idea #031: Byte-Size Architecture
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Rapid professional design at a small scale.
When I graduated with my architectural degree back in 2008, it was a rough time for the profession. There was no work. I remember hearing a story of an unemployed architect setting up a lemonade stand to sell his services. 'Will design your home for $.05'. Either this was ingenuity at its finest, or just a sad byproduct of the times and burdens of the profession.
It's come a ways in the last decade, but architecture is still viewed more as a romantic idea than something that should be pursued in everyday life. This is a function of access and utility for the most part. There are financial barriers for an individual to use architectural services and the majority of home building is done by developers who employ architects mainly for economic purposes. Those who can afford thoughtful design choose to not pay for it, and those who want thoughtful design can't pay for it. Is there a middle road here somewhere?
To illustrate this a bit more, one of my good friends just bought his first house. I know, huge milestone. We were having a discussion on what he should do in his backyard. Right now, it's a completely empty space with a detached garage. He has a lot of ideas - gathering and dining space, a pool, covered patio, area for kids...many options. The architect in me immediately kicked in, started sketching out possible ideas. Let's do a breezeway. Let's see what a dip pool looks like here. Now, you see, we can bisect the area into a public and private space for family or for gathering. So what does he do to move this forward? How about someone with an even smaller project, like decorating an apartment? Hire an architect for an added fee? Hire a design/build contractor with less design purpose? Both come with compromises but I don't believe they have to.
Enter technology. We're at an interesting time for innovation in the design/construction space. So far, it has mainly been surface level improvements (e.g. Houzz) or solutions that are more for the construction team (e.g. PlanGrid), and overall not so much that is useful to the individual consumer.
I believe there is opportunity to offer DIY design powered primarily by machine learning and computer vision. Basically, upload a photo or video of your space, put in dimensions, answer some questions and presto....out comes several design options with all of the products, paint colors, furniture to match a budget. For larger projects, you may be able to produce preliminary design for say, a home renovation or addition, and be connected to professionals that specialize in the style or budget closest to yours.
If this sounds nuts, it's not. Higharc is offering a DIY custom home design...now, I don't love the idea of displacing architects at all, or making that your battle cry. This is the wrong end of the value chain to look for disruption, and just because you CAN produce a design for a custom home without professionals doesn't mean that it is fit for purpose ie. designed well.
If anything, technology should empower talented and rare human capital, especially of the creative sort. I would look at ways for architects to democratize and scale their design principles, almost as a code library, for the DIY design engine to operate. Scalable monetization of a design element or entire home. Why not. Perhaps I've worked this idea into a better one???
While you're here, listen to something new.