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Armies and Clerks: Operations Research and Computed Architecture
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Architecture, Urban Design.
2016 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In his address to the Operations Research Society of America in 1957, Herbert Simon brought attention to the common origin of the computer and Operations Research (OR) in Adam Smith’s principle of division of labour: the first, as its application to the mechanisation of mathematical calculations by Charles Babbage during the nineteenth century; the latter, as the further development of Smith’s ideas by Frederick Taylor into scientific management at the beginning of the twentieth. As both the digital computer and OR emerged respectively from the calculation and management demands of WWII, Simon suggested to expand their previous application to 'well structured’ problems, reducible to systematic computational routines, to the 'ill structured' problems of top-level management and executive decisions; through his proposed theory of heuristics, intuition, insight, and learning would no longer be exclusive possession of humans,  as any large high-speed computer could be programmed also to exhibit them;  mental processes could be understood in their turn as algorithms running in the hardware of the mind, the hypothesis behind the then nascent cognitive psychology. 

A few years later, Christopher Alexander proposed a method of architectural synthesis grounded on Simon’s theories and the premises of cognitive psychology: the first use of computers in architecture would supplement architects’s insufficient information processing capacity, in terms of memory and speed, with a heuristic program running on a mainframe computer.  The compulsion towards optimisation, rationality and efficiency, for which Alexander’s Notes have often been criticised, have today become naturalised and invisible, embodied as the enunciative modalities of the computer, manifest in todays BIM or Parametricism. This paper will look, using Alexander’s Notes as a point of reference, to the mechanisms through which  the industrialist principles of division of labour, efficiency  or economy, became incorporated and inscribed as the hardware and software in which architecture is presently run.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016.
Keyword [en]
Taylorism, Operations Research, Cognitive Psychology, Computation, Artificial Intelligence, Optimisation
National Category
Architecture
Research subject
Architecture; History of Science, Technology and Environment
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-218176OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-218176DiVA: diva2:1159910
Conference
Architecture & Feminisms: Ecologies/Economies/Technologies AHRA (Architectural Humanities Research Association) 2016
Note

QC 20171206

Available from: 2017-11-24 Created: 2017-11-24 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf