The digital atrophy of classic architectural authorship

The paper examines the gradual shift that has occurred in architectural authorship with the introduction of digital intelligent tools that aid in the process of creation and production of architectural space.

By examining the nature of digital architectural design tools starting from their very beginning in the second half of the twentieth century, one can observe a certain pattern of transfer of both capabilities and decision, in the process of creation, from the designer towards the artificial intelligence of the machine. This transfer has rendered the software instrument, the driving will behind the power of the computer, into a veritable extension of the human intellect. This of course, has empowered architects, as well as other professions, to extend the reach of the architectural art and science to previously undreamt extents. Looking at the nature of the architectural software tool in its numerous declinations(the CAD program, the plug-ins, the script, a difference between the instrumental nature of the traditional facilitators of architectural design (like the drawing instruments and medium, pen and paper) and the new digital ones becomes evident.

This paper aims to show that the gradual departure from the muted neutrality of the tradition towards the empowering new abilities gained through the digital shift has both immense advantages but also pitfalls that need to be navigated with skill and wisdom. To achieved that, a brief recourse to the history of architectural creation with regard to the digital shift will be made. This will help to prove that architectural authorship connected to the architectural notation (digital or analog) has always been in question, well before the first real applications of computers in the creation of architectural space. Secondly looking into the nature of the new digital architectural tools and especially into those belonging to the new digital wave, we need to acknowledge and accept that the extended ability to design, now ubiquitous throughout the profession, comes at a price. The architect, now user of digital tools, produces designs that are (in some cases) more the result of the particular instruments used than of the architect's own creativity. This raises the question of shared authorship of the architectural design with the creators of architectural tools.

In the paper some typologies of digital architectural creation, with various degrees of shared authorship are analyzed and discussed. For a better understanding of the changes arising from the deeper integration of algorithmic tools and thinking into the architectural design and workflow the paper looks into the phases of architectural authorship of the design.