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Computers could take over from architects

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Architects could find themselves taking a back seat in design, following work by a University College London research student who is developing a computer programme to offer solutions to complex design problems.

Sean Hanna, who is being part-sponsored by Foster and Partners, is expanding on existing technology to create solutions to spatial problems at a social level.

Using 'machine learning' and 'optimisation' technologies, Hanna can feed examples of how people behave in spaces, such as offices, to develop a tool that will analyse and simulate proposed environments at the design stage.

This would limit any human input needed at this stage.

Hanna said: 'Using something called 'space syntax', we can analyse how people behave in a certain space. Foster and Partners used it when redesigning Trafalgar Square, to see how people would move in the space.

'What I am working on is at a much smaller level, looking at how something like an office environment affects how individuals interact, and how the design could be optimised to stimulate social interaction.'

Hanna is currently finishing the research stage of his project, and the next steps will be to test and improve the practical workings of the programme.

And although he is adamant his work is not a threat to the future of architects, he does admit he is greeted with some scepticism.

'People who are aware of space syntax and machine learning are generally very interested in the work I am doing, you do get some people who joke about architects being obsolete in the future, but some can be more dubious.

'The idea of the work is to be used as a tool for the architect, not as a replacement.'

by Richard Vaughan

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