generative artificial intelligence, which many have so far resisted. To fight climate change, architects need to reimagine their role and abandon their long-held obsession with individual authorship.

For example, generative AI can help architects pinpoint the best building locations and develop the most sustainable materials. It can use satellite images to create detailed land-use maps, making it possible to test future climate scenarios, such as extreme heat or flooding, for specific places.

In all likelihood, the collective creativity of generative AI heralds the end of sole authorship and the celebrity architect. It’s time for architects to abandon individual perspectives and work together to overcome the very real existential threat of climate change.

The end of the celebrity architect is actually a return to older understandings of authorship. Sole credit for a single designer has never been as central to great architecture as some would like to think. Long before Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Marin Civic Center, unknown designers created what is now the world’s longest-standing temple, 11,000-year-old Göbeklitepe in modern-day Turkey.

Architects, and those of us who teach future architects, have a major role to play in saving our environment. With the help of AI, we can design, construct and maintain structures that emit little or no carbon and also protect us from what’s ahead. Sacrificing claims to authorship to fulfill our duties to the planet is a small price to pay.

Alessandro Melis is the inaugural IDC Foundation endowed chair and a professor in the School of Architecture and Design at New York Institute of Technology.

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