Kyle Steinfeld

Routledge Companion to Artificial Intelligence in Architecture

Significant Others - Machine learning as actor, material, and provocateur in art and design

Kyle Steinfeld

I was invited to contribute the first chapter of The Routledge Companion to Artificial Intelligence in Architecture, an edited volume that surveys the state of the art in Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it relates to architecture. In this chapter, I sketch out of a number of models for practice that I see emerging in the area of machine-augmented architectural design, each defined in terms of how it situates the use of ML in design differently.

I begin with an account of those who see ML as an "actor" in design that is usefully regraded as on-par with human actors. Here, I mention a number of designers and fine artists who seek to uncover and instrumentalize the way a neural network "sees", and who set their work in relation to the essential qualities of neural networks in a manner that recalls certain aspects of the Modernist project.

Next, I acknowledge those who take the position that ML is more like a new form design "material". This work may be seen as holding to a well-established model for the integration of digital techniques into design culture, one that draws from a long crafts tradition that predates the profession itself.

Finally, I present a model for the use of ML in design as a "provocateur", and, in the spirit of the Surrealist concept of automatism, draw from the capacity for ML as an instrument of the associative and imaginary rather than the rational.