Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Manas Bhatia has a bold vision of the future — residential skyscrapers filled with trees, plants and algae acting as “air purification towers”.

In a series of detailed drawings, a New Delhi-based architect and computational designer has brought the idea to life. The imaginary building is depicted towering over a futuristic metropolis, its curvature inspired by the shape of found in nature.

But the pictures are not entirely his own imagination.

Architect's conceptual tower created using AI imaging software.

Architect’s conceptual tower created using AI imaging software. Credit: Courtesy of Manas Bhatia

For his conceptual project, “AI x Future Cities,” Bhatia turned to artificial intelligence imaging tool Midjourney, which generates complex images based on written clues. Using a series of text descriptions — featuring phrases such as “futuristic towers”, “utopian technology”, “symbiosis”, and “bioluminescent materials” — Midjourney produced a series of digital images that Bhatia further altered by honing his clues.

Bhatia says it can take up to 20 minutes to create each surreal artwork. He perfected his description nearly 100 times per project, editing and adding text until he reached the desired result before cleaning up the image using Photoshop.

“The trial-and-error part is the most fun,” the architect said over the phone. “We use AI to create images and, in the process, AI trains itself and improves over time.”

Bhatia also asked the AI ​​software to imagine a residential tower built on a tree, which continues to grow over time.

Bhatia also asked the AI ​​software to imagine a residential tower built on a tree, which continues to grow over time. Credit: Courtesy of Manas Bhatia

In another project, titled “Symbiotic Architecture,” Bhatia envisions a future where buildings are made of living materials. Using clues such as “giant” and “empty”, he produces images of what he calls a “utopian future” where apartments form inside trees the size of redwoods.

He said it was inspired by Hyperion, a 380-foot redwood in California that is considered the world’s tallest living tree. But he also draws his own day-to-day work at Indian architectural firm Ant Studio, whose projects include retrofitting buildings with new facades to encourage natural ventilation and reduce energy consumption.

“The inspiration (is the idea) of the building ‘skin’ being organic and inspired by nature, and how evaporative cooling and transpiration occur so that (the towers can) regulate their own temperature throughout the day,” said Bhatia adding: “If we can make building materials into organic, and to live and grow, buildings can ventilate themselves through this natural process.”


Bhatia’s “Symbionic Architecture” project was inspired by a giant redwood tree. Credit: Courtesy of Manas Bhatia

The recent popularity of AI imaging tools such as OpenAI DALL-E 2 and Google Research Picture has raised new questions about creativity and artistic integrity.
Last month, Colorado game designer Jason M. Allen controversially won $300 in art competition with futuristic Renaissance-style images created using Midjourney. While some social media users and artists expressed their disapproval of Allen’s method, the designer said that his submission – which took more than 80 hours to produce – qualifies as a work of digital art.

For Bhatia, AI is just another tool. “Art is completely open to interpretation,” he said. “And an artist can use any tool available to create art. Anyone can use AI, but they won’t be able to achieve good results as a creative person.”

Architects believe AI will be used more widely in the design world.

Architects believe AI will be used more widely in the design world. Credit: Courtesy of Manas Bhatia

By producing something beyond the user’s imagination, it can spark new ideas and enrich the design process, added the architect. He even envisions a future where AI can generate 3D designs and be integrated into the software architects use to model their creations.

“It has tremendous potential,” he said. “In our studio we tried to use AI to generate mood board images for client presentations, and it went really well… In the near future, architects and designers combined with AI will be something to look forward to.”

By Blanca

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