We “Designed” Buildings Using an AI Image Generator—Here Are the Bizarre Results

Metropolis associate editor Leilah Stone has been feeding architectural styles and keywords to Midjourney bots. The results highlight the complicated relationship between design, technology, and image-making.

If you’re on Twitter, you’re well aware of the recent influx of AI image generators­—those addictingly entertaining systems that allow anyone anywhere to translate the wildest fantasies of the mind into surprisingly detailed digital images. In the past few weeks, a host of platforms have been trending—Craiyon, NightCafe, DALL-E—and they all create images within seconds using user-generated text-based prompts. All you have to do is think it and put it into words.

The folks behind the independent research lab, Midjourney, describe their beta platform as encouraging “new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species.” Sure, a good chunk of images generated are the work of memelords and shitposters, but isn’t it also kind of nice that everyone has the ability to feel like, well, an artist?

a rendering of four glass buildings floating on a lake
These are the four initial results generated by Midjourney bots based on the prompt: “/imagine A contemporary, sustainable McDonald’s restaurant made of glass with golden arches reflecting on a lake.” Users can then choose to “upscale” an image or create four new variations of one of the results.

Over the past week, I’ve been combining architectural keywords, contemporary design clichés, references to pop culture, and various art historical styles, and plugging them into Midjourney’s Discord server. In a way, the resulting renderings reflect the ever-changing relationship between architecture, interiors, and image-making while also highlighting the fleeting nature of design trends and technology.

In the age of NFTs, dreamscapes, and the metaverse, tools like this further complicate the notion that good design is rooted in form rather than fantasy or image, while at the same time opening up anyone’s mind to the playful experimentation and iterative nature of art and design processes. I’m not saying architecture students should go input their final thesis concept into an AI generator prior to pin-up. (But hey, I’m also not not saying that.)

Want to submit your own architectural fantasy? DM us on Instagram @metropolismag. We’ll choose the best prompts and showcase the results on our account.

a rendering of a super tall wood skyscraper
/imagine A high-tech mass timber skyscraper in New York City covered in biophilic design.

a rendering of a pink building in a painting
/imagine A postmodern dreamscape with an austere pink building painted in the style of Giorgio de Chirico.

a rendering of a weird space-like building
/imagine A luxury real estate development in the metaverse designed by artists.

a rendering of a glass building floating on a lake
/imagine A contemporary, sustainable McDonald’s restaurant made of glass with golden arches reflecting on a lake.

a rendering of a glass building in a forrest
/imagine A mid-century modern glass home located in the middle of a forest.

a rendering of a purple bedroom covered in fur
/imagine A bedroom with lilac-colored walls covered in purple fur.

a rendering of a house made out of bubble gum
/imagine A suburban home made out of gooey bubblegum.

a rendering of a space age like interior with a moon reflecting on the ceiling
/imagine A room covered in white tile with a ceiling reflecting the moon, in the style of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

an image of a futuristic house in a desert
/imagine A futuristic glass and concrete house situated in a desert oasis surrounded by palm trees.

an image of a neon house
/imagine A cave-like room carved out of a rock face and covered in neon.

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