As many of you know, in addition to my duties
as President of SAH/SCC, I also sit on the board of the Neutra Institute for Survival
Through Design. Recently, the Institute received a proposal to use original Neutra
designs to generate new projects through artificial intelligence (AI) that would
be “in the Neutra style.” Debate ensued among board members, using terms such as
“disturbing,” “alarming,” and “inevitable.”
take is this: architecture, and especially modern architecture, is the application
of a set of ideas toward solving a series of problems, which then results in unique
and enriching spatial experiences. It is not a “style”—much to the chagrin of realtors.
role of architects should be about evolving from past ideas, finding inspiration
in new ones, and applying them to today’s problems. When architecture merely apes
a style, I would counter that you do not have true architecture at all.
AI to replicate Neutra’s “style” is both intellectually dishonest and offensive
to the ideas he and other modern architects championed. Neutra is way more than
a brand to be exploited, and that is what efforts like these are attempting to do.
the Secretary of the Interior has not yet weighed in on AI that I know of, the spirit
of not creating a false sense of history for future generations and honoring the
authenticity of the architect’s work is, I believe, an essential value that the
Neutra Institute should embrace and espouse. As my work with architect Bill Krisel,
AIA, taught me, you can’t keep the greedy developers from ripping off your good
designs, but you can speak out against it, and definitely not embrace it.
counter argument posits that it is going to happen anyway, so accept and ignore
it. It seems to me that the American Institute of Architects should be taking this
on now and getting ahead of the issue, much in the way the Writer’s Guild of America
is making AI use and abuse a key negotiation point in the current strike (at press
time, still not resolved). It is unclear if these efforts are happening in a meaningful
way in architecture.
current architects who may not care much about protecting the work of those who
have passed, I challenge you with this simple notion: you are next. Why not take
matters into your own hands now?