The Role Of Modern Technology In The Revival Of Traditional Architecture

The Role Of Modern Technology In The Revival Of Traditional Architecture

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When can old be new? This is not a riddle, but an
important question in the field of architecture, where architects
are using new tools to create traditional buildings that are built
to last.

Traditional architecture

Traditional architecture refers to the design and construction
of buildings that are rooted in long-established cultural and
historical norms. Unlike its post-war modernist counterpart which
focusses on functionalism and minimalism, traditional architecture
prioritises the use of design elements and aesthetic details that
have been passed down through the generations.

In recent times, traditional architecture is having a
renaissance, as more and more people realise the sustainability
benefits of such an approach. While modernist architecture uses
concrete materials and fad designs that are to be replaced every
few decades, traditional architecture favours the use of local
materials and timeless designs to construct buildings for
posterity.

Examples of new traditional buildings in London include the
RAF Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park
, and the Richmond Riverside rejuvenation project. The
Poundbury project in Dorset has become
renowned for its use of traditional design; it was a major project
of the then Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) on land owned by
the Duchy of Cornwall.

However, traditional forms of building, while on the one hand
sustainable, can also be expensive and time-consuming to build, and
the skills required for construction are often in short supply. In
particular, traditional architecture often involves ornamentation
and construction methods that are not easily reproduced at
scale.

The good news is that these old challenges are now being
addressed by new technologies.

3D printing

One exciting solution to these problems is by way of 3D
printing.

A New York studio called EDG, for example, has been using 3D
printing to both restore and recreate intricate details in historic
buildings – as reported on 3Dprintingindustry.com. According to the
report, EDG uses 3D printed plastic moulds to produce architectural
features on site: “3D scanning old parts allows the company to
create moulds for even the most intricate parts, including
Corinthian columns, colonnades, cornices and whole
facades.”

James Rose, Director of the Institute for Smart Structures at
the University of Tennessee recently argued that “3D printing will
transform architecture forever” and that large-scale additive
manufacturing could have as big an impact as the development of the
steel frame in the 1880s. “I can foresee a future in which
buildings are built entirely from recycled materials or materials
sourced on-site,” he has written.

Artificial Intelligence

When it comes to AI tools, architects are using neural network text-to-image systems (such as
Midjourney, DALL-E and Stable Diffusion) to design buildings and
decorative features. This software can create highly realistic
renderings very efficiently, and these can be shown to clients at
an early stage of the project, providing greater visibility and
enabling the early resolution of potential issues.

Another architect has coined the term “AI Classicism” to
use AI to apply the rules and proportions of classical styles of
architecture and integrate them into building designs. They argue
that this would make design more efficient, freeing up resources
for construction and craftsmanship: “By eliminating much of
the time-consuming design process, knowledge and skills could be
more widely disseminated, making classicism more accessible. The
argument that classical architecture is inefficient and too
expensive may well become a thing of the past.”

Other architectural firms that are exploring the potential of AI
include Zaha Hadid Analytics + Insights (ZHAI), part of Zaha Hadid
Architects, which focuses on workplace design. According to a
recent interview in the New York Times, the firm uses
AI to design more pleasant and individual office buildings, which
better suit the needs of workers post-pandemic. Architect Ulrich
Blum told the newspaper that ZHAI has a computer tool that can come
up with 100,000 designs for a building’s interior in 27 hours
(an architect would have to produce 40 drawings a day for a decade
to match its output).

So can these new methods be protected by patents?

Even if the problem is old, if there is a new (and non-obvious)
technical solution, then patent protection will be available. At
Keltie, we have many years of experience in analysing the
patentability of new inventions, and can advise on whether it would
be best to take the patent route, or whether your creation would be
better protected in other ways, such as by trade secrets or even
registered designs.

When the patent route is taken for an invention in a field like
traditional architecture, it is essential to tailor the patent
application in view of that field, making sure to emphasise the new
ways in which the old questions are addressed without
unintentionally making the invention appear obvious. At Keltie, we
place a great deal of importance on getting the patent application
right at the drafting stage so as to mitigate the risks of running
into difficulties with demonstrating patentability later on.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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