AI can’t lead

Leadership and storytelling will be crucial skills for the architecture profession as AI increasingly impacts their work.

AI is changing everything! In the near future its impact will lead to the evolution of the design process too. AI will soon, in all likelihood, be designing project homes (tract housing, mass housing, McMansions, call them what you will). However AI is unlikely to deliver designs of nuance or complexity, at least in the near future. Designs embodying the depth of understanding or consideration good architects bring to their work.

AI’s creative decision making is based upon the data it’s fed and the brief it’s been given. It doesn’t lead, but follows instruction. Data and brief need be no more than basic information of functional and construction requirements, plus the necessary statutory and planning controls. But this approach risks failing to embed the things we value beyond basic compliance, needs and enclosure. The things we value in our homes, cities and lives. This is where the architecture profession must lead. It’s more than design. It’s more than describing and promoting the value of architectural work. It’s a selfless act of leadership in service of a better built environment.

It’s about stories. Whilst AI can come up with design solutions it can’t tell a story about how it got there. Stories about commodity, firmness and delight, for example, and how they’re embodied in the design. Why one proposition is superior to another. How it might account for human values, beyond code. Architects should lead these considerations, conversations and stories.

The adoption of AI presents the opportunity for the profession to describe the seen and unseen ideas embodied in architectural and urban design work. How their expertise, experience and values impact and shape the decisions made. The things AI can’t do.

There are too many glib stories, of developments prioritising financial return, project homes prioritising size and status, poor urban design prioritising profit over public good, and so on. Stories without nuance or depth. The city is complex, complicated, layered with history, anthropology and embedded culture. There’s so much more than economics or aesthetics. Architects should be leading these stories. Contrasting their expertise and experience with the glib.

Architects telling stories at a small scale, about a reading nook that captures the sun in winter. At a large scale, the regeneration of a brook, that captures the rain creating habitats. It’s not all about AI or design. It’s what design makes possible and the possibilities we seek in all their richness and complexity.

These are the stories to be told as an act of leadership. Stories AI will never tell.

Architects more than ever need to step up their leadership.

AI can’t lead.


Picture by ThisIsEngineering (edited)

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach, helping the professional culture of the architecture profession. I believe the best way to do this is support leadership development.

I’ve worked in architecture for almost 30 years, and ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I help practices work on their leadership team and strategies. Supporting practices to become more open, fluid, and adaptable. Realising the collective energy, passion, and capabilities of their people.

Interested in hearing I can help? Let’s chat about the leadership development of you or your team.
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