- Spacemaker AI is a cloud-based platform using AI and generative design to optimize urban developments.
- Founded in 2016, rapidly grew with funding, awards, and employee expansion.
- Acquired by Autodesk in 2020 for $240 million, strengthening its position in AI-driven design solutions.
It is truly an AI world now. Be it to write essays for your college assignments or to cheer up your mood. AI Bots are trending and making debatable arguments among individuals in this society.
Being a pursuer of an Urban Designer Degree, I understand how struggling it is to approach a site and deliver it to the client as per their wishes. It's not like we are Santa Claus right? Or wait maybe WE CAN?
Just like any AI Platform i.e. ChatGpt, or upcoming Bard, Spacemaker AI is one of those but under the spectrum of design.
According to Standard boring definitions - Spacemaker AI is a cloud-based platform that utilizes artificial intelligence and generative design to assist architects, urban planners, and real estate developers in optimizing and exploring design options for urban developments.
In simpler words, it's like having a whole team of genius architects inside a computer!
But wait, what happened to old-school techniques of using tracings, coloring open spaces and figuring built vs. open, understanding the sun path diagram, and much more analytics? No, we are not saying goodbye to them or replacing them. So the question that arises in my mind is why do we need it?
In, February 2019, a student, Stanislas Chaillou, from Harvard University wrote an article “The Advent of Architectural AI” which focused on how architecture has gone through inventions and innovations. In his article, a timeline was included that helped me to crack the necessity of AI, in this field.
As one can understand there is a significant development within the segments of Modularity up till Parametricism, which confirms that modern structures require modern techniques just like modern problems require modern solutions. That's how Artificial Intelligence became a part of architecture and not the other way around.
As I mentioned above, we as designers, are sometimes afraid that our approach towards any site or study becomes monotonous and somehow forgets the main purpose or aspect to be taken care of.
For example, if there is an empty site given with specific mentions of the structure from the client’s end, our first approach would usually be to check out the area, analyze the climate, fit in the requirements, and later get into the detailed intricacies of the spatial design.
Or maybe the other way around. Well, yes the approaches are endless but sometimes it’s hard to maintain a checklist, in fact, two - one for the architect that responds to the context and the other that responds to the client’s requirement. The founding story of Spacemaker AI is also based on the same segment.
So how did it all begin?
Once upon a blueprint-laden time, Håvard Haukeland, an architect, found himself struggling with the complexions and compulsions of an urban development project. He desperately wanted to explore different design options that fit the project's rules and goals, but traditional design processes were not helping him at all! Why?
Because, according to him they were slow and somehow mundane as well. They left him feeling like a fish with no company, unable to go deep. The pen-paper made him feel restricted in the world of computers and graphic cards.
That’s when this amazing idea of involving artificial intelligence struck his mind. Later, Haukeland teamed up with Carl Christensen, an expert in machine learning, and Anders Kvale, an architect and urban planner.
This Triputi Team founded Spacemaker AI in 2016, with the intent to hold superpowers. This means - by using the superpowers of Spacemaker AI, these amazing designers can speculate and propose urban developments.
No one can stop them from making optimized sustainable solutions concerning design projects almost as if the jigsaw puzzle is about to get finished. But above all that, the collection of these puzzle pieces is way more interesting
The Journey of Spacemaker AI has been quite a learning process for all of us right from 2017 - 2020.
In 2017, they received 15 million Norwegian kroner in funding and started a research project with SINTEF. They also attracted 100 clients to their prototype design experimentation, and their CEO, Håvard Haukeland, was nominated as the top leadership talent in Norway.
They were recognized as one of the most innovative start-ups by Hello Tomorrow. In 2018, they hired their first full-time employee and explored opportunities for recruitment and learning at Harvard and MIT.
In 2019, they won the Start-up of the Year award in Norway and secured Series A funding of $25 million. Finally, in 2020, Spacemaker AI was acquired by Autodesk for a substantial sum of $240 million.
The 115-person Spacemaker team along with Triputi enabled the users to utilize the platform based on a mantra that is “generate, optimize, and iterate on.” It is because this whole system of Architecture + AI functions on a very simple formula that an individual can understand.
The Software provides - Zoning, Laws, and Physical Environment
The users provide - Quality Preferences and Market Preferences
When these two provisions are summed up and processed by the AI Engine, the outputs would consist of the best proposals with all the criteria taken care of.
Yes, it does seem that Spacemaker AI is providing solutions but it doesn't. It is a medium that instigates ideas in one’s head and gives them a lead towards their approach to the design.
I feel it is important to understand that Spacemaker is that gift from Santa for the designers so that we can be Santa Claus for our clients. How good or bad of a Santa Claus we are, totally depends on the way we use it.
My fellow designers, tell me honestly, aren't you tired of using millions of applications and software like climate consultant, rhino and Grasshopper, Illustrator, etc.? I am!
Now Imagine a world where designers can tap into the infinite creativity of Spacemaker AI. Together, they can build cities that are not only breathtakingly beautiful but also incredibly smart, sustainable, and filled with possibilities.
It's like all-for-one software. Trust me, the industry is expanding and the future of us is brighter than ever.
It is critical to understand the thin-line border of using AI and plagiarizing it under the fear of not coming up with the best, or getting replaced by the same tool.
The founder of the company rightly stated in an interview with DN, in September 2019, “…we do not believe artificial intelligence will replace the architect. But it might be that architects who use artificial intelligence could replace architects who do not.”
This is because, Architecture or Space Design or Urban Design, is much greater than a few technical and environmental concepts - it is a lot more about the emotions and coexistence of the structure’s language, the client’s language, and also the designer’s.
An automated set of proposals from the software cannot snatch away the integrity of the industry but a smart employee utilizing the new tech opportunity would surely make wonders and gain the same integrity. Let's make a smart choice by being wise.
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Edited by Shruti Thapa