Computer Architectures: Constructing the Common Ground, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Computer Architectures

Constructing the Common Ground, 1st Edition

Edited by Theodora Vardouli, Olga Touloumi


216 pages | 34 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780815396529
pub: 2019-11-29
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Computer Architectures is a collection of multidisciplinary historical works unearthing sites, concepts, and concerns that catalyzed the cross-contamination of computers and architecture in the mid-20th century.

Weaving together intellectual, social, cultural, and material histories, this book paints the landscape that brought computing into the imagination, production, and management of the built environment, whilst foregrounding the impact of architecture in shaping technological development. The book is organized into sections corresponding to the classic von Neumann diagram for computer architecture: Program (control unit), storage (memory), input/output and computation (arithmetic/logic unit), each acting as a quasi-material category for parsing debates among architects, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists. Collectively, authors bring forth the striking homologies between a computer program and an architectural program, a wall and an interface, computer memory and storage architectures, structures of mathematics and structures of things. The collection initiates new histories of knowledge and technology production that turn an eye toward disciplinary fusions and their institutional and intellectual drives.

Constructing the common ground between design and computing, this collection addresses audiences working at the nexus of design, technology, and society, including historians and practitioners of design and architecture, science and technology scholars, and media studies scholars.


"This impressive collection brings together a stellar group of thinkers from diverse disciplinary traditions to explore the deeply intertwined histories of architecture and computation. It’s a model for studies of computation as a cultural, as well as technical, practice."? - Jennifer S. Light, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Toward a Polyglot Space

Olga Touloumi & Theodora Vardouli


2. Computing Environmental Design

Peder Anker

3. The Work of Design and the Design of Work: Olivetti and the Political Economy of its Early Computers

AnnMarie Brennan

4. "Bewildered, the Form-Maker Stands Alone": Computer Architecture and the Quest for Design Rationality

Theodora Vardouli


5. Augmentation and Interface: Tracing a Spectrum

Molly Wright Steenson

6. The First Failure of Man-Computer Symbiosis: The Hospital Computer Project, 1960-1968

David Theodore

7. The Unclean Human-Machine Interface

Rachel Plotnick


8. Architectures of Information: A Comparison of Wiener’s and Shannon’s Theories of Information

Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan

9. Bureaucracy’s Playthings

Shannon Mattern


10. Imagining Architecture as a Form of Concrete Poetry

Matthew Allen

11. The Axiomatic Aesthetic

Alma Steingart

About the Editors

Theodora Vardouli is Assistant Professor at the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture, McGill University, Canada.

Olga Touloumi is Assistant Professor of Architectural History at Bard College, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Design, Technology and Society

The Routledge Research in Design, Technology and Society series offers new critical perspectives and creative insights into the roles of technological systems and discourses in the design and production of our built environment. As computation, software, simulations, digital fabrication, robotics, ‘big data,’ artificial intelligence and machine learning configure new imaginaries of designing and making across fields, the series approaches these subjects critically from enriched socio-material, technical and historical perspectives —revealing how conceptions of creativity, materiality and labor have shifted and continue to shift in conjunction with technological change.

Prospective authors are encouraged to contact the series editors for more information about the series, or to discuss proposals.

Daniel Cardoso Llach (; Terry Knight (

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / History / General