A college professor I greatly admired once advised that writing is all about making choices. At the end of every sentence, every paragraph, every scene and every chapter, he reminded, everything depends on the writer making choices that are true to the hopes, fears and motivations of the characters taking life on the page. But to make the right choices, we have to ask the right questions. Would this character actually do this? Does this reaction make sense within the context of the situation?
Every project in this year’s Architectural Showcase embodies a revealing story about the human condition, as each design choice is undoubtedly made in the interest of supporting the needs and wants of its intended inhabitants. For all these windows facing east, we might deduce that humans appreciate the light from the rising sun. Or these clean lines and towering ceilings might indicate that humans appreciate a sense of spaciousness in their dwellings.
In our feature on the implications of artificial intelligence for sports architects (page 26), Hughes Group principal Lynn Reda suggests that first and foremost, her profession needs to “develop the skills in asking the right questions and having a dialogue with the AI.” Reda’s sentiments bring us back to the agency that lies in asking the right questions, for in the absence of the boundless curiosity of the human spirit, what is AI but a latent cursor awaiting input?
Perhaps the irony of AI is that its creators have tasked it with emulating the human mind. (Remind me why we need an artificial brain when we’re all born with a real one?) At least for now, AI isn’t capable of creating beautiful, habitable spaces like those you’ll find herein. It doesn’t create within the context of the known universe, it’s not inherently curious, and it doesn’t actually have any questions of its own to pose. Therefore, at least in my mind, whether AI brings good or evil to the world depends solely upon what questions we ask it, and what we do with its responses.
In the meantime, take a step back from the fever dreams of AI — those both wondrous and terrifying — and take stock in the fact that you are here, in this moment, in this body and (hopefully) entirely immersed in the print version of Athletic Business magazine. Take a breath, turn the pages, and let your mind wonder on the human questions and choices that led to the realization of the facilities featured in the 36th annual Architectural Showcase.