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Urban planning with Chat GPT
Laura Puttkamer8. June 20235 min read

How can urban planners and architects benefit from ChatGPT?

In this next installment of our series on the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the future city, we look at the benefits that urban planners and architects might get from using AI programs such as ChatGPT. In the first part of the series, we interviewed the chatbot about its recommendations for urban planning and smart cities. In this part, we will talk about how are architects and planners using ChatGPT in urban planning.In the third part we will present some examples of cities that are giving AI and Chat GPT a go.

Urban Planning with Chat GPZ (Image Source: Stock-Fotografie-ID:178422623)

Image source: iStock: hkeita ID:178422623

How are architects and planners using ChatGPT in urban planning?

Brainstorming with AI

Large language models such as ChatGPT can bring many benefits to the world of urban planning. For example, based on AI models, architects and designers can generate new ideas for creative projects with a more effective and efficient design. Since language models can quickly and easily generate a wide range of ideas and concepts, working with vast amounts of text data, they are very valuable for creative brainstorming. By creating a large number of potential design ideas in a short amount of time, they trigger inspiration and support designers and architects with tight deadlines. 

At the same time, large language models such as ChatGPT use their deep understanding of language to identify potential problems or weaknesses in designs. Their approach to the design process helps designers and planners to improve and refine their designs, making projects more effective. While AI cannot take over the intrinsically human process of bringing an artistic and unique approach to problems, it can support the creative process and look out for any technical challenges. 

Automating tasks

It looks like the role of large language models in future cities will primarily be an assisting one, automating some of the more tedious and time-consuming tasks involved in both design work and urban planning work. The examples from last week’s article showed that some cities are already using AI like ChatGPT to answer common citizen questions and respond to reported issues with municipal services. 

For designers and planners, large language models can be helpful by automatically generating large amounts of data. Floor plans, building layouts, or urban design specifications can be provided by the AI, saving designers a lot of time and effort. This allows planners, architects, and designers to focus more on the creative aspects of their work. 

Providing an objective opinion

Urban planning and architecture are inherently subjective. In the smart city of the future, AI can play a role in providing a rounded, holistic, and relatively objective opinion. Based on large amounts of data, language models can eliminate flaws and draw on data from around the world to evaluate plans. They can also help with public relations, advertising, and communications surrounding a plan. 

However, the criticism of architecture and urban planning is a task that will remain human-centered. After all, personal opinions play into any decision taken that regards the city, from participatory processes to internal politics. Even aspects such as a famous architect’s reputation or an urban planner’s experience in different countries shape our urban environment. The results are popular (or less popular) precisely because they are not perfect and bland, but instead human and interesting. 

Potential dangers of ChatGPT in urban planning

AI can complement and enhance city planners’ and architects’ skills, but not replace them. We must keep in mind the risks that come with AI. Tools such as ChatGPT are designed to generate text based on the inputs they receive. They cannot cause harm or engage in harmful activities themselves. 

But like with any technology, there are a few potential drawbacks with large language models that urban planners should consider when thinking about integrating AI into the future city: 

  • Misuse of technology, for example through creating propaganda or fake news.
  • Bias in the training data, since large language models are only as good as the input their creators give them.
  • Dependency on the AI, which could also lead to job losses.
  • Loss of creativity since AI is no substitute for human creativity or intelligence.
  • Lack of humanity, because large language models are not capable of experiencing emotions or even having independent thoughts. 

Therefore, planners and architects must take relevant steps to mitigate the risks of using AI. It is their job to make sure that the technology is used correctly and in a responsible, ethical manner. Checking for bias against vulnerable population groups, constantly verifying information, and continuing to involve different groups of society in the planning process to create human-centered rather than AI-centered cities are key considerations. 

Planners will remain the guiding force of future cities

While AI can support architects, planners, and designers with a lot of tasks, provide objective opinions and help to spark creativity, it cannot replace the human element of making liveable cities that work for everyone. At the same time, the emergence of ChatGPT is a sign for everyone working in the field that AI will play an increasingly important role in future cities. It is not just a “trend to watch”, it is something to actively engage with and learn more about. 

Ultimately, humans will decide how to use AI in the future. It has great potential to achieve success in planning practices and smart cities, as well as in making future cities more sustainable and predicting the impacts of climate change on cities. But even Chat GPT does not mention AI as one of 2023’s most important urban developments. This shows that rather than a trend, artificial intelligence is a tool that we must learn how to use well to benefit as much as possible from its input. 

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Laura Puttkamer

Laura is an urban journalist focusing on inspiring solutions stories from all over the world. She has a MSc in Global Urban Development and currently lives in London.