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AI and the Death of the Architect: 

Cities have forever been a reflection of humanity. With AI suddenly designing for us – does this ring in the death of the architect or urban planner?


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Event Report:

On October 3rd, at The Times Center in NYC, ERA-co hosted a keynote debate at WRLDCTY’s Global Summit for Urban Innovation.

With 300+ in-person attendees and almost 10,000 virtual viewers, the proposition and opposition battled it out on the topic of the ‘Death of the Architect: Will AI make the architect redundant in our pursuit of more resilient cities?”


Over the past two years, AI has moved from tech labs to everyday life, causing significant disruptions. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, has said AI will spur “big societal labor market disruptions” but also make professions better. One of those labor market disruptions he calls out by name – is the profession of Architecture.

Historically, architects have been central to shaping our cities, defining their physicality and identity. However, contemporary cities face challenges like infrastructure, affordability, and climate change, compounded by post-pandemic shifts in living and working patterns. This begs the question: Can architects rescue our cities, or will AI prove more adept? Will AI ultimately lead to the obsolescence of architects in our quest to build resilient cities?

Note: Panelists participated in the debate from an objective view, to make their team’s argument in a way that would encourage a lively, necessary discussion occurring within our industry today. Their quotes are not necessarily reflective of their personal perspectives.


The Proposition: Yes, AI Will Make the Architect Redundant.

Alex Baum, VP of Strategy at ERA-co, emphasized the importance of considering the future of our cities and the role of architects. They argued that cities need a variety of perspectives to tackle the challenges ahead, and AI’s growing capabilities will play a crucial role in transformation.


“This is not a debate about AI… this is a debate about the future of our cities and the role that architects play in shaping them.”

– Alex Baum, VP of Strategy, ERA-co


Three fundamental shifts support the idea of architects becoming redundant:

1. From Objects to Systems: Resilient cities require systemic changes, including shifts in finance, land use, and policies to address climate change vulnerabilities. AI can contribute to this transformation, aiding in climate change analytics, renewable energy development, and urban energy systems.

2. From Creators to Curators: Architects may need to shift from pure creativity to evidence-based decision-making. AI and data analysis can play a significant role in this process, helping architects make more informed choices.

3. From Authority to Influence: Current cities often prioritize the interests of a few over many. Architects often act as creative authorities on behalf of developers but may not always consider the broader public interest. AI can democratize decision-making, ensuring that more voices are heard and that decisions are driven by data and objectivity.


The Opposition: No, AI Will Not Make the Architect Redundant.

The opposing team argues that AI cannot replace the human mind in the realm of architecture, proclaiming themselves as ‘Team Human’.

Shane Burger, Global Leader of Technical Innovation at Woods Bagot, defined AI as a tool that infers likely outcomes based on past data. He highlighted AI’s limitations, showcasing humorous and sometimes absurd results it produces when prompted.


“AI only has the knowledge that we give it and it’s only constrained by the limits we remember to enforce on it.”

– Shane Burger, Principal, Global Leader of Technical Innovation at Woods Bagot


The team emphasized several key points:

1. Limitations of AI: AI can only generate likely results based on past data and is limited by the knowledge it’s given and human-imposed constraints. It cannot understand the human experience, emotions, or ethical considerations.

2. AI’s Lack of Reasoning: AI lacks the ability to reason and lacks an understanding of causality. It cannot explain how it arrives at a solution, which is crucial for accountability in urban planning.

3. The Role of Architects: Architects possess diverse perspectives, shaped by individual experiences and contextual insights. They bring emotional understanding, ethical values, and multiple intelligences to city design.

4. Human-Centric Approach: Architects serve as emotional igniters, ethical advocates, and solution finders, making them indispensable in creating cities that prioritize human wellbeing and needs.

The opposition contends that while AI can complement architecture by aiding in data analysis, urban planning, and design optimization, it cannot replace the architect’s central role in shaping cities. Architects remain essential for bridging the gap between AI-generated data and stakeholder communication, a complex task requiring emotional intelligence and negotiation skills.

So, who won the debate? Will AI finally make the architect redundant in our pursuit of more resilient cities?

Technically, Team Human won based on audience sentiment tracking and applause-meters. But the question of whether AI will render architects redundant is nuanced. While AI can assist architects in various ways, it cannot fully replace the creativity, ethics, and reasoning that human architects bring to the table. The hope is that architects, AI, and stakeholders can collaborate to create resilient and harmonious cities, prioritizing the well-being of their inhabitants.

Time will tell, and the future will reveal who takes the lead and who serves as a co-pilot in this endeavor.