Design Technics

Archaeologies of Architectural Practice

2019

Zeynep Çelik Alexander and John May, Editors

Design Technics

Leading scholars historicize and theorize technology’s role in architectural design

Design Technics argues that the technical dimension of design has often been flattened into the broader celebratory rhetoric of innovation. Here leading scholars in architectural and design history construct histories—some panoramic and others unfolding around a specific episode—of seven techniques regularly used by the designer in the architectural studio today: rendering, modeling, scanning, equipping, specifying, positioning, and repeating.

Weaving together material instruments and mental habits, professional organization and artistic imagination, Design Technics brilliantly demonstrates that design techniques such as modeling, scanning, and specifying enable us to write a different history of architecture. Instead of focusing on authors and buildings, Zeynep Çelik Alexander and John May focus on the concrete operations of the discipline—operations that are nevertheless inseparable from larger perspectives, for techniques contribute to the construction of the human.

Antoine Picon, author of Smart Cities: A Spatialised Intelligence

Although the question of technics pervades the contemporary discipline of architecture, there are few critical analyses on the topic. Design Technics fills this gap, arguing that the technical dimension of design has often been flattened into the broader celebratory rhetoric of innovation. Bringing together leading scholars in architectural and design history, the volume’s contributors situate these tools on a broader epistemological and chronological canvas. The essays here construct histories—some panoramic and others unfolding around a specific episode—of seven techniques regularly used by the designer in the architectural studio today: rendering, modeling, scanning, equipping, specifying, positioning, and repeating.

Starting with observations about the epistemological changes that have unfolded in the discipline in recent decades but seeking to offer a more expansive meaning for technics, the volume casts new light on concepts such as form, experience, and image that have played central roles in historical architectural discourses. Among the questions addressed: How was the concept of form immanent in practices of scanning since the late nineteenth century? What was the historical relationship between rendering and experience in Enlightenment discourses? How did practices of specifying reconfigure the distinction between intellectual and manual labor? What kind of rationality is inherent in the designer’s constant clicking of the mouse in front of her screen?

In addressing these and other questions, this engaging and timely collection thereby proposes technics as a site for historical and philosophical reflection not only for those engaged in architectural design but also for any scholar working in the humanities today.

Contributors: Lucia Allais, Edward Eigen, Orit Halpern, John Harwood, Matthew C. Hunter, and Michael Osman.

Design Technics

Zeynep Çelik Alexander is associate professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University and author of Kinaesthetic Knowing: Aesthetics, Epistemology, Modern Design.

John May is assistant professor of architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and author of Signal. Image. Architecture. He is founding partner of MILLIØNS, a Los Angeles–based architectural practice.

Design Technics

Weaving together material instruments and mental habits, professional organization and artistic imagination, Design Technics brilliantly demonstrates that design techniques such as modeling, scanning, and specifying enable us to write a different history of architecture. Instead of focusing on authors and buildings, Zeynep Çelik Alexander and John May focus on the concrete operations of the discipline—operations that are nevertheless inseparable from larger perspectives, for techniques contribute to the construction of the human.

Antoine Picon, author of Smart Cities: A Spatialised Intelligence

Design Technics

Contents


Acknowledgments


Introduction: Architecture and Technics


Zeynep Çelik Alexander


1. Rendering: On Experience and Experiments


Lucia Allais


2. Modeling: A Secret History of Following


Matthew C. Hunter


3. Scanning: A Technical History of Form


Zeynep Çelik Alexander


4. Equipping: Domestic Sleights of Hand


Edward A. Eigen


5. Specifying: The Generality of Clerical Labor


Michael Osman


6. Positioning: Architecture of Logistics


John Harwood


7. Repeating: Cybernetic Intelligence


Orit Halpern


Afterword: Architecture in Real Time


John May


Contributors


Index