Immersed in a digital age there is an aura of the untouchable as we seek to fathom our relationship with technology. The newly curated Artificial Intelligence – enabling machines to learn exhibition at Arup’s office at No.8 Fitzroy Street, aims to raise awareness of what Artificial Intelligence with Machine Learning is today, of its challenges and promises for tomorrow, and what this means for the individual, industry and society at large. Alvise Simondetti from Arup’s Foresight, Research and Innovation team, as Guest Curator suggests, “The exhibition goes beyond common place clichés and truly explores the reality of AI with Machine Learning”. 

Humankind has successfully created intelligence, this time artificially, powered by the ability to consume real-world data. And power is the optimal word, as this is only made possible by having access to exponentially growing computer power. Working together, humans and computers can make the impossible possible ” Alvise Simondetti, Arup Alvise Simondetti Global Leader, Arup Explores

The designers

Arup’s Lighting Design team was integral to the Artificial Intelligence – enabling machines to learn exhibition. Melissa Mak, Senior Designer, was engaged to create an overarching design for the exhibit. This includes the generative optimisation modelling carried out to distribute artefacts and interaction stations designed by Nicola Rigoni. The development of the interiors and custom fixtures including the lighting design of the suspended circular luminaires were designed by Alex Bourganou.

Delivering this project was extremely challenging given the time pressures to curate the space in time for the Buildings London Client Summer Party, when “The DNA of Making” was unveiled. Melissa Mak worked with the wider team, including Francesco Anselmo. Francesco has developed the interaction design, programming and setting out of cameras and AI controlled light fixtures together with Arup’s Ben Hussey and Lucas Broux. Francesco's interactive designs are featured prominently in the exhibition especially his work on the All About the Desk. Francesco is one of Arup’s most influential interactive designers engaged in the digital transformation of the built environment. 

Arup is also presenting a “poster” that focuses on the challenges of AI with Machine Learning. This shows how it is possible to use computational design optimisation to “fool” a Machine Learning computer vision into recognising an object from what seems a completely random pattern. This concept was proposed by Giulio Antonutto, Vincent Kan and Santiago Torres, all talented designers from the Lighting Design team. The idea suggests that as Descartes questioned the human interpretation of reality through sensory perception, we should similarly question the machine's intelligence interpretation of reality through data. As we venture towards a future where the application of machine intelligence becomes ever more prevalent in our daily lives, we should remember that neither humans nor machines are infallible.

[email protected] competition

Leading the field in digital innovation within the built environment, the experimental [email protected] competition illustrates how collaboration amongst emerging designers, across all sectors and disciplines can lead to an exploration of new technologies and techniques.  

The winning entry for 2017 proved no different and following in the footsteps of The Splinter, Balls, Sentiment Cocoon, and Heart of Arup, “The DNA of Making”, designed by Arthur Mamou-Mani captured the imagination of the jury. Curated within the Artificial Intelligence – enabling machines to learn exhibition, “The DNA of Making” is a perfect illustration of how the construction industry will evolve and embrace the potential that machine learning has to offer. 

The theme

The theme

The theme for 2017 was a simple one. To showcase the process of design and manufacture. Titled “The Story of Making” the brief invited participants to contextualise their concepts by the Circular Economy. 

DNA of making

Anytime there is a push in technology there is so much to understand and figure out that boundaries between the professions do not work anymore. Instead comes constant empirical loops of design and failure iterations, maybe when looking back to the great cathedrals and pyramids, there is a moment in time when there is so much to discover ” Arthur Mamou-Mani Architect

Watch the video of the winning entry of [email protected] competition.

It was immediately clear that this was not “a design” yet a thought provoking piece about “Making” in the digital age. Viewing construction as the assembly of “offsite” fabricated building components is slowly becoming the norm, and though automation is well developed in all steps prior to site, the final step is currently far removed from the digital process. The [email protected] installation is a tool to engage intellectually with all in our industry, and very directly for designers who are invited to send in designs so that dozens of projects can be assembled and dismantled, here in our office over the coming months ” Francis Archer Francis Archer Project Director, Arup

The DNA of Making. Credit: Arup. The DNA of Making. Credit: Arup.
The theme for 2017 showcases the process of design and manufacture.

In the global race towards automation the use of robots in the manufacturing process has significantly increased over the last few decades. The use of fixed arm robots in car making is well established and common place across the industry. These static, fixed arm robots have slowly been introduced into the construction process on small scale projects and pavilion type buildings. However, these are limited to what they can construct by the length of their flexible arm and fixed position. A more flexible, dynamic and responsive solution is required. One possible answer is cable robots. ” Andrew Edge Andrew Edge Senior Architect, Arup

Through pioneering projects, Arup seeks to combine Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with human intellect to help solve the most difficult challenges and to create new forms of value. 

We are living in the age of the digital revolution. With the Internet of Things, Open Source and the World Wide Web, I believe we are now at the cusp of where AI and Machine Learning will begin to transform our industry ” Nigel Tonks is a Director of Arup and leads Buildings London Nigel Tonks Director of Arup and leads Buildings London