In Part I of our Trailblazers interview, Dylan Brady, conductor of Decibel Architecture, discusses how innovation in architecture is often connected to technology and explores the biggest hurdles to innovation.
In Part II, Brady shares how encouraging a sense of play within his team helps spark innovation. He also reviews emerging technologies and shares how AI and machine learning should be deployed, not to replace designers, but rather, to enhance our ways of seeing.
Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director, innovation officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, leads the conversation.
DB: We give people permission to play. Play is one of our core values because it’s both joyful and fun, but also technical, compelling excellence as reached by a champion tennis player or a concert pianist.
Play is simultaneously driven and structured, wild and free. It’s within this fecund combination of expertise, enablement, exploration, and experimentation that a true culture of innovation can be founded. We seek to instill in our people a deep understanding of our purpose because this gives courage to ideas.
We are not afraid to fail and change and play it again. I lead in this by using humour and comedy as a technique to lower barriers to let others reveal their own inner wonderings without fear of ridicule.
DB: I am fascinated by the growth in technology that helps us tell stories. I was lucky enough to be in one of the last generations of architects taught to draft by hand, or ‘Pen 1.0’ as I refer to it.
This skill is highly immediate and transferable, enabling me to speak to other people whose verbal language I do not comprehend, and for us to carry out meaningful communication in highly technical and creative spheres.
Image: Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, Singapore
I applaud the burgeoning tech focused on drawing directly into computers in both hardware and software, such as the Microsoft Surface, Mental Canvas, Tilt Brush, etc. These technologies all weave old school hand skills into cutting edge tech, sidestepping the requirement to have a continuously updated knowledge of dramatically powerful software.
I am thrilled by the blending of ancient crafts and new materials to deliver unheard of properties with a myriad of applications, like combining looms and weaving with robotics and carbon fibre.
I am also excited by the potential for new ways of seeing, including data, analytics, VR and AR, that for the first time remove the requirement for line of sight and perception of time in visual exploration. Unlike using cameras, telescopes and microscopes, we no longer need to be in direct line of sight to observe, nor are we bound to look at things within a steady and constant flow of time.
We can speed things up or slow them down to reveal new understandings of change and trends. These tools give me hope that the poets and artists among us might reveal some insight and truths that truly transform the world.
DB: A lot of what we hear about today is focused on the technical delivery and outputs focus in innovation. Automating repetitious process is a no brainer because it clears the day for humans to think about better things. Unfortunately, it’s the investment in those better things that sadly lies comparatively fallow.
Our industry must regard AI as a new tool for seeing things we mere humans cannot. It is a filter and ordering network that can analyse and assemble data at speeds and volumes incomprehensible to a human mind.
In this revelation of information, AI and machine learning enhance our ability to deliver compelling and exceptional design outcomes. I am not interested in some bumbling AI programme that can do a billion permutations of a single bedroom flat. That’s just like a million monkeys in a room typing forever.
Image: Australian Pavilion 2005 World Expo, Aichi, Japan
AI and machine learning should be deployed not to replace designers, but to enhance our ways of seeing. For example, analytics of population data, transport optimisation, energy use, food production and wastage, satellite mapping of land use and water systems, and ocean health and carbon sequestration feed us pictures and information.
Analytics empower us to see through different eyes with fresh perspectives. We can recognise unseen patterns and trends that help us enhance our impact for the better.
We should be using the lens of AI as a mirror to see our world afresh—and to learn about ourselves and this ecology we are immersed in—so that we can do our very best to form an alignment with nature. We must work together to maintain this 1000 meter thick bubble of life stuck to the surface of a magnetic rock for as long as we can.
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Read more Trailblazers posts here.