Asif Zeshan '24, MS.Arch | Harnessing AI for Architecture

May 20, 2024
Asif Zeshan, '24, shares how the program has prepared him for a future in design technology research.
Asif Zeshan '24, MS.Arch
Asif Zeshan Photo

Eight Questions with Masters of Science in Architecture Alumnus Asif Zeshan

“We need to open up a world of possibilities where the role of the architect evolves from being the sole creator to a collaborator with advanced technology and I feel inspired to be part of research on the topic.”

Masters of Science in Architecture alumnus Asif Zeshan feels that the architecture community is due for a transformation to keep up with emerging technology. The MS.Arch program provided him the opportunity to dive into research on the topic, bringing his passions to life.

Q: What brought you to CAPLA to study as a master's student?
A: After beginning my professional journey in Bangladesh in 2020 after earning my bachelor's degree, I dove into both academia and the professional world. This experience intensified my long-held passion for merging technology with architecture. However, a noticeable reluctance to embrace the latest technological innovation in my local market piqued my curiosity. Was this just a local trend or a broader global industry pattern? This question led me to seek a platform where I could explore these dynamics deeper. Enter CAPLA at the University of Arizona, whose dedication to pioneering solutions for real-world architectural challenges immediately struck a chord with me. 

The MS.Arch program, with its flexible and comprehensive curriculum, emerged as the perfect avenue for me to not only engage with international architectural trends, but also to make a substantial contribution to the field. This culmination of experiences and aspirations naturally pointed me towards choosing CAPLA for my master's studies, marking it as the next exciting chapter in my journey.

Q: What got you interested in doing research?
A: My fascination with research in design tech was sparked by recognizing architecture as more than a process-driven profession. In school and professional life, we're trained to follow steps, optimize processes with tools and software and often focus on aesthetics or established norms. Architecture's true potential lies in its capacity for real-world problem-solving and quantifiable solutions. This realization hit me during my journey through traditional architectural education, professional roles and teaching. Architecture, at its core, is dynamic, requiring not just tech-savviness, but innovation in the very tools and frameworks we use. With the rapid evolution of technology, I saw a gap and an opportunity. We need to evolve from merely using technology to being the innovators of our own architectural tech. This understanding propelled me into design tech research, driven by a desire to push boundaries and harness technology's full potential for our unique problem-solving needs. It's about shaping the future of architecture, where we're creators and innovators, not just practitioners.

Q: Describe your research project. 
A: My research dives into the transformative potential of artificial intelligence in reshaping the architectural design process. Traditionally, humans have been the sole architects of our built environment, naturally placing our needs at the forefront. However, AI introduces a paradigm shift. It should not just be perceived as a design assistant, but a new form of intelligence that perceives humans as one element within the design ecosystem, rather than the central focus. This perspective is crucial as we confront global challenges like climate change, massive migrations, pollution and dwindling energy resources. My project explores how synthetic intelligence can redefine our approach to design, envisioning a future where AI challenges and innovates our conventional design processes to address real-world issues.

Q: Why is this project important to you?
A: This project holds great significance to me as it navigates the intersection of AI and architecture, a domain ripe with potential, yet often approached with apprehension. While a lot of architects fear AI being a job threat as an automating agent of the design process, I view it as a catalyst for elevating our design capabilities. Imagine leveraging it to generate thousands of design iterations, each addressing different aspects of a problem, or using it to refine our initial sketches. This technology doesn't replace our creativity. Instead, it amplifies it, allowing us more time for critical design thinking and access to a vast reservoir of knowledge. We need to open up a world of possibilities where the role of the architect evolves from being the sole creator to a collaborator with advanced technology and I feel inspired to be part of research on the topic.

Q: What are your career goals?
A: My career goals revolve around being a catalyst for change in the field of architecture. I aspire to engage in both professional and academic research, aiming to redefine the traditional confines of space design. My vision is to evolve the role of architects from primarily aesthetic-driven artists to multifaceted problem solvers who value artistry while addressing real-world challenges. Additionally, I'm driven to contribute to education, instilling this holistic approach in the next generation of architecture professionals. Ultimately, I seek to be at the forefront of projects that challenge and expand our conceptual and processual boundaries in architecture.

Q: How is your experience in this program setting you up for success in the future?
A: My experience in the "Emerging Building Technology" concentration of MS.Arch has been a perfect blend of technology and discipline-specific learning. It allowed me to delve into advanced simulation techniques and fabrication tools, aligning with my initial goals for the program. Beyond this, the program's flexibility enabled me to explore AI fundamentals and research computation courses from other departments, crucial for my future in design tech research. I've also had the privilege of publishing my first academic research under expert guidance and was honored with nominations for data science fellowships from the Arizona Institute for Resilience and Data Science Institute. These experiences and opportunities are shaping me into a well-rounded design research professional, laying a solid foundation for my future endeavors in this exciting field.

Q: What have you found most unique about this program?
A: The most unique aspect of this master's program, for me, lies in its specialized and accelerated nature, perfectly tailored to my educational journey. Coming from a rigorous five-year bachelor's program focused on licensure, I sought a master's curriculum that would deepen my knowledge in specific areas of interest within the discipline. This program stands out by offering that exact opportunity, a rarity among institutions. Additionally, its STEM designation is a crucial feature, opening doors for extended professional experiences in the U.S., which is instrumental for my growth as both a researcher and a professional.

Q: What advice do you have for prospective students?
A: Describing graduate study as merely “demanding” doesn't quite capture it. It's a rigorous blend of meticulousness and multi-tasking, requiring a well-tuned balance of study, work and personal life. My key advice for prospective students would be to engage in thoughtful self-reflection before diving into a program. Identify what truly ignites your professional passion. This clarity is crucial in selecting a program that resonates with your interests. The MS.Arch program, for instance, offers remarkable openness and flexibility, which is fantastic, but can also feel daunting. Use self-reflection to hone a specific focus within your chosen field. This approach will not only guide you in selecting relevant courses and research areas, but will also pave a clear path towards a career that genuinely aligns with your passions and aspirations.


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