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Harmonizing Architecture: From Renaissance Masters to AI-Driven Design

Dity Ayalon AIA, SARA (Founder & CEO, ArkDesign.AI) 

Published on December 07, 2023

Thank you ArchDaily for featuring the ArkDesign.AI story in the article titled “From Renaissance Masters to AI-Driven Design.” The project in the article was designed by Fariba Makooi, AIA, the principal of Fischer + Makooi Architects. Recognized as one of the premier architects in multifamily development in New York City, her firm consistently designs millions of square feet of housing each year and holds a prominent position in the The Real Deal ranking of leading architects in NYC.

The world of architecture is a captivating fusion of artistic expression and scientific precision. My journey in the realm of architecture started with a profound exploration of its rich history. It was the awe-inspiring works of Renaissance masters that propelled me onto a transformative trajectory, guiding me toward harnessing the immense potential of artificial intelligence and algorithms in architectural design.

A Young Architect in Florence

At the tender age of 22, I embarked on a journey that would forever shape my perspective. Leaving my homeland behind, I pursued my architectural studies at The University of Florence in Italy. It was in this ancient institute and city that my fascination with architectural history took root and blossomed. Within the hallowed halls of the university, surrounded by the enduring architectural masterpieces of the Renaissance, I felt as though I had been transported back in time. The works of luminaries such as Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, and Leon Battista Alberti became my guiding stars in navigating the labyrinthine world of architecture.

Alberti’s Pursuit of Harmony 

My research delved deeply into the pioneering theories of Leon Battista Alberti, a true Renaissance polymath. Alberti’s quest to uncover the fundamental harmony that underpins both visual perception and music was nothing short of revelatory. He explored the intricate relationships between what the human eye perceives as harmonious and what the human ear discerns as harmonious. The result was a profound connection between the mathematical regularities inherent in visual forms and compositions and those found in the realm of music.

Courtesy to Dity Ayalon/Arkdesign.Ai

Palazzo Rucellai in Florence is the manifestation of Alberti’s theories. Alberti studied carefully the combinations between the elements of the elevations so that the relationship between them would recall the harmonic musical ratios that he set forth in De re aedificatoria, in which he outlines the correspondence between architectural proportions and harmonic musical ratios. In spite of the myriad difficulties of establishing whether these speculations had indeed any concrete effect on architecture, it is clear that Alberti’s theory is not the result of individual reflection, based solely on the classical sources that Alberti himself explicitly cites in his treatise, but rather is the culmination of an age-old tradition of thought that, during the whole era of the Middle Ages, had deepened the study of the symbolic and expressive value of harmonic ratios.

Alberti’s multidisciplinary approach to investigation mirrored the essence of the Renaissance itself. He seamlessly melded disciplines such as art, human physiology, science, architecture, and mathematics, applying insights from one field to enrich another. This multifaceted perspective resonated deeply within me and would later serve as a cornerstone of my architectural journey.

The Squinting Technique, or, Bridging Art and Architecture In NYC

Years after my time in Florence, I ventured to the bustling metropolis of New York City to further nurture my artistic inclinations. At the National Academy of Design, I had the privilege of studying under the tutelage of accomplished artists such as Nicky Orbach, Henry Finkelstein, and Sharon Sprung. It was during these intensive painting sessions that I stumbled upon profound insights that would prove transformative.

Sharon Sprung, a renowned realistic painter in the heart of NYC, imparted to me a simple yet invaluable technique: squinting. Squinting at the life model we were painting revealed an entirely new world of compositions, shapes, colors, and interrelationships between surfaces. As a result of squinting at life models, we were able to simplify the complexity of real life into shapes, compositions, and relationships that could be applied to a canvas or a 2D surface. This technique, deceptively straightforward, would later become instrumental in my journey to develop algorithms and planning methodologies for architectural design.

Architecture Meets Math, Al and Art

As I delved deeper into my architectural career, the stark contrast between the creative freedom of art and the manual, non-standardized practices still prevalent in architecture and construction became increasingly evident. The repetitive nature and inefficiencies inherent in the process were impossible to ignore. The limitations of manual labor, coupled with the adverse effects on profitability for my real estate developer clients and the comfort of future occupants, prompted me to embark on extensive research.

Returning to the wisdom of the Renaissance masters, particularly Leon Battista Alberti and his theories on harmonic principles, I sought patterns and rhythms that could be translated into mathematical equations. These equations held the potential to dissect the essence of the design process into its constituent stages and components. I started by analyzing hundreds of floor plans. Applying the squinting method I learned from the masters of NYC painting, I uncovered and defined the shapes, compositions, and relationships between these elements. Then, inspired by Alberti’s interdisciplinary theories, I and my team developed an Al-based system for the schematic design process, rendering it dramatically more efficient and profitable for real estate clients, architects, inhabitants, and the environment. This approach has the potential to substantially optimize the utilization of air rights in our cities, making our cities more efficiently designed and assisting in providing more housing per square foot in our urban areas for our exponentially growing urban population and, hopefully, preserving more untouched green areas for a more sustainable future.

Harmonizing Architecture: From Renaissance Masters to Al-Driven Design - Image 3 of 3
Courtesy to Dity Ayalon/Arkdesign.Ai

The Renaissance Reimagined in the Age of Al

The spirit of the Renaissance masters continues to inspire. Their relentless pursuit of knowledge across diverse disciplines, now prominently including Al, coupled with their ability to blend these disciplines into new forms of expression, serves as a beacon for those of us determined to push the boundaries of architectural design.

By marrying the wisdom of the past with the boundless possibilities of the future, we are poised to usher in a new era of architecture. In this era, art, science, and technology will coexist harmoniously, promising a brighter future for our industry and the world it shapes. As we bridge the gap between tradition and innovation, we honor the legacy of the Renaissance masters and embark on a journey of creative exploration and transformation.

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