Working in the Chaos of AI
Tim Fu’s latest work investigates the use of AI image generation technology, such as Midjourney and DALL·E 2, to examine how this disruptive new technology is reshaping the role of architectural design.
How Tim started and his artistic approach:
Text-to-image AI technology has attracted a lot of interest recently. Thanks to its recent mainstream release, many of her esteemed colleagues at Zaha Hadid Architects are exploring it as a potential design tool. Its director, Patrik Schumacher, has continually expressed interest in this technology, and a few directors have demonstrated some of their early studies in a company-wide Pecha Kucha. From the start, he was captivated by its immediacy and unpredictability.
He started following AI artists and architects on Instagram. Soon he discovered a dominant theme of chaotic, dreamy and surreal quality in many artists’ productions. It was all very mind-blowing and fascinating, but that being said, he finally felt what he could only describe as “AI fatigue”. When images vaguely represent multiple things simultaneously, and when materiality and scale seem loosely connected, he disconnects from his physical experience and memory.
In his works he aimed to sift through the chaos of outings and find architectonic qualities and realism. It was a complex process of mastering prompt-craft and rigorously fixing outputs in post-processing. From what he sees, it’s amazing that every AI artist is already developing their style, some are surreal, some are influenced by history, and some are inward oriented. For him, he strives to combine the neo-futuristic language of Zaha Hadid with inspiring forms found in nature.
Essentially, Tim Fu aims to frame the production as a singular concept, an edifice juxtaposed against the idealized context of nature. Many AI artists present architecture as phenomenological experiences. But he also likes to explore the semiotic side of architecture as icon and product.
AI Combination Methodology:
Prompt-craft, the art of generating images with text, seems simple to understand and hard to master. The way words are chained together significantly affects the output of the AI. Grammatical thought can be ignored. The words, their close connection and placement can be “felt”, more like abstract art than literature.
Many artists who explored Midjourney and DALL·E 2 agreed that Midjourney is more artistic and creative, while Dalle-2 feels more logical and realistic. Although from his own research he finds there is merit in using the two together.
Midjourney is visually adept. Right from the start, it nails the artistry of composition, color, styling, and lighting. Tim Fu mentioned that he often used it as a starting point to generate the overall concept.
From there, it guides the iterations towards its goal. It assesses the viability of a result based on realism and clarity of form. Once an ideal result is achieved. It deploys DALL·E 2 to fix local fixes and improve form. Finally, it post-processes applications such as Photoshop to fix remaining issues and give it a final look.
Parametric Design in the Age of AI:
For Tim, the current holy grail of AI is the realization of a parametric architecture that can serve as a viable starting point for materialization. As a parametric facade specialist at ZHCode and an algorithmic design instructor at Harvard GSD. He thinks it’s because this domain is new and the database is small. It can be particularly challenging to develop workable parametric designs. However, it considers the compatibility between these AIs and a specific parametric language. The non-discrete nature of AI often has mixed and evolving elements that are more suited to algorithmic design. (But admittedly, that may change as AI models evolve.)
Tim’s final thoughts:
The speed of progress in AI is remarkable, but he firmly believes that we are still in the infancy of this technology. Her current form is out of control and chaotic, but she will surely progress towards more control and fine tuning ability. This will inevitably shake up all areas of architectural design and visualization.
According to him, every new technology comes with opponents. There is a growing aversion to AI with concern that it is there to replace artists and designers. He feels that he disagrees with this feeling. In the context of design, AI is a tool that requires the control and curation of a designer. Without the designer, AI is stuck as abstract art and cannot thrive in the realm of utility.
Overall, Tim hopes to continue his research on AI in the field of constructability. So these fanciful shapes can take shape in real life. Until then, he mentioned, he enjoyed generating and curating AI images.
About Tim Fu
Tim Fu is a London-based architectural designer specializing in advanced computer design and AI technology. He is part of Zaha Hadid Architects in London, where he focuses on algorithmic design at ZH CODE (Computational Research Group). The team works on various architectural developments around the world. Tim has published work on CNN, Dezeen, AJ and Archdaily and runs a computer design studio at Harvard Graduate School of Design.
If you want to learn more about the experiences of architects, designers and artists with AI. You can check out A (Mid) journey to the virtual world of Hassan Ragab.