Toggle Color Open

Project Search

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Architecture: Redefining Form, Function, and Emotion

By Luis Miguel Barros, Chief Operating Office and Architect

"It was with all the bravado of youth, that I postulated a computer could do anything an architect could do. Whether that was true or not, matters less than the aspiration of building machines with intelligence, including but not limited to design intelligence. The challenge of doing so includes, among other things, recognizing the difference between knowing and understanding. Machines might be able to think without bodies, but probably not be able to design without them. The ability to experience architecture is surely a fundamental requisite for a computer to be an architect. Imagine a cook that cannot eat and taste…"

Nicholas Negroponte; Athens, Greece, 23 march 2022

In this article, I will explore the multifaceted impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on architecture, focusing on its influence on the concept, the experience of spaces, and emotional experience, never losing sight of the business aspects related to the inevitable “business transformation” that this activity will undergo.

I must express my reluctance to use the term “Artificial Intelligence” because the concept of “intelligence” goes far beyond the massive statistical data analysis. It would be more appropriate to use the term “machine learning,” but for the sake of simplicity, I will maintain the designation AI in the text.

Architecture is a very ancient activity, of fundamental importance for human experience on various scales. It has always accompanied the evolution of humanity, adapting, and suggesting new paths.

Being a multifaceted intellectual activity, holistic, addressing aspects as diverse as creative, emotional, contextual, legal, financial, technical, and constructive, it presents a scope that makes it particularly sensitive to various fields currently under study in AI, such as data analysis, image generation, and automation of rules and procedures.

With all this exposure surface, there is no doubt that AI has the power to quickly transform architecture. But also due to this scope, the question is how and when.

If we correctly leverage the synergies provided by the power of massive data analysis, machine learning, and generative design, architects will be able to create spaces and buildings that are not only aesthetically innovative but also more efficient, sustainable, and fully in tune with human needs and the places where they are inserted.

1. Architectural Conceptualization: Revolution?

In the Architectural process, the Concept phase marks the beginning of a creative journey, where the soul of the project is fixed and defines the direction it will take. It is a crucial phase where the architect delves into deep reflection, research, and analysis whose synthesis will shape the ideas and aspirations shared with the Client. These ideas and aspirations have the force of a message. This message will find translation in the forms, spaces, and environments designed. How can AI currently assist in this intrinsically human process?

There are three areas whose results can be very useful for conceptual synthesis: generative design, data-driven design, and parametric design.

In generative design, AI algorithms can analyse vast datasets on design parameters, laws, building codes, and environmental factors to generate a multitude of design options that meet specific criteria. This allows architects to explore a wider range of possibilities and arrive at more innovative and optimized solutions.

In data-driven design, AI can quickly analyse massive data on climate, solar incidence patterns, and user or occupant behaviour to feed and inform building design. This can lead to the creation of structures with natural heating or cooling, reducing energy consumption and creating a more comfortable and sustainable living environment.

Finally, using parametric design tools, AI facilitates the use of complex algorithms to create organic and intricate architectural forms. This allows for iteration and exploration of new forms and buildings that would have been unimaginable before.

Reimagining Habitational Spaces

The use of AI allows for the customization of living spaces based on the needs and preferences of occupants, beyond the choices made during their design and planning, creating the conditions for true Personalized Design.

For example, AI systems can adjust lighting, temperature, and even furniture arrangement based on the activity and preferences of the occupants. AI seamlessly integrates with smart home technologies, creating truly intelligent and adaptable spaces, Smart Homes. Lighting, appliances, and security systems can be controlled and optimized through AI, resulting in increased comfort and efficiency.

As cities become more densely populated, AI can help design living spaces that remain functional and comfortable. It can be used to optimize urban planning, creating more efficient and sustainable cities. AI can help analyse data on human behaviour, movement patterns, and social interactions to inform the design of more liveable cities, with public spaces accessible to people of all ages and abilities. AI can also be used to optimize public transportation systems, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality.

Architecture as a Creator of Emotions

Architects have always sought to make the spaces they create induce states of mind and evoke emotions. From housing to places of worship, to health and institutional buildings, in various times and regimes, architecture has always been used with an emotional purpose.

At its most basic essence, we seek comfort and well-being. But it can be used to communicate grandeur, respect, dominance, fear… With the amplification and fine analysis, almost individual, allowed by AI, architects will have to have an ethically responsible stance when using it in their processes.

AI can analyse data on the impact of nature on human well-being, providing information for the design of spaces that promote feelings of calm and relaxation. This allows for the analysis of the surroundings and the incorporation of natural light, ventilation, and views of the surrounding nature into the building design. This is known as Biophilic Design or more simply Humanization.

AI can also be used to create immersive experiences within buildings, using lighting, sound, and other sensory elements to evoke specific emotions. This is sensory design that can be used to create stimulating work environments or soothing relaxation spaces.

Another aspect to explore is the use of AI to analyse user behaviour patterns within buildings to identify areas that need improvement. If they are ethically responsible, together with modularity and flexibility strategies, this can lead to the development of more intuitive and user-friendly spaces, ultimately creating a more positive emotional experience and making buildings livelier and more adaptable.

The Transformation of the Architecture Firm

The integration of AI into architecture presents both opportunities and challenges for architects and architecture firms that want to remain active and competitive. Adapting to a rapidly evolving scenario requires the willingness to adopt new technologies and a paradigm shift in how architects approach their work.

AI allows for efficiency and speed gains, as automating repetitive tasks and streamlining the design process allows architects to focus on the more creative and strategic aspects of their work. This results in increased efficiency, with the potential cost reduction of projects being accompanied by higher conceptual quality.

AI-powered platforms also facilitate communication and collaboration among architects, engineers, and other stakeholders, leading to a more integrated, collaborative, and efficient design process.

In the field of marketing and communication with the Client, AI can be used to personalize marketing materials and presentations, allowing architects to better communicate their project vision and fully substantiate all decisions made and informed in the complex Conceptualization phase mentioned above.

Some of the challenges that architects and architecture firms face in this transformation brought about by AI include various aspects ranging from training to competition, through ethics.

The skills that architectural training provides do not adequately prepare professionals for the demands of AI-driven design. Architects, professionals who already engage in continuous training, now need to improve and acquire new skills, such as data analysis and programming, to remain competitive.

Architects will have to invest in data collection and management systems to ensure access to the information needed for AI-driven design. The success of AI algorithms depends entirely on the quality and availability of data. On the other hand, this massive data collection and management implies that the use of AI in architectural design must consider ethical and social concerns, such as privacy, biases introduced by algorithms, and the potential for AI to exacerbate existing inequalities. Architects need to address these complex issues responsibly and ensure that AI is used for the benefit of society.

Therefore, a redefinition of the Architect’s role will occur, as AI automates certain tasks, the role of the architect will.

necessarily evolve, mainly in automatable technical tasks, freeing up for a more conceptual, strategic, and integrative role, I would even say orchestrator. Architects will have to adapt to this new role in permanent evolution and change and find new ways to add value to the design and drawing process.

The emergence of new actors, AI-driven design and concept platforms, and startups will increase competition for architects and architecture firms. They will need to differentiate themselves by offering unique value propositions, such as a focus on human-centred design concept, a deep understanding of the built environment, and a creative quality that is beyond the reach of AI systems.

In a future where all architecture firms are equipped and have access to the same AI capabilities, these unique value propositions will be the basis for business differentiation and operational excellence. Companies that strategically combine the Human aspect – creativity, emotion, etc. – with AI capabilities will be those that can offer the greatest value to their clients and endure.

2. Error and Emotion as Creativity Inducers in Architecture

I mentioned above that the architectural concept phase is a crucial stage where the architect delves into deep reflection, research, and analysis, whose synthesis will shape the ideas and aspirations that, with the force of a message written in the language of Design, will materialize volumetrically into built space.

The emotional charge carried is enormous, and the usual process is based on searching, testing, error, and evolution. This is undoubtedly the aspect in which AI will have the most difficulty integrating into our profession, as evolving with error and emotionality is far beyond the reach of generative mathematical algorithms or others, at least currently.


Error is fundamental, as the architectural process is inherently iterative. Errors are not seen as setbacks but as natural steps in the progression towards a refined solution. Each “error” offers valuable insights, forcing architects to rethink their assumptions and ultimately leading to unexpected solutions.

However, the fear of making mistakes can stifle creativity. The willingness to accept error promotes experimentation, encouraging the exploration of unusual forms, materials, and spatial relationships that would not be considered in a perfectly linear design process.

Often, the most pioneering architectural innovations result from an approach that accepts error as a catalyst. History shows that seemingly accidental moments during conception and construction have led to iconic architectural elements.


Emotion allows the Architect to design for the Human Experience. Architecture is not just about function; it is fundamentally about creating spaces that evoke emotions. Architects explore their own emotional responses to a place, a concept, or material to conceive spaces capable of eliciting joy, serenity, contemplation, and admiration from their users.

Understanding the emotional needs and desires of the people who will use a building is crucial. There is an inherent empathy in which architects put their own emotional intelligence and sensitivity into practice to create spaces that resonate on a deeper level, promoting well-being and a sense of connection with the built environment.

Lastly, there is a narrative that is implicit in the designed space. Great architecture always evokes a narrative. Architects use emotions to create spaces with a sense of history, purpose, or even joy. This emotional narrative gives a building its identity and strengthens the user’s connection to the space.

Error and Emotion: A Constant Interaction

Error and emotion are intertwined in the architectural design process and interact in various ways.

Errors can be emotionally challenging, but the passion for the project fuels an architect’s resilience. Overcoming obstacles with the determination to find a better solution is driven by emotional investment in the work.

With experience, architects develop a refined intuition through the analysis of past errors and understanding of the interaction between function and emotion. This becomes a subconscious guide for their creative choices, increasing the likelihood of taking calculated risks.

The architectural process is a deeply personal one. Recognizing emotions—positive or negative—allows architects to explore their creativity in a more authentic way. This vulnerability, combined with a willingness to accept error, is a tremendous strength that leads to more honest and impactful projects.

Limitations and Contribution of AI

Recognizing its limitations regarding emotion and error, AI can be a valuable contribution to the development of architectural concepts.

AI does not have a real understanding of emotion; it can analyze data related to human emotions (surveys, physiological responses), but it lacks the ability to truly experience or understand emotions in the same way as a human being. Consequently, it cannot design with the primary intention of evoking certain feelings.

AI cannot incorporate productive error; although AI can learn from mistakes, current technology does not have the same capacity for creative leaps caused by unexpected errors. True innovation often happens in those “aha!” moments that AI is not currently designed to fully explore.

Understanding what it cannot do, it is necessary to explore its strengths, such as the capacity for processing and analyzing data.

AI excels in analyzing vast datasets, far beyond what a human could manage. This includes information about climate, site conditions, building codes, materials, energy efficiency, and occupancy patterns.

AI can also identify patterns and trends in data that may escape human perception. This can reveal unexpected insights into building usage, structural optimization, and potential design solutions.

Finally, properly equipped with data and constraints, AI algorithms can generate countless design options that a human designer may not even have considered. It is Generative Design that expands the exploration of possibilities and can lead to unexpected and innovative solutions.

The Collaborative Model

The key is not to see AI as a substitute for architects, but rather as a powerful tool in their toolkit. The strength of AI and human intuition, creativity, and orchestration can work together in a collaborative model in various processes.

In defining the problem and setting goals, the architect remains essential to understanding the unique context, emotional needs, and desired experience for a project. These will thus define the problem that AI will help solve. These goals will be explored in an assisted manner, where AI generates design options, analyzes data, and reveals patterns based on the architect’s goals. This will open up new possibilities and challenge assumptions.

The architect subsequently evaluates the solutions generated by AI with a critical eye, considering not only technical feasibility but also the conceptual and emotional impact desired for the space. Refining, adapting, and rejecting options generated by AI. Using experience-based iteration, the architect can introduce unexpected elements, experiment with materials, or deliberately incorporate a “flaw” based on their design intuition and understanding of emotion. This will add a layer of depth that AI cannot replicate on its own.

3. Next Steps

The integration of AI into the architectural process is still in its infancy, but the potential is vast. Using AI as a powerful tool, architects can create buildings that are not only conceptually and aesthetically pleasing but also more functional, sustainable, and sensitive to human needs.

While AI will undoubtedly change how architects work, it

is unlikely to replace them entirely. Error and emotion are essential components within the architectural design and drawing process. They drive architects beyond mere functionality, allowing them to create spaces that not only solve problems but also resonate on a deeply human level.

AI has the potential to revolutionize how architects approach design concepts, but it cannot replace the human architect’s ability to understand emotion, accept error as part of innovation, and ultimately infuse spaces with meaning. The human touch will always be essential in architectural design, especially when it comes to creativity, empathy, and the ability to understand the nuances of the human experience.

The most successful model for the future of architecture will likely be a collaborative one, where AI amplifies the architect’s creativity and empowers them to break barriers in new ways. The future of architectural design lies in a collaborative relationship between humans and AI, where machines enhance human creativity and intuition to create truly exceptional built environments.

S+A Offices around the world

Portugal, Lisbon | Headquarters
View more

Avenida Infante Santo, 69 a-c,
1350-177 Lisboa, Portugal

+351 213 939 340

Portugal, Funchal | Office
View more

Rua 31 de Janeiro, 12E, 6º Y,
9050-011 Funchal, Portugal

+351 291 215 090

Algeria, Oran | Office
View more

Rue Beni Hendel Nº03 (ex Vaucluse), Résidence Albert 1er,
Bureau Nº 34, 1er étage, Hai Oussama,
Oran 31000, Algérie

+213 412 48 139

Brazil, São Paulo | Office
São Paulo
View more

Rua Helena 275, 7º Andar CJ 73,
Vila Olímpia, São Paulo / SP
CEP 04552 050, Brasil

+55 11 3842 7279

Colombia, Bogotá | Office
View more

Carrera 13 nº94A-44,
Oficina 406 Bogotá, Colombia

+ 57 (1) 745 79 68/9

Kazakhstan, Astana | Office
View more

18 Dostyq street, Moscow Business Center
11th Floor, Office 36.2,
010000 Astana, Kazakhstan

+7 7172 72 95 96
+7 701 910 06 31

Singapore, Singapore | Office
View more

133 Cecil Street, Nº16-01 Keck Seng Tower,
Singapore 069535

+65 987 279 82

Switzerland, Lausanne | Office
View more

Avenue d'Ouchy 66,
1006 Lausanne, Suisse

Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City | Office
Ho Chi Minh City
View more

2/F, 8 Duong so 66, The Sun Thao Dien,
District 2, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

+84 28 3620 2481

United States of America, Los Angeles | Office
Los Angeles
View more

475 Washington Blvd, Marina Del Rey,
CA 90292, United States of America

+1 310 439 3757

If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.