Kuressaare Beach Competition

Can you win a competition with AI? We wanted to test this theory, so when we were invited to submit proposals for a scheme in Estonia, we thought it was the perfect opportunity.

This month we submitted design proposals for the project on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia.

The competition called for the redesign of the beach and bay of Kuressaare city, the capital of the island.

A castle surrounded by a moat, forms the focus of the city, yet where it reaches the sea, there is a disconnect and one doesn’t really feel the need to go past the castle towards the sea.

Our scheme focused on improving the connections to the water and creating activities and uses for people all year round.

The city is a spa town and historically had a series of floating pool houses around the bay, yet these interesting follies were lost and never replaced.

Fascinated by Aldo Rossi’s floating Venetian theatre, created in 1979, we wanted to recreate this kind of theatrical magic in a Baltic setting.

Estonian’s have a large sauna and swimming culture so what better way to combine the two than a floating pavilion in homage to Rossi’s theatre?

Cue some AI testing and iterations…

We decided to test using Midjourney, which is a popular text based image generation tool. Essentially, you give the software text based prompts to create images.

At first the images we produced were way off the mark and did not achieve the style we wanted, but with practice we realised that the quality of the prompt you give the tool will determine what can be achieved.

Sometimes the results we got were genuinely realistic and believable, but other times AI created impossible images, which whilst interesting wouldn’t work for us in the context of a design competition.

With a simple prompts we began to get an interesting image, but it didn’t specifically address the point we were trying to convey.

We started with simple prompts such as:

“An outdoor public swimming pool on the sea, with a wooden floor and raised diving boards in Scandinavia”.

Starting with a single line prompt, gave the AI lots of room for interpretation, some of the examples of these below:

During our research we developed much more detailed prompts to achieve what we wanted, for example:

Updated AI Prompt – (this is the kind of length you need to get a specific image)

“An interior view from inside a floating sauna. The sauna sits on what is Aldo Rossi’s floating pavilion imagined as a swimming pool and platform in Kuressaare bay, Estonia. On the ground level there is a floating sauna with swimmers sitting inside a timber pine and glass clad sauna. The sauna is laid out as a traditional Finnish sauna with an upper and lower bench, and a woman can be seen adding water to the sauna stones you can see this in the centre of the image. In the enclosed bay some swimming lanes are set out with markers and swimmers are doing laps. In the near background you can see land and a rocky outcrop with a timber board walk beside it, A cyclist can be seen riding over the boardwalk and a child with a dog. A modern Scandinavian hotel is shown in the near background on the land mass. The entire scene is viewed from eye level and looks directly our from the sauna benches into the sea . To one side of the image you see people sitting in the sauna and to the other side you see the sauna heater. You are able to see through the inside of the sauna and beyond to the sea a large glass window frames the view, outside the sauna is a wooden deck and kids can be seen jumping off the deck into the sea. the camera is an old fuljfilm camera”

See the below images that were much more closely aligned with our ideas,

With the more detailed prompts we began to some craft some really believable and compelling imagery and these are what we used in our competition submission.

We also tested animating the scenes using AI prompts, with Luma AI

This tool created AI generated videos from still images, so we uploaded the stills we had created in mid-journey and created animated versions of the scenes based on further text prompts, below are a few examples of this in action….

A powerful tool (in the right hands!)

So would we use AI again, and can you win a competition with it?

Fundamentally any project is only as good as the concept from which it stems, and so far AI can only be told what to do, not think of new concepts for itself, so designers are still needed. Maybe its just a matter of time until we are all replaced….

But – We always love experimentation and testing new ideas, so we really enjoyed utilising this new tool. Will it make us any money and will we use it again?

100% we will be using AI again – the results of the competition are out next week!

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