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There are particular similarities in how machines learn about the nature of their environment, and how humans learn to process visual stimuli. Machine Learning (ML), more specifically Deep Neural network algorithms rely on expansive image databases and various training methods (supervised, unsupervised) to “make sense” out of the content of an image. Take for example how students of architecture learn to differentiate various architectural styles. Whether this be to differentiate between Gothic, Baroque or Modern Architecture, students are exposed to hundreds, or even thousands of images of the respective styles, while being trained by faculty to be able to differentiate between those styles. A reversal of the process, striving to produce imagery, instead of reading it and understanding its content, allows machine vision techniques to be utilized as a design methodology that profoundly interrogates aspects of agency and authorship in the presence of Artificial Intelligence in architecture design. This notion forms part of a larger conversation on the nature of human ingenuity operating within a posthuman design ecology. The inherent ability of Neural Networks to process large databases opens up the opportunity to sift through the enormous repositories of imagery generated by the architecture discipline through the ages in order to find novel and bespoke solutions to architectural problems. This article strives to demystify the romantic idea of individual artistic design choices in architecture by providing a glimpse under the hood of the inner workings of Neural Network processes, and thus the extent of their ability to inform architectural design. The approach takes cues from the language and methods employed by experts in Deep Learning such as Hallucinations, Dreaming, Style Transfer and Vision. The presented approach is the base for an in-depth exploration of its meaning as a cultural technique within the discipline. Culture in the extent of this article pertains to ideas such as the differentiation between symbolic and material cultures, in which symbols are defined as the common denominator of a specific group of people. ¹ The understanding and exchange of symbolic values is inherently connected to language and code, which ultimately form the ingrained texture of any form of coded environment, including the coded structure of Neural Networks. A first proof of concept project was devised by the authors in the form of the Robot Garden. What makes the Robot Garden a distinctively novel project is the motion from a purely two dimensional approach to designing with the aid of Neural Networks, to the exploration of 2D to 3D Neural Style Transfer methods in the design process.
Towards Hallucinating Machines
Designing with Computational Vision
Matias del Campo
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning,
University of Michigan
Alexandra Carlson
Michigan Robotics
University of Michigan
Sandra Manninger
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning,
University of Michigan
Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Design Agency, Neural Networks, Machine Learning,
Machine Vision
How many thousand images does it take an architect to learn what Gothic is, or Baroque
or Modern? How many more to differentiate between good and bad architectural
solutions? This article strives to de-mystify the nature of design choice in architecture
by interrogating the underlying processes of Neural Networks and thus the extent of
their ability to inform architectural design. The presented approach strives to explore
the design problem not only through the lens of expediency, but also by considering the
cultural transformation that comes along with the possibilities of a technology that
profoundly asks about the nature of agency in a posthuman environment.
1 Introduction
In his famous paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence, Alan Turing posited the
question, “Can machines do what we, as thinking entities, do?”1. The goal of this article is
to ask this same question in the context of architectural design to gain an understanding
and appreciation of an artificial intelligence’s abilities to generate novel design solutions.
These solutions can reach from very pragmatic plan analysis to surprisingly creative and
innovative architectural solutions2. This article describes the motivation to explore design
methodologies embedded in a posthuman and computational architecture design
ecology, although the technique itself can be expanded to any area of creativity such as
art, writing and music. See for example the painting Portrait of Edmond Belamy, by the
Paris based art collective Obvious3, Poemportraits on Google’s Artsexperiments platform4
a collaboration between coder Ross Goodwin and artist Es Devlin- and artists such as
Holly Herndon5, YACHT6 and Dadabots7 creating their music with the help of machine
learning algorithms. The paper examines the meaning of agency in a world where
decision making processes are defined by human/machine collaborations. The main aim
of this article is to demonstrate and interrogate a design technique based on Deep
Learning, a branch of the research on Artificial Intelligence.
Taking cues from the language and methods used by experts in Deep visual learning, such
as Hallucinations, Dreaming, Style Transfer and Vision, this article strives to clarify the
position and role of Artificial Intelligence, namely neural networks, in the discipline of
Architecture. Neural Networks have become ubiquitous across disciplines due to their
ability to accurately mimic human behavior and capability to perform complex tasks and
model the real world. At their most core level, neural networks are purely mathematical
functions that are structured and trained to extract salient features from their input.
However, because neural network structure is based upon how the human brain
functions, we can, in a sense, use them to study our own sensibilities and design choices.
Thus, while they are tools that have no self-awareness or can make conscious
design/aesthetic choices, we as designers can use them as tools to see the world in a
different way and leverage this new sight to inform the design process.
This article’s primary focus is to discuss aspects of 2D to 3D style and shape transfer
techniques. The presented method can be described as a computational design approach
that uses internal representations of our visual world. This condition allows a deep vision
neural networks to learn from observing hundreds of thousands of images in order to
invoke stylistic edits in both 2D objects (images) and 3D objects (meshes).
There are two main paths of inquiry: first, the interrogation of the technical expertise
necessary to train neural networks to generate successful solutions for pragmatic
problems. This can be plan optimization, structural optimization and the analysis of the
consumption of material. All these problems reside primarily within realm of engineering.
The second path to be explored is the wicked part of architectural design pertaining to
aspects of morphological studies, Style, mood and creativity. This problem was acutely
described by Margaret Boden, the grande dame of AI research, like this: Creativity is a
fundamental feature of human intelligence, and an inescapable challenge for AI. Creativity
is not a special “faculty”, nor a psychological property confined to a tiny elite. Rather, it is
a feature of human intelligence in general. It is grounded in everyday capacities such as
the association of ideas, reminding, perception, analogical thinking, searching a
structured problem-space, and reflective self-criticism. It involves not only a cognitive
dimension (the generation of new ideas) but also motivation and emotion and is closely
linked to cultural context and personality factors. Current AI models of creativity focus
primarily on the cognitive dimension. A creative idea is one which is novel, surprising, and
valuable (interesting, useful, beautiful..). But “novel” has two importantly different senses
here. The idea may be novel with respect only to the mind of the individual (or AI-system)
concerned or, so far as we know, to the whole of previous history.8
1.1 Architectures empathy towards images and representation
Traditionally, the architecture education contains a large portion of learning through
images. Architecture students browse through thousands of pictures during their
education, from books, lectures, blogs and Instagram accounts, learning the nature of
architecture in the process. Similar to other fields, such as diagnostics in medicine9 or the
memorizing of text in the law education10, the architecture discipline relies on learning
through the absorption of visual stimuli11. In a similar fashion to the beforementioned
fields, Architecture is experiencing a profound change in the nature of analyzing and
assessing the respective approaches for design tasks12. The efficacy of neural networks to
emulate and surpass the performance of biological vision systems on certain tasks makes
them a unique computational tool for generating novel design techniques. For example,
neural network architectures can achieve higher-than-human performance on image
classification tasks13, suggesting that these algorithms extract visual representations of
objects that are better for classification in comparison to the ones extracted by their
human counterparts. Thus, it may be possible for a Neural Network to understand, for
example, a specific architectural style such as Gothic, Baroque or Renaissance in a far
more sophisticated way, and potentially with higher expertise, than a human could
provided the database of images and tags the network is shown is large enough.
1.2 It’s a question of Style
How can a human differentiate a buttress from a column? Each of these objects has a
specific set of visual features that can be used to identify it; these sets can be thought of
as a representation of the given object. These features can be geometric and structural
elements, such as shapes and forms like vertical edges or corners, or material elements,
e.g., color, texture, reflections, etc.
In deep learning, the ‘style’ of an image is synonymous with ‘texture’, which describes the
underlying 2D patterns that result from how the shape and material of objects in the given
scene interacts with the light from the environment and camera to form the image.
In the same way that an architecture student must observe instances of different
architecture styles to learn which elements are unique to specific architectures, a neural
network must be trained by observing millions of images to learn which features, both
stylistic and geometric, of an image are relevant to the task it is trying to solve. However,
given the nature of how neural networks learn (which is discussed in detail in the
following section), we cannot easily determine which visual features form the
representation that a neural network learns for a specific object. We can use these
learned feature sets from networks to achieve novel representations of form for standard
architectural motifs. For example, if given the task of image or object classification, what
is the set of features learned for ‘arches’ by a neural network? (middle panel, fig.1) Are
there specific patterns to arches that the human visual system disregards when it
performs classification that a neural network utilizes? The learned visual representations
of neural networks could capture new ways of ‘seeing’ and understanding building
structure and aesthetics. However, the discussion as of how neural networks would
classify and understand aesthetics is beyond the scope of this article, and is part of a larger
conversation to be addressed another time. The method presented in this article, uses
the learned representations of Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) to invoke edits to
both 2D objects (images) and 3D objects (polymeshes) in an effort to transform and
potentially remove the constraints of the human visual system on the design process.
Figure 1: In this example, a neural network is trained to dream or ‘hallucinate’ the features of arches on a
given depth rendering to impose novel geometric structure into the input, and then to perform a style
transfer between a rendered texture image from a students 3D model upon the result of the dreaming
process. Image:
Figure 1: Robot Garden
The proof of concept project - presented for the first time in this article- is the Robot
Garden (Fig.2) currently under construction. The Robot Garden is designed as a future
test ground for bipedal and quadrupedal robots. Part of the challenge consisted in
designing various ground conditions and complexities that robots have to overcome. In
order to achieve this, and to include a Neural Network component in the design process
we designed a methodology that would involve satellite images of the site and a particular
training set to dream features on this image. These features consisted of architectural
elements derived from a sprawling dataset trained to recognize architectural features
such as arches, architraves, columns, mullions, moldings, rustications and many more.
This allows to generate a synthetic ecology present somewhere between the natural and
the artificial. The resulting digital 3D model serves on the one side as the template for the
construction, on the other it serves the purpose of simulating and preparing the test of
robots in the garden. The garden itself is executed in natural material providing various
different terrains such as grass, gravel, stone, sand, water and has topographical features
such as waves, inclinations, pits etc. to emulate difficult terrain. Though the garden is
made of natural materials, there is a contrast between the natural landscape features
adjacent to the Robot Garden, and the Robot Garden itself which flirts with an intentional
artificiality operating within the realm of a synthetic ecology, befitting the origin of
robots as an artificial progeny. In the following the authors would like to explain the
background of this approach, in particular explaining the computational methods used in
Neural Networks.
2 The Nature of Neural Networks
In this section we provide the foundational/background information necessary to
understand what a neural network is and how it operates on visual information; it is based
upon the material presented in ref. 19. A neural network is a neurobiologically-inspired
computing system comprised of groups, called layers, of simple, highly interconnected
processing elements, called neurons. Input information flows through a neural network
in a feed-forward, hierarchical manner: each node in a neural network receives input from
neurons in the preceding layer, but not neurons within its own layer. It transforms this
input into a new representation, and then passes it to the neurons it is connected to in
the proceeding layer.
Mathematically, this transformation is defined as follows: a neuron calculates a weighted
sum of its inputs and applies a threshold onto this value via a nonlinear function to
determine if it has been ‘activated’ given its input. This output, i.e. the neuron’s state of
activation, is then sent to neurons it is connected to in the following layer. The weights
used to calculate the neuron state, paired with the thresholding operation, effectively
filter out specific information from being sent to the next layer, allowing for different
features in the input to be extracted by each neuron. Since each layer operates on the
activations of the previous layer, neurons can also extract/detect groups of input
features. This weighting-then-thresholding transformation allows for pattern recognition;
it allows a given neuron to select specific elements and information to be transmitted to
its downstream neighbors while suppressing others, ultimately refining the way in which
the image is ‘seen’ or represented in the network.
Figure 3. A pictorial example of a CNN architecture. Note that for convolutional layer 1, we show an
activation map for a single kernel (gray square), and similarly one for the second convolutional layer. We
also show the window within the layer’s input that the kernel is operating on (white square). The activation
maps can be thought of as heat maps, where a high value indicates the possible presence of a feature the
kernel is trained to pick out, such as vertical edges. Each convolutional layer can have multiple kernels,
which means multiple activation maps. Each kernel in the proceeding layer operates on each of the input
activation maps to detect co-occurring simple features, so they can activate to complex shapes. The ellipsis
indicates additional convolutional layers within the network that are not shown. The final layers of the
network are dependent upon the task; in the above network, the task is object classification, and thus uses
fully connected layers to transform the 2D activation map features into a vector of predicted class
The way in which neurons are connected between layers controls how input information
is transformed through the network. This connectivity structure varies based upon the
application. For example, a fully connected neural network means that all of the neurons
in one layer are connected to all the neurons in the proceeding layer and is designed to
process 1D input information into 1D output. The most widely used neural network
structure visual information processing and tasks (including facial recognition, pedestrian
detection, and image generation) is the convolutional neural network (CNN). An example
of a CNN is given in Figure 3.
A CNN is designed to operate on the image; the compressed, 2D pixel representation of
our 3D world. The neuron in a CNN processes the 2D information about a location/pixel
(x,y) in its input image. It calculates its activation by applying a 2D convolutional kernel to
the pixel information at its spatial location, and thresholds the value with a nonlinear
function. The convolution kernel essentially performs pattern recognition on the
neighborhood of pixels around (x,y); it weights the groups of pixels that represent salient
visual information, like edges (think about the examples of columns and arches
mentioned before). This convolution kernel is slid over the entire 2D input, like a sliding
window, to create a 2D activation map. The value of an element within the activation map
indicates the presence and magnitude of a particular visual pattern, which is a ‘feature’,
at a specific location in the input. Depending on the values of the weights of the
convolution kernel, different 2D spatial patterns of pixels can be detected and thus
extracted by the CNN. Each layer can have multiple convolutional kernels, so the output
of a single CNN layer is a 3D activation volume of stacked activation maps, each
representing the locations where a specific visual feature is present in its input.
Conceptually, a CNN layer transforms its input by decomposing it into the set of spatially-
varying visual features captured by the layer’s convolutional kernels.
Increasingly complex spatial patterns/features can be detected and extracted by each
proceeding layer. For example, a convolutional kernel A in the first layer of a CNN may
have weight values that cause it to detect the presence of patterns that resemble diagonal
lines within the input image, and a second convolutional kernel B in the same layer may
detect groups of pixels that look like horizontal lines. A convolutional kernel C in layer 2
operates on the activation maps that are output from convolutional kernel A and kernel
B from the first layer, so it could activate in the presence of patterns that resemble line
intersections, which would require the activation of both convolutional kernel A and
convolutional kernel B in the same location in the activation maps from the first
convolutional layer. As a result, at the final layers of the network, neurons will have
weights that activate to the semantic content of the image (as opposed to raw pixel
values), e.g., complex structures such as buildings. Fundamentally, this is the same
process any architect would go through when evaluating and assessing a building’s style;
the architect would break down the building into its basic components, looking for
features such as columns, arches, curves, colors, materials, that are associated with
specific time periods, schools of thought, or that can differentiate the image content in a
unique and meaningful way. An example of this is given in Figure 4.
Figure 4 Consider the visual task of building recognition/classification with the above images. At first
glance, the panel on the far left of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoy is easily separable from the two on the right;
it differs significantly from the other two images in terms of shape (of the three it is the only building with
columns and simple geometric edges/corners), in terms of color, and in terms of background. The right-
hand panels, the Casa Batllo by Antoni Gaudi (middle image) and the Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Haus des
Brotes (far right image), have similar bluish backgrounds and have curved roofs. Therefore, more complex
visual features, like the texture and color of the Casa Batllo roof must be used to differentiate the two. If
presented this small dataset from which to learn building classification, a neural network would only need
to learn the features ‘white’ and ‘columns’ to separate the Villa Savoy from the others. In contrast, the
network would need to learn more complex, dense visual feature sets to separate the Casa Batllo image
from the Coop Himmelb(l)au image, e.g., the different roof shapes as spatial locations of curves in the
image, the different colors in the roofs, and perhaps the locations of the roof ornaments or windows in
the Casa Batllo image. These example features are highlighted in red in the figure.
2.1 Learning Architectural Features
The weights of each convolutional kernel, and thus which visual features are extracted
from the input, need to be learned from data. A widely-used learning paradigm is a
training procedure called supervised learning. In this training scheme, a large number of
different (image, label) pairs are presented repeatedly to the network with the goal of
teaching the network to perform a specific visual task. The label varies depending upon
the desired task. For example, in image classification, an image would be paired with a
label that describes elements of its semantic content, such as ‘arch’, ‘fountain’ or
For each image input to the CNN, the network uses its current set of weights to process
relevant visual information, which is transformed at the final layer into a prediction of the
input image label. For example, in the image classification task, a neuron in the output
layer would activate/detect if all the visual features associated with a particular class are
present in the input image. In a winner-takes-all fashion, the neuron in the output layer
with the highest activation would be considered as the class prediction of the network.
An error (also referred to as loss) is then calculated on this predicted label based on how
close it is to the ground truth label of the input image. Multivariate differentiation is used
to calculate the gradient of this error with respect to the network’s weights. Conceptually,
the gradient of the error represents how much each weight parameter contributed to the
network’s prediction, and thus its contribution to the prediction error. The values of the
weights are then changed based upon the magnitude of their gradient, with the objective
that on the next iteration, the updated weight values will yield a more accurate
prediction. This process is referred to as backpropagation, because the error is literally
being passed backwards through the network layers to learn better visual features.
Revisiting the metaphor of the architecture student, in order to differentiate and identify
the nuances between classes of architecture styles, a student must utilize a similar
training procedure. They must decompose many input examples/images into potential
candidate features, and use these to make predictions on these images based on his or
her past knowledge of architectural features and their associated classification. The
student must then evaluate their prediction, and if an error is made, update their internal
mental model of the given class with either additional, novel visual features, or by
removing current visual features that do not actually help differentiate that class from
any other class.
The learning process for neural networks is conceptually the same: the network takes the
inputs (images) and the desired outputs (labels) and updates its internal state/mental
model of the world (i.e., its weights) according to the error in the network’s predicted
label such that this prediction becomes as close as possible to the desired label. The task
or error calculation is akin to ‘schools of thought’ or architecture styles; it is the lens and
bias through which the network learns about how to process the subset of the ‘world’
that is captured by the training images.
This training/learning procedure is performed for many iterations, repeatedly feeding in
randomly sampled images from the dataset and adjusting the weights until the network
achieves the highest possible prediction accuracy. The labels thus act as a supervisory
signal that guides the network to process, extract and transform visual information into a
representation that maximizes the network performance on the desired task. For
example, in the instance of image classification, the network transforms and decomposes
images into features that are different/distinct between classes, making grouping images
into a class easy. The class ‘column’ may have features associated with vertical lines
and/or ones that capture standard column material, like marble texture. Examples of
learned feature sets for ‘fountain’ are shown in Fig.5. It is important to note that a neural
network is learning how to represent objects from scratch, i.e., from the raw pixels in the
given input images. Its only bias is to maximize its performance on the desired task. It is
not influenced by any information that exists outside its training images or labels.
Figure 5: Applying a visualization technique similar to google deep dream, which is discussed in detail in
the methods and supplement, we can visualize the feature set learned for a particular class by a CNN that
has been trained to perform image classification. The above left-hand image is the feature representation
for the ‘fountain class’ generated from a CNN trained upon the ImageNet dataset, which contains over a
million images and is labeled for over 1600 classes. It is the dataset that ‘best approximates’ the real
world due to its sheer size. The right-hand image also shows the fountain class representation learned by
the same CNN, but trained on a much smaller, custom dataset with only 8 classes, each representing an
architectural element, specifically, stepping stone, fountain, ditch, brick, stair, arch, pedestal, and boulder.
We see that the primary feature learned for both of the fountain class representations appears to be
based on water, which suggests that either (1) both datasets had few to no examples of dry fountains,
and/or (2) that the other classes captured in each dataset did not have water features, so this was the
primary differentiating visual pattern between ‘fountain’ and the other classes, and thus the only pattern
the CNN needed to learn to successfully identify it. However, note that in the ImageNet Fountain
representation, there is more spatial and geometric information than just a ‘vertical spout’ that the CNN
has learned is necessary to separate a ‘fountain’ image from other classes. Compare this to the fountain
representation for the custom architectural elements dataset, in which only a water-like feature is
necessary to differentiate fountain from the other 7 classes in the dataset.
2.2 Fountains, Figures and Features or how to confuse an AI
As previously mentioned, outside of the error function, there are no constraints upon
what visual features the network actually learns from the data. There is no way to know
beforehand what the weights end up being at the end of the training procedure, and
these values can change depending on a variety of factors, including the how the weights
are initialized at the start of training, the order in which the images are shown to the
network, how many training iterations are completed, how many layers are in the
network, how many neurons per layer, how many convolutional kernels per layer, the
amount of image data and variability of images. The salient feature information captured
by the weights is also hugely dependent upon the visual information that is contained
within the training data, as seen in Figures 4 and 5. The training dataset defines the CNN’s
notion of the ‘world’, and encounter difficulties when given information that falls outside
of it.
In this sense, the ‘design intelligence’ of a neural network is determined entirely by the
size and variety captured its training dataset. For example, if the CNN from Figure 5 was
only shown images of tiered, marble fountains with vertical water spouts to learn the
‘fountain’ class, it may not be able to accurately identify dry fountains, metal fountains,
or wall fountains. This is because it has associated the vertical ‘spout’, ‘marble feature’
and/or ‘water feature’ as being necessary for a fountain to be within the image. As can
be seen in the figure, there is more spatial information than just a ‘vertical spout’ that the
CNN has learned as features for the fountain class.
The visual features learned by the network are also dependent upon the chosen task. For
example, in the instance of image classification, visual features for a given class would be
learned that differentiate it from other chosen classes, which can be seen upon
comparing the two representations presented in Figure 5.
Ultimately, while it is understood how a single neuron processes information, given the
large number of parameters and nonlinearities that comprise a single network as well as
its dependency upon the training data, it is difficult to tease apart how the neurons
collectively function upon images to achieve a prediction. This results in the ‘black box’
nature of neural networks; we cannot guarantee what features are learned or how its
learned. Consider the representations shown in Figure 5; while some of the features
learned by the networks align with our own feature set, e.g., spouts, others are
unintelligible to us, but still yield high classification accuracy. This is in direct contrast, for
example, to the generalizability that a human architect who can rely on his/her education,
and the many images ingested throughout his/her career as well as an inherent sensibility
towards design. If and how sensibility, for example, can be part of this process is yet to
be seen. This means that, in the specification/definition of both task and dataset,
practitioners of neural networks can guide what and how the neural network algorithm
processes information about the world.
3 Methods - or: What it means to be a pixel
Visual tasks can be extended to 3D by redefining what it means to be a pixel. Naively, a
third dimension can be added to an image pixel to create a voxel to represent a discretized
3D space. However, the additional spatial dimension creates a huge computational
burden as a result of the increased input size and intermediate network representation
sizes, which ultimately renders 3D vision/perception infeasible for many vision problems.
This explains also the low resolution in some of the images presented in this article. Due
to its GPU hungry nature, images must be kept to a low resolution in order to be able to
process the thousands of images necessary to train a Neural Network. Other commonly
used representations for modeling objects in the 3D world are depth maps, point clouds
and polygon meshes (see Fig.6). The choice of input data representation (specifically, the
information it contains) will directly impact the features learned by the neural network.
There are pros and cons of each type of data format in this regard. For example, while
point clouds are much sparser and thus take up much less computer memory than voxels,
they do not capture a sense of a ‘face’ or ‘surface’, and therefore editing techniques
involving lighting or texture manipulation, such as style transfer, cannot be easily applied
to this input14. In addition, it makes the materialization of these results more complex as
it cannot be 3D printed or rationalized into components for fabrication. A watertight mesh
or Nurbs surface is necessary to continue processing the file for digital fabrication.
While the majority of neural networks have been developed to process 2D visual
information in the form of images, their structure can be extended to operate upon these
different 3D representations of the world. These deep learning approaches fall into two
general categories or algorithms: (1) project 3D objects into 2D representations, such as
depth images, and then have 2D neural networks, i.e., CNNS, operate on this 2D
representation of 3D data, or (2) use neural networks whose connectivity structure has
been modified directly to operate on 3D information.
Figure 2: One of the first attempts of a 2D to 3D Style transfer on the Robot Garden Project. In order to
create the high resolution model, the result from the style transfer was transformed into a depth map
shader for the polygon model. A noisy, albeit interesting, result.
Applying the techniques of the first group of algorithms, 2D neural network-based
image editing methods/techniques can be used to make aesthetic changes to 3D objects
based upon the learned representations of neural networks trained on 2D image data.
Two of these image editing methods, which are used in this paper, are 2D deep dreaming,
a method popularized by Google, and neural style transfer15. Deep dreaming is an image
editing algorithm that was originally developed as a tool to visualize the image features
learned by a neuron, a layer of neurons, or the features that are associated with a
particular class (e.g., dogs). Neural style transfer is an image editing technique whose
objective is to alter a given input image so that it captures the style of a second, ‘style
guide’ image without altering the original image’s semantic and geometric content. It
achieves this by leveraging the model of style and shape that the CNN has learned from
its training dataset. For a more detailed description of each method, please refer to our
As described above, point clouds and voxels have no sense of connected structure or
smooth surfaces. These factors however are necessary in order to be able to create
continuously closed polygon meshes. These are crucial when it comes to elaborate an
architectural project, be it for representational purposes (animation, Rendering, plan etc.)
or construction purposes (creating fabrication files, rationalization of components and
parts etc.). Object meshes are a happy medium between point clouds and voxels: they
are computationally more efficient than voxels but have enough visual information about
surfaces that can be manipulated with interesting aesthetic edits.
Currently, the Neural 3D Mesh Renderer16 is the only method that allows for easy 3D
object mesh editing based upon 2D neural style transfer and dreaming. It is a
differentiable rendering/rasterizer algorithm that can be used as an input layer with CNNs
and other forms of 2D neural networks. This framework effectively yields a mapping
function (the fusion of the neural renderer algorithm and neural network) between the
3D polygon mesh and 2D image representation of objects. We can use this mapping
function to associate any change within the pixels of an image to a corresponding change
in the vertices and surfaces of the input mesh. Thus, the same principles/formulations
guiding the aforementioned 2D dreaming and 2D style transfer techniques on images can
be used to perform image editing on the surfaces of 3D objects. Please refer to our
supplement for more details of this process.
4- Transferring 2D style onto the 3D nature of the Robot Garden
The project Robot Garden (Fig.8), makes extensive use of the described technique. The
provided site was analyzed using a set of satellite images as a basis. The given shape of
the site was cut out of the satellite images to create a set of pictures that are used to
transfer the 2D style of the satellite representation of the site onto a 3D model of the
robot garden. In an attempt to have a Neural Network dream or hallucinate architectural
features on the site, it was trained using an extensive library of images of features such
as boulders, stairs, stepping-stones etc. Surprisingly the resulting images represent a
novel view to these archaic architectural features. The hybrid nature of the resulting
meshes do not show the features in full clarity but are rather the hallucinogenic dream of
a machine trying to see these features in the landscape.
4 Conclusion Machines hallucinating Architecture
In conclusion it can be stated that the Project Robot Garden serves as a first successful
attempt to use machine hallucinations, based on architectural imagery, as the basis for a
building project. Construction for this project began in May 2019. The main task of the
design process presented in this paper was to analyze and explore how current
techniques in AI applications can be utilized in architecture design. On a technical level it
can be stated that there are shading/lighting/perspective/geometric cues that exist in
images that contain 3D information, however it is unclear if 2D CNNs have a sense of a 3D
model captured in their weights/learned representations. Therefore, using 2D image
editing methods in 3D are not easily interpretable in terms of what features are being
transferred and how 2D features are projected into the 3D space. Future work would be
to generate fully 3D pipelines that allow us to explore design modifications in the purely
3D realm. On the other side this project only barely skims the surface of the possibilities,
in terms of speculating about possible applications in the discipline. Provided proper
training CNN’s and Generative Adversarial Networks could learn how to dream urban
textures in landscapes serving as the basis for urban design. Or they can be used in
projects of cultural preservation, in that they dream how to complete the restoration
of historic buildings, or they can be used to optimize the planning of housing projects
by learning to compare thousands and thousands of housing plans17.The opportunities
are remarkable, and possibly will generate a completely new paradigm as of how to
approach architecture design. In terms of disciplinary implementations, the project
contributes to the discussion of style in the 21st century. Borrowing from the
conversations of Gottfried Semper18 about the nature of style it can be stated that style
has turned into a posthuman quality, where artificial players contribute to the discussion
by analyzing and proposing ideas for a cultural discussion with an ever-increasing speed.
If robots can dream of gothic cathedrals, humans need to renegotiate their position in a
contemporary design ecology.
5 Glossary Mathematical Supplementary
We provide the mathematical formulation for the different 2D to 3D image editing
methods in this section. Each of the following descriptions treats a neural network as a
function whose parameters/weights map the input space of images to the output space
of labels, or into the activation/feature space of a given network substructure, e.g. a layer
or neuron. Additionally, when the term error is used, we are referring to calculating the
Euclidean distance between two quantities. This is denoted by | … |2 in the following
equations and definitions.
Both image editing techniques, deep dream and neural style transfer, rely on
backpropagation. Recall that, during the training of a neural network, changes in the
weights of a neural network can be associated to changes in the prediction error by
calculating the network gradient.
In contrast, if we fix weights of the neural network to be constant, we can calculate a
gradient that describes how any change within the pixels of an input image can be
associated with the change in activation of a particular neuron layer, or output class
within the network. Thus, if we increase the activation value of a neuron or layer, we can
backpropagate that change to the input image pixels and change their intensity values
accordingly. In effect, this process emphasizes the visual patterns/features in the input
image that a neuron, layer, has learned are salient. This allows us to generate images
shown in Figures 4 and 5 in the paper.
In the case of 3D input, we can calculate a gradient that associates the changes in a
rasterized image to a corresponding change in the vertices and surfaces of the input mesh
(via the 3D neural renderer), and then calculate a gradient associating the rasterized
image with the activation of network substructures. This ultimately allows us to associate
changes in the activation of a neuron or layer with a change in the input mesh.
2D to 3D Style Transfer
Using the learned representations of a pretrained image classification neural network,
VGG-16, we can define a training objective that is based upon the learned spatial features,
or ‘content features’ of the input 3D mesh, which we assign the name mc and the 2D
‘style features’ of the second, guide image, which we assign xs.
To make the shape of the generated mesh, m, similar to that of mc, the 3D content loss
can be defined as:
Where vi is the set of vertices for the manipulated mesh m and vic is the set of vertices for
the original content mesh mc.
The style loss is defined to be the same in the 2D image case using the
rendered/rasterized image that is output from the 3D Neural mesh renderer:
Where R is the 3D neural renderer function that projects the 3D mesh m to a rasterized
2D image, is the viewing angle at which to rasterize m, fs is the pretrained VGG-16
network (used as a function) that projects the rasterized image into the feature
space/representation of a specific network layer, and M is the Gram matrix function,
which acts as a metric of style. The feature layers of the VGG-16 network used were
conv1_2, conv2_3, conv3_3, and conv4_3. These two losses are summed to make the final
objective, which is minimized via backpropagation to make the output mesh object.
2D to 3D vertex optimization
This method is similar to style transfer, but instead of using the learned feature
representations to manipulate the mesh, the training method minimizes the error
between the input mesh rasterized into a silhouette image and a guide silhouette image,
xsilhouette. To rasterize a silhouette image from a mesh, the 3D neural mesh renderer is
paired with a neural network that generates a silhouette image from the output of the
mesh renderer. The training objective is to minimize the difference between the rendered
silhouette image and the reference/guide silhouette image via backpropagation:
3D Deep Dreaming
Deep dreaming, whether it is applied in 2D or 3D, is a visualization technique that allows
us to qualitatively determine what visual features a given substructure of the network
has learned. Conceptually, it makes assumptions similar to the grandmother cell
hypothesis in Neuroscience: there is one neuron that is trained to be the detector for
the face of a grandmother. Thus, this process of deep dreaming is more like
hallucinating or pareidolia; the network is emphasizing vague pixel patterns in the
image if those patterns resemble something that the neuron has learned to detect. In
essence, we are seeing what the network is ‘seeing’ in the image.
To achieve deep dreaming, the training objective is to maximize the activation of a specific
neuron, layer, or class by changing the values of the input image pixel intensities over
many iterations. In 3D, the same objective is used to manipulated the vertices of a mesh
object. Let f(x) be the GoogleLeNet pretrained neural network as a function that outputs
an activation/feature map for the input image x at the specified neuron. The 3D neural
mesh renderer is used to transform the mesh m into an image, which is then fed into
GoogleLeNet to produce an activation map for the chosen neuron. A neuron in layer
inception_4 from GoogLeNet was used for all of the mesh manipulation.
The training objective for 3D deep dreaming to be optimized is
where R(m,) is the rasterized image given the input mesh and viewing angle and f is the
GoogleLeNet pretrained network that projects an image into the representation of the
specified neuron.
1: Turing A M. "Computing Machinery and Intelligence." Mind, Volume LIX, Issue 236, Oxford University
Press, October 1950, P.433-460
2: See also:
3: Obvious is an art collective based in Paris, France that specializes on the use of AI applications for their
works. Headed by Pierre Fautrel, Hugo Caselles-Dupre and Gauthier Vernier, the team regularly
collaborates with artists around the globe.
4: Google’s Artsexperiments platform is a repository for artworks that are primarily driven by the use of
Chrome, Android, AI, Web VR and AR. visited August 2nd 2019
5: Holly Herndon is an American composer who uses primarily the scripting language Max/MSP to create
her music in a generative fashion
6: YACHT is a Los Angeles based dance music collective composed of Jona Bechtolt, Claire L. Evans and Rob
Kieswetter. Their most recent single (Downtown)Dancing made heavily use of open source Artificial
Intelligence and Machine Learning software.
7: Dadabots is the pseudonym of CJ Karr and Zack Zukovski who have developed several Machine Learning
techniques to generate music. See for example their paper, Curating Generative Raw Audio Music with
D.O.M.E. published at the IUI Workshops’19
8: Boden, M. A. In Creativity and Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence 103, Elsevier London 1998, p
9: See for example: Liang, Hui-Ying & Y. Tsui, Brian & Ni, Hao & C. S. Valentim, Carolina & Baxter, Sally &
Liu, Guangjian & Cai, Wenjia & S. Kermany, Daniel & Sun, Xin & Chen, Jiancong & He, Liya & Zhu, Jie & Tian,
Pin & Shao, Hua & Zheng, Lianghong & Hou, Rui & Hewett, Sierra & Li, Gen & Liang, Ping & Xia, Huimin.
(2019). Evaluation and accurate diagnoses of pediatric diseases using artificial intelligence. Nature
Medicine. 25. 10.1038/s41591-018-0335-9.
10: See also: Conrad, Jack G., Branting, L. Karl, Introduction to the special issue on legal text analytics,
Artificial Intelligence and Law 2018 June 01 26 2 1572-8382 P 99-102
11: see also the section: Learning Architecture features
12: See for example Leach N., Do Robots Dream of Digital Sheep? Proceeding of the 2019 ACADIA
Conference, Ubiquity and Autonomy
13: Simonyan, Karen, and Andrew Zisserman. "Very deep convolutional networks for large-scale image
recognition." arXiv preprint arXiv:1409.1556 (2014).
14: Simonyan, Karen, Andrea Vedaldi, and Andrew Zisserman. "Deep inside convolutional networks:
Visualizing image classification models and saliency maps." arXiv preprint arXiv:1312.6034 (2013).
15: Gatys, Leon A., Alexander S. Ecker, and Matthias Bethge. "A neural algorithm of artistic style." arXiv
preprint arXiv:1508.06576 (2015).
16: Kato, Hiroharu, Yoshitaka Ushiku, and Tatsuya Harada. "Neural 3d mesh renderer." Proceedings of the
IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition.
17: See also:
18: Semper, Gottfried, Der Stil in den Technischen und Tektonischnen Künsten oder praktische Ästhetik: Ein
Handbuch für techniker, Künstler und Kunstfreunde (Band 1): die textile Kunst für sich betrachtet und in
Beziehung zur Baukunst. Verlag für Kunst und Wissenschaft Frankfurt am Main, 1860, P.13
19: Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio, and Aaron Courville. 2016. Deep Learning. The MIT Press.
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I propose to consider the question, “Can machines think?”♣ This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms “machine” and “think”. The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous. If the meaning of the words “machine” and “think” are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question, “Can machines think?” is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll.
Creativity is a fundamental feature of human intelligence, and a challenge for AI. AI techniques can be used to create new ideas in three ways: by producing novel combinations of familiar ideas; by exploring the potential of conceptual spaces; and by making transformations that enable the generation of previously impossible ideas. AI will have less difficulty in modelling the generation of new ideas than in automating their evaluation.
See also: 3: Obvious is an art collective based in Paris, France that specializes on the use of AI applications for their works
  • A Turing
Turing A M. "Computing Machinery and Intelligence." Mind, Volume LIX, Issue 236, Oxford University Press, October 1950, P.433-460 2: See also: 3: Obvious is an art collective based in Paris, France that specializes on the use of AI applications for their works. Headed by Pierre Fautrel, Hugo Caselles-Dupre and Gauthier Vernier, the team regularly collaborates with artists around the globe.
Dadabots is the pseudonym of CJ Karr and Zack Zukovski who have developed several Machine Learning techniques to generate music. See for example their paper
: Dadabots is the pseudonym of CJ Karr and Zack Zukovski who have developed several Machine Learning techniques to generate music. See for example their paper, Curating Generative Raw Audio Music with D.O.M.E. published at the IUI Workshops'19 8: Boden, M. A. In Creativity and Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence 103, Elsevier London 1998, p 347-356
Deep inside convolutional networks: Visualizing image classification models and saliency maps
  • Karen Simonyan
  • Andrea Vedaldi
  • Andrew Zisserman
Simonyan, Karen, Andrea Vedaldi, and Andrew Zisserman. "Deep inside convolutional networks: Visualizing image classification models and saliency maps." arXiv preprint arXiv:1312.6034 (2013). 15: Gatys, Leon A., Alexander S. Ecker, and Matthias Bethge. "A neural algorithm of artistic style." arXiv preprint arXiv:1508.06576 (2015).