|Between Accident and Control: Contrasting Traditions of Computational Design
Since architects began to flirt with computers in the 1960s, debates about the role of computation in architecture have often been framed antagonistically – as arenas for technophobes and technophiles to clash, each staking a claim on the unique value, or promise, of their respective practices. This dichotomy is tempting. On the one hand, images of automated design systems – offering creative freedom, managerial efficiency, or ‘personalized’ design solutions – abound in architecture’s six-decades romance with computation. Seductive and often reductive, these images outlined the contours of a computationally augmented practice of architecture, and captured the imagination of many architects in academia and industry, effectively ushering an entire academic sub-field.
Computers were greeted more cautiously, on the other hand, by those architects who saw them either as means of producing ineffective simulacra, or as a dangerously transformative force in architecture. For some in this group, computer screens simply failed to approximate the plasticity of sketches drawn by hand, or the tactility of a physical model; for others – aware of the social and organizational tensions introduced by technologies – computers conjured (not entirely unjustified) pre-industrial fears of automation, de-skilling and alienation.
A sort of bargain was thus struck across these seemingly distant intellectual territories: the idea that the computer is ‘just another tool’ that architects can utilize in their design process – another paintbrush or easel in the architect’s atelier. Frequently deployed in studio reviews, ‘think pieces’ and course syllabi, this concept has become part of many architects’ conventional wisdom, configuring a comfortable middle ground where computational ideas and techniques can co-exist with (albeit at a safe distance from) architecture’s hard core.
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|ISSN : 2575-5374|