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AI in Architecture - Rita Ochoa

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Text-to-image AI is a dreaming tool, not a visualisation tool, and it's strongly embedded in our workflow.

A dreaming tool

For us as architects, one of the most useful AI tools that has been created over the last decade is the text-to-image generation that takes text descriptions in a natural language and creates infinite images that are based on that description. To create these images, the AI engines base their interpretation on the content available online, information patterns and, as expected, also bias.

Like most large practices, AFL Architects now uses AI in conjunction with traditional design practices and expertise within our daily lives to generate images for the front end of projects.

Of the AI text-to-image generation engines commercially available, Midjourney is our preference for its quality and easy manipulation. It helps us to explore new perspectives and understand the general perception of humans around the (informatised) world.

The AI images can be very realistic, cheaper and faster to produce - one image can take just a few seconds to generate amazing results, but it can take days to help the AI to understand our brief and produce a nicer design.

We see Midjourney as a dreaming tool, not a visualisation, and we use it in the very first stages of a project through a completely flexible workflow.


We ask the AI to produce images of architecture from a certain style, a certain era or a certain location. Although all images will be of buildings that don't exist, those same images will articulate for us the most predominant patterns.

And it's not all about the past. Unlike most jobs, architects are designing for the next 50 to 100 years at least, and cannot predict the future. However, we can use AI to also show us glimpses of a collectively imagined future that can cause an impact on the design.


We use Midjourney to create CGI images from text, or a combination of text and hand sketches. This is the most productive stage of the tool because we can produce hundreds of options for a single project, understand their variables, and discuss the results with clients at a very early stage.

This process limits the time we usually spend looking for inspiration and precedents, and distances us from the work of other architects. During this stage, we use AI as one of our creation tools, along with hand sketches, diagrams and models, as well as Google Image Search to prevent any inadvertent reproduction of an existing design or building.

It's important to remember that Midjourney only generates images, not 3D models or 2D information. They are not actionable, they cannot be converted directly into construction information. We do this manually with 3D parametric software.

3d modelling and parametrisation

Midjourney and other AI image generators don't yet produce 3D models, therefore the workflow from this stage onwards is very similar to a traditional project. We model the idea in Rhino or Revit and start to rationalise the geometry, proportions and internal layouts. This idea can either be represented in a hand sketch, an AI image, or in a combination of both.

During the project development, we sometimes revert again to Midjourney for the specific details, or to spark inspiration for the interior design and any graphical aspects of the building.

What about the role of the architect?

Architecture is a discipline that extends far beyond the visual. One of our most important tasks is human interaction with the client, contractors and other stakeholders. Usually when leading large design teams, emotional intelligence is essential.

Remember that AI has no feelings or personal opinions: it only knows patterns and styles and tries to build a reflection of the world using our preferences, tastes and, of course, our biases as well. AI text-to-generation engines don't work without human interaction and architects are perfecting this human-machine dialogue and, consequently, catering to the process of ideation.

A near future

It's early days for us to use AI as a tool for architecture. However, the simple "machine hallucinations" of the AI text-to-machine generators have already had a significant impact on the way we work.

We are no longer dreaming alone, and we are using a tool that sometimes can read the world better than us (although it's not necessarily more creative).

"We are no longer dreaming alone, and we are using a tool that sometimes can read the world better than us."

We feel we are at the tip of an iceberg. The next steps will include rationalisation of geometry, construction drawings and manufacturing using AI technology. These AI tools will expand, create new jobs and make projects easier to manage and communicate, with fewer clashes and much more optimisation in terms of materials, systems, construction processes and carbon emissions. The Ai will also open opportunities such as biomimicry and we might start seeing more buildings mimicking the shapes and function of natural systems.

I can't wait to look back 30 years from now, and see exactly how far we've come.

AI on AI

I thought it would be interesting to ask ChatGPT, the most talked about AI tool, what it sees as the benefits of text-to-image generation. This is what it said, along with some added insights to highlight some examples from AFL.

Design visualisation

"Architects often work with clients who may not have a background in design or architectural drawings. Text-to-image generation allows architects to generate realistic visual representations of their designs based on textual descriptions. This enables clients to better understand and visualise the proposed architectural concepts, helping them make informed decisions and provide feedback."

Concept exploration

"Architects often start with conceptual ideas that are described in text form. Text-to-image generation can assist in rapidly creating visual representations of these concepts, allowing architects to explore various design alternatives and refine their ideas before investing significant time and resources in detailed design development."

To the right is an example of how the interior of a restaurant may look, which allows the client to assess flow and function as well as its aesthetic and design.

Communication and collaboration

"Text-to-image generation can facilitate effective communication, and collaboration among architects, clients and other stakeholders. Instead of relying solely on technical drawings or architectural jargon, architects can generate visual images from text descriptions to convey their ideas more clearly. This helps bridge the gap between architectural expertise and the understanding of non-technical individuals, fostering better collaboration and decision-making."

Text-to-image generation can also support CPD for either those studying architecture or architectural assistants wanting to learn and develop their skills. This is the outcome of a training session we had with our team using text-to-image technology.

Rapid prototyping

"Text-to-image generation can be used for rapid prototyping and design iteration. Architects can generate images from text-based descriptions of design elements or features, enabling them to quickly explore and evaluate different design options. This iterative process helps architects refine their designs efficiently and identify potential issues or improvements early in the design phase."

Accessibility and inclusivity

"Text-to-image generation can enhance accessibility in architectural design. People with visual impairments or limited spatial visualisation abilities can benefit from text-based descriptions being transformed into visual representations. By providing alternative modalities for understanding architectural designs, text-to-image generation contributes to inclusivity in the field."

It can also illustrate how spaces that are inclusive for all can look like. For example, the image of a sensory room (below left) and the wellbeing space (below right) are both great starting points of ideation that can help depict to clients the design's form and function.

This article was originally published on BIMPlus. You can find the original articles here;

Text-to-image AI: a dreaming tool

The benefits of text-to-image - according to ChatGPT