Algorithms, AI and robots: architecture's new frontier

Algorithms, AI and robots: architecture's new frontier

Poised at the intersection of design and technology, architect Alisa Andrasek is using algorithmic design and robotic construction to create sweeping forms and spaces fit for the future.

An architect by trade, the School of Architecture and Urban Design professor has embraced a new world of architecture co-designed with algorithms, big data and AI, and built by robots.

Andrasek at the Venice Architecture Biennale with 'Cloud Pergola', one of the largest robotically 3D-extruded structures ever built.

With works currently exhibiting at the Bruges Triennial in Belgium, the Centre Pompidou in France, the Venice Biennale in Italy and the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne, Andrasek is as industrious as she is innovative.

Ahead of her appearance at RMIT Design Hub’s Intricate Forms Symposium, we asked her a few questions about her work and the changing landscape of architecture and design in a digital world.

How do you describe your field of work?

My work sits at the intersection of design, advanced manufacturing and computation. I specifically work in robotic construction and algorithmic design, and lately I’ve also been applying artificial intelligence to the design and fabrication processes. 

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'XenoCells', a robotically 3D printed column in multiple materials.

How are algorithmic design and digital fabrication techniques changing architecture and design?

For the first time in history, with the use of computational physics and simulation, coupled with the extreme precision of robotic fabrication, we can build at the scale of specs of dust and then apply this to very large structures.

Big data sets can be applied to highly articulated, super-performing structures, but also to repatterning larger systems such as the ones found within complex urban ecologies. 

What does this mean for the structures and designs emerging from this?

These new methods mean enhanced resiliency, plasticity and malleability of complex interrelated systems. In short, a whole new world of design possibilities.

Cellular 2.0

What challenges are posed by advances in this technology?

New advances in science and technology challenge architects to go back to basics and ask how the architecture, structure, city or experience could be in this renewed landscape. But that hacking of matter with data is also bound to produce friction.

What excites you about working in this space?

I was always drawn to uncharted territories. I live in the future. With all the knowledge and the resources available to us, there is so much potential for innovation.

With generative algorithms it’s now possible to design beyond our imagination. With big data it’s like diving into an ocean of possibilities and finding those rare, awe-inspiring creatures. With robotic construction we can now build with 10,000 times greater resolution.

Together with machine learning developments and new types of non-human cognition emerging, the limits of our own intuition and imagination will stretch. We are truly entering the unknown and finding creative opportunities within this massive territory. This is what has been my drive and focus over the past two decades.

'Bloom' is currently on display at the NGV Melbourne as part of the exhibition 'Designing Women'.

Where are your works currently being exhibited?

My robotically printed lightweight pavilion based on the logic of swarms was recently shown at the Venice Biennale as part of the Croatian pavilion.

Bloom _, an interactive urban game initially designed for the 2012 London Olympics is currently being exhibited at the Bruges Triennial and also here in Melbourne at the NGV as part of Designing Women.

Some of my older work which is in the permanent collection at the Centre Pompidou is currently part of a large exhibition called Coding the World

'Cloud Osaka' was created using computational physics simulation and big data.

Andrasek is a Professor of Design Innovation at RMIT, a founder of Biothing, and co-founder of Bloom Games and aiBuild, she will be speaking at the Intricate Forms Symposium at RMIT’s Design Hub Friday 5 October. The symposium is free to the public. View the full program.

Story: Grace Taylor

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