Builders of the Vision traces the intellectual history and contemporary practices of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Numerical Control since the years following World War II until today. Drawing from primary archival and ethnographic sources, it identifies and documents the crucial ideas shaping digital design technologies since the first numerical control and CAD systems were developed under US Air Force research contracts at MIT between 1949 and 1970: the cybernetic theorization of design as a human-machine endeavor; the vision of computers as "perfect slaves" taking care of the drudgery of physical labor; the techno-social utopias of computers as vehicles of democracy and social change; the entrepreneurial urge towards design and construction integration; and the managerial ideologies enabling today’s transnational geographies of practice.
Examining the contrasting, and often conflicting, sensibilities that converge into CAD and BIM discourses - globalism, utopianism, entrepreneurialism, and architects’ desires for aesthetic liberation - Builders of the Vision shows that software systems and numerically controlled machines are not merely "instruments," or "tools," but rather versatile metaphors reconfiguring conceptions of design, materiality, work, and what it means to be creative. Crucially, by revealing software systems as socio-technical infrastructures that mediate the production of our built environments, author Daniel Cardoso Llach builds a strong case for the fields of architecture, media, and science and technology studies to critically engage with both the politics and the poetics of technology in design.
Builders of the Vision will be essential reading for scholars and practitioners across disciplines interested in the increasingly complex socio-technical systems that go into imagining and building of our artifacts, buildings, and cities.
"In this fascinating interdisciplinary study, Cardoso Llach combines the past of MIT visionary Steve Coons and his CAD innovations with the present of global 'starchitecture'. The result is an important contribution to our understanding not just of software tools but of the future of design itself." - Matthew Wisnioski, Science and Technology in Society, Virginia Tech, USA
"Combining extraordinary fluency in design, computation and STS, Builders of the Vision is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the confluence of cultural imaginaries and material practices in modern technological projects. Cardoso Llach deploys a rich conceptual and methodological repetoire to explicate how dreams of bodily transcendence and political realities of embodied labours combine in the architectures of the most visible artefacts and invisible infrastructures of the contemporary world." - Lucy Suchman, Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University, UK
List of Figures. Preface. Unfamiliar Metaphors: Mirrors, Scaffolds, Slaves. Unexpected Theorists. A Journey to the East. Acknowledgments. 1. Introduction: Seeing Software as a Cultural Infrastructure 2. Codification Before Software: Architectural Inscriptions and the Design-Construction Split Part One 3. Software Comes to Matter: Encoding Geometry, Materials and Machines 4. Perfect Slaves and Cooperative Partners: Steven A. Coons and Computers' New Role in Design 5. Computer-Aided Revolutions: CAD Experimentalism, Participation and Representation in the Architecture Machine 6. Visions of Design: Software Stories About Design, Creativity and Control Part Two 7. The Architect's Bargain: Building the 'Bilbao Effect' in the Abu Dhabi Desert 8. Contesting the Infrastructure: Resistance Against and Re-Appropriation of a Digital Model 9. Rethinking Redundancy: Parametrics of Trust-Building in Digital Practice 10. Coda Bibliography. Index