Ephemeral Extant is a project that explores just how little we know about our collectively constructed environment across the globe by testing the limits of publicly available satellite data. To achieve this, AI algorithms were trained on thousands of satellite images. The resulting models were then used to generate visual representations of unknown urban species that suggest alternative models of cohabitation.
The goal of this was to not only trace the edges of our knowledge and imagination but also explore how we can create feedback loops in the virtual world that can be positive for a more-than-human synthetic environment. By doing so, it questions the overtly urban discourse—the man-made ecosystem—that has been dominating the disciplinary discourse and creates awareness on behalf of the species we share this planet with.
Artificial Intelligence is utilized throughout the entire process, starting with transforming GAN-generated 2D images into 3D forms, then applying synthesized textures, and ultimately generating descriptions.
The urban typologies were generated with 2D-GANs (DCGAN and StyleGAN).
This project is part of an ongoing exploration of urban “beings” – artificial and natural alike – using machine learning to generate synthetic environments, as well as their names and descriptions of architectural anatomy by a GPT-3.5 language model. This gives us a way to engage with the rich diversity of the built and natural world, created by humans and non-humans in a virtual digital space.
AI is used as a means of exploring what we know of the environment we inhabit through an “essential” re-enactment that at once is a reflection of what we do and do not know about these essential ecosystems and how we relate internally and to us.
The project is part of the research project on the topic of The “Sustainability” of Urban Form with the POLIS University in Tirana, Albania. The research cooperation is supported by the international “Scientific & Technological Cooperation” programm of the OeAD (Austria’s Agency for Education and Internationalisation)