At the forefront of an emerging AI revolution, a new generation of Chinese firms is challenging traditional architectural practices, signaling a significant shift in the global architectural landscape. Among them, XKool, a groundbreaking AI architectural firm, is making waves.
Disillusioned by what they perceived as an outmoded approach to architecture, Wanyu He and her former colleagues from OMA, the architectural practice led by Rem Koolhaas, founded XKool in 2016. They were driven by a vision to revolutionize the conventional design and construction processes which they saw as traditional and bereft of innovation.
The genesis of XKool — which describes itself as a “one-stop AI-powered Architecture Platform” that “empowers the architecture industry with data-driven solutions for design, construction, and management” — was inspired by AlphaGo, the first computer program to defeat a human champion at the Chinese board game Go in 2016. “What if we could introduce this intelligence to our way of working with algorithmic design?” He pondered, and thus, XKool was born. He argues that the existing CAD (Computer Aided Design) and BIM (Building Information Modeling) systems, which date back to the 70s and 90s respectively, are ripe for disruption.
With the advent of cloud computing and big data, XKool is harnessing these technologies to innovate architectural design. XKool’s AI-centric platform facilitates all aspects of architectural design, ranging from generating masterplan layouts that conform to daylight requirements, space standards, and local planning regulations, to crafting interiors and construction details. One of its innovative tools can transform a 2D image of a building into a 3D model and convert a list of room sizes into floor plans.
The company is experiencing rapid growth, with over 50,000 users in China and recently launched an English version of its image-to-image AI tool, LookX.
Despite its early stages, XKool’s disruptive approach suggests a future where AI significantly impacts how buildings are designed and constructed. Some critics suggest that the resulting designs may still appear somewhat robotic or unnatural.
However, as technology evolves, the fusion of AI and human creativity promises a radical transformation in the field of architecture. Despite this, questions about the role of AI in architecture persist, particularly around the potential loss of the human touch.
While critics argue that AI may lack the emotional sensibility architects bring to their work, proponents view AI as an asset, not a replacement. They suggest AI could handle the more technical aspects of design, allowing architects to focus on the creative and human-centric elements. This debate will undoubtedly continue as technology evolves and its impact becomes more profound.
Chinese AI firms like XKool are participating in a global architectural revolution, but their role in leading this revolution is still under debate. Will Chinese AI firms like XKool be at the forefront of this global revolution or are they just one aspect of a broader shift in architecture, not necessarily led by China, but with Chinese firms as a key participant?