Trends in architectural technology

Posted On 2017-05-08

Architecural Technology: How trends in technology lead to advances in architecture

According to the dictionary, the word technology is recorded as having been in use as early as the 17th century. The word derives from the Greek word tekhnologia, meaning ‘systematic treatment’, which in turn is constructed from the Greek words tekhnē ‘art, craft’ and -logia ‘study’ (see -ology). Technology, thus, is the study of making stuff.

Since the very first reed was shaped into a structural support for a hut; since the earliest rocks were piled on top of each other; or the earliest clay-based mud was shaped into a couple of bricks and converted into a wall, technology has been an integral part of architecture.

As technology changes, so does the architecture it builds. The more we understand about how things can be made, the more options we have in the making of those things … even when “those things” are buildings. In fact, some would say especially when those things are buildings.

What’s new in architectural technology?

We’re right in the heart of the age of technology, with new innovations proliferating more than they ever have at any other point in history before. In recent years, the field of architecture has been enhanced with a wide range of mind-blowing developments.

Generative Design

Wikipedia, that web-based repository of wisdom, describes generative designs as:

‘Generative design is a form-finding process that can mimic nature’s evolutionary approach to design. It can start with design goals and then explore innumerable possible permutations of a solution to find the best option… Typically, generative design has:

  • design

  • A means of creating variations.

  • A means of selecting desirable outcomes.’

Essentially, generative design is design made – well, beautiful. Simple (ish). Clean. Design software is taking its cue from nature and making it natural for designers (and their programmes and drawings) to learn and grow with the changing needs of what they’re making.

And it’s beautifully fast.

As Autodesk’s website explains:

 ‘Designers or engineers input design goals into generative design software, along with parameters such as materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. Then, using cloud computing, the software explores all the possible permutations of a solution, quickly generating design alternatives. It tests and learns from each iteration what works and what doesn’t.’

Just a few of the growing number of benefits include:

  • A wider range of options;
  • The ability to design what used to be impossible; and
  • Easy optimisation of both materials and methods.

Think eco-friendly, cost-effective, and quick.

In his TEDx Talk, architect Michael Hansmeyer describes this new approach to architectural design as an opportunity to build unimaginable shapes. Unimaginable … until now. He goes on to show the role of technology in these new creations.

Watch the talk here:

The tools are already here. Autodesk’s Dynamo is a  Building Information Modeling (BIM) tool that solves complex design problems through computation. It is available for free as a plug-in in Autodesk® Revit®, and as a desktop subscription for the standalone environment of Dynamo Studio.

Autodesk has created a helpful infographic to demonstrate what the evolution of generative design means for us in practical terms:



Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

Technology has the potential to amplify and advance our abilities and make it possible for us to solve challenges we’ve never faced before. Maurice Conti discusses the role of both human beings and technology, working together, to understand and solve real-world challenges. What’s more, he shows how the devices we create can actually feedback on their use:

  • Is something broken?
  • Does it work the way it was intended?
  • Are the users of the item pleased to use it?

‘We could go from making people want our stuff, to just making stuff that people want in the first place.’ – Maurice Conti

Conti’s TEDx talk describes what happens when you give an AI a nervous system, allow it to perform a function (eg: drive a car), and then ask it to design a better version. The result? Something a human brain, unaugmented, would never have come up with.


Vincent Callebaut calls himself an archibiotect. He coined this term to sum up his work using architecture and biology together to create life sustaining living and working solutions for the planet.

In a clever story that describes the impact of his Aequorea Research and Development from the perspective of one of its inhabitants from the future, he tells of how the idea began, how he imagines it being fleshed out, and how this synergy of man-made construction and the life it feeds off will be the logical solution to a world that, right now, seems to be destroying itself.

His creative designs are beautiful and inspiring. Their methods for sustaining themselves are the stuff of genius. In fact, he seems to have thought of everything. You can read the full story here.


Autodesk says it best: Let’s transform the way things are designed, made, and used.

“Manufacturing isn’t just about design, printing, or engineering. It isn’t even about 3D printing. It’s about closing the gap between physical and digital; between possible and real. The future of making things is now.”

What do YOU think is 2017’s top architecture trend? Let us know. We’d love to hear about your experiences. Got questions? Drop us a line. We’re here to help you make things better than ever.

Trends in architectural technology

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