Artificial New York: A Tale of the Mediated City

Abby Stock, Xueying Zhu, Weiling Luo

A{AI} - Architecture and Artificial Intelligence


Matias del Campo + Sandra Manninger


This thesis investigates the role of AI as a cultural agent of design through an architectural project focused on media, affect, urbanism, and current and speculative realities. In his article, ‘The Affects of Realism’ Michael Young states that “architecture can focus an acceleration of its engagement with technology. Not as fantasy in the production of novelty but through the ways aesthetics can put into tension assumptions regarding reality.” In this vein, our thesis seeks to leverage media and technology by “provoking tension between reality and its representation,”1 examining the boundaries between influence, aesthetics, and agency. By looking at media, and more specifically films that are set in New York, we seek to create an alternative, artificial version of Manhattan, based on a layering of data and calling attention to the causal relationship the city has with film to highlight the material, aesthetic, and textual effects of the mediated city. By using 2D-2D neural style transfer we are able to achieve various atmospheric qualities in the creation of a new film set in Manhattan. One that uses the current housing crisis as both a narrative device as well as a contemporary case study to speak to the layering of historic and implicit information that may not be initially obvious when viewing the city. Our approach aims to defamiliarize the physical place of Manhattan by putting into question expectations of sensibility and materiality through digital processes that provide an opportunity for designers to leverage this proposition as an additional avenue to understand the influence of place, building, urbanism, etc.. We believe Architecture’s agency doesn’t have to be confined to physical construction, if reality is truly a mediated construct, we think architects can gain agency and authorship in the city through the image by embracing new technologies as design tools to influence new modes of pedagogical and disciplinary thinking.

Young, Michael. “The Affects of Realism: Or the Estrangement of the Background.” Architectural Design 86, no. 6 (2016): 58–65.