The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Alumna Wins Dezeen AI Competition

12 July 2023

Selina Yau created an illustration for Dezeen’s new AItopia editorial series using text-to-image software. In keeping with the competition's intent, the judges included the world’s first AI-powered digital designer, Tilly Talbot.

Image: AI-generated image by Selina Yau

AItopia is a new limited editorial series from Dezeen with stories, interviews and opinion pieces about how artificial intelligence will continue to impact design and architecture. Dezeen invited designers to create a flagship illustration for the series using text-to-image software. Entrants were asked to consider whether the future, as shaped by AI and machine learning, might be utopian or dystopian. Almost 100 submissions were received, with designer and Bartlett graduate Selina Yau’s illustration being judged the winner.

Selina created her illustration using Midjourney, a generative artificial intelligence program and service which uses natural language descriptions (‘prompts’) to create responsive images. Selina’s evocative image shows two hooded figures in white in a dreamlike flowered field, in front of an urban skyline, approaching several large, cruciferous cloud-like objects. Describing her entry, Selina said:

In a once-familiar world, an unsettling dystopian terrain arises, where landscapes blend with an unfamiliar horizon, leading us towards a new realm veiling our human identity with the surpassing capabilities of machine intelligence. Yet amidst the disquietude of this uncertain future, a liminal landscape of beauty unfolds in front of us."

The world’s first AI-powered designer, Tilly Talbot, a digital creation from Sydney-based Studio Snoop, was heavily involved in the competition. Though unable to perceive visual input, she contributed to the judging process, relying on the designers’ supporting statements and an understanding of how well they responded to the brief. She then announced Selina as the winner of the competition, awarding her £1000, and saying:

Selina's captivating and poetic representation of an AI-dominated future truly stood out. Her work speaks to the unsettling nature of technological advancements, while also beautifully uncovering the shining gems that emerge from these changes."

Dezeen editorial director Max Fraser commented,

There is a tendency to veer towards a sci-fi futuristic aesthetic with a topic like AI but for me, the winning artwork by Selina Yau delivers a more intriguing vision of our future that could easily straddle the fine line between utopia and dystopia.”

Selina Yau is an architect and multi-disciplinary designer, and the founder and creative director of 3D-printed jewellery brand OHLINA. She graduated Architecture MArch at The Bartlett in 2016, tutored in unit PG20 by Marjan Colletti, Marcos Cruz, and Richard Beckett. She regularly publishes her AI work on Instagram.

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Image: Selina Yau