SOA at SXSW 2024

March 1, 2024
Associate Professors Danelle Briscoe and Junfeng Jiao and Master of Architecture student Ji Yoon Ahn are participating in SXSW events exploring the intersection of ecology design and bee preservation and the ways that artificial intelligence can support the development of more inclusive, sustainable, and enjoyable urban experiences.
SXSW 2024 graphic with colorful blocks and geometric designs

SXSW is one of the most important conferences for trends and innovations in media, technology, and future topics. Each year, the conference brings an incredible influx of people and ideas to Austin, drawn here to celebrate the convergence of technology, film, music, education, and culture and to explore new ideas and innovations in everything from design and sustainability to artificial intelligence and beyond.

This year, three members of the School of Architecture community—Associate Professors Danelle Briscoe and Junfeng Jiao, as well as Master of Architecture student Ji Yoon Ahn—are participating in SXSW events.

On Saturday, March 9, Associate Professor Danelle Briscoe and Master of Architecture student Ji Yoon Ahn will join Mikaila Ulmer, founder of the Healthy Hive Foundation, and Chris Graves, Chief Creative Officer of Team One, for the panel, “Thinking Outside the Hive: Designing Tomorrow’s Beehive.” Building on student work and relationships developed during Briscoe’s Fall 2023 Vertical Studio, the panel will explore the intersection of ecology design and bee preservation. Working in collaboration with the teams at the Healthy Hive Foundation and Team One, Briscoe’s students developed innovative concepts for new iterations on the standard beehive, several of which have been selected for advanced prototyping by Team One. During the panel, Briscoe and Ahn will discuss the studio, their process, and the student work, and several of the prototypes will be on display during SXSW at the Two Hives Honey Farm in Manor, Texas. Work from the entire studio will be on display on campus in the North Lobby of Goldsmith Hall.

This panel builds on Briscoe’s research and professional work, exploring the intersection of building information modeling, ecology, and digital fabrication. One of Briscoe’s projects at UTSOA related to the work is the UTSOA Living Wall, a long-term installation on the exterior façade of Goldsmith Hall, which engages the role of architecture in ecology and inspires alternative approaches to building smarter. Installed in 2016, the Living Wall cools the building, reduces noise, captures water, and serves as an ecological incubator for local flora and fauna. 

On Sunday, March 10, Associate Professor Junfeng Jiao and Chelsea Collier of Digi.City will lead a workshop titled “AI is Not the (Only) Answer: Smart City Co-Creation.” While AI’s transformative power poses many challenges for democratic societies, it can also support the development of more inclusive, sustainable, and enjoyable urban experiences. In this workshop, Jiao and Collier will lead participants in a hands-on engagement with OpenCity.AI, a large language model AI platform developed by Jiao’s Urban Information Lab, trained on massive amounts of public city information. Using OpenCity.AI, the Connected Urban Digital Twins platform, and other participatory modeling and planning tools, workshop participants will learn what it takes to build the city of the future.

This is the second year in a row that Jiao and Collier have collaborated to lead an SXSW workshop on artificial intelligence and smart cities. The workshop taps into Jiao’s ongoing research and work as director of Urban Information Lab, the Texas Smart City Initiative, the Good Systems Grand Challenge, and the NSF NRT Ethical AI program at UT Austin. Jiao’s research and work focus on urban informatics, smart cities, and ethical AI, using different advanced technologies to quantify cities and better understand their impacts on human behaviors. Jiao will also speak at the SXSW Innovation Bridge Europe House about Artificial Intelligence and Smart Cities at the Thompson Hotel on March 10.

Screenshot of downtown Austin taken using Junfeng Jiao's "digital twin" AI platform
Screenshot of Austin's Digital Twin
"Beez Block" poster highlighting the components of this innovative bee structure.
"Beez Block" by Bailey Ortiz


"Live Work Nest" poster highlighting the components of Ji Yoon Ahn's innovative beehive.
"Live Work Nest" by Ji Yoon Ahn
"Habeetat" poster highlighting the components of an innovative beehive
habeetat by Roxana Colocho