“Digital architecture” —the medley of architectural softwares, computational design processes, and built outcomes of their uses— has skeletons hidden in its closet. Or rather, under its surface. That is, under the appearance of complex architectural geometries and behind the screen of proliferating computer programs for designing, managing, and constructing them, lurk skeletal abstractions that consist of discrete entities and their relationships. This talk asks, what new insights on architecture’s entanglements with digital technologies might we gain by bringing digital architecture’s, quite literal, skeletons to the fore? The talk’s premise is that architects’ turn toward computers was propelled by a shift from the points and lines of geometric shapes to the points and lines of graphs (mathematical entities whose points represent objects and lines represent their relations). Considering graphs as images, as tools, and as infrastructures for design, the talk recounts the emergence of a graph vision — a representational, operational, and political regime that conceptualizes agency and possibility as undergirded by immanent structures. Alongside archivally driven forays, the talk also presents digital history experiments for activating academic networks and technical objects that participated in the making of a graph vision for architecture.
Theodora Vardouli (MIT PhD ’17) is an Assistant Professor at the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture at McGill University, where she researches histories, cultural meanings, and operational implications of algorithmic techniques for architecture. Vardouli has published articles in Architectural Research Quarterly, Design Studies, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Nexus Network Journal, Perspective, Leonardo, and chapters in several edited collections. She is the author of the forthcoming book Graph Vision: Digital Architecture’s Skeletons (MIT Press, 2024), co-editor of Computer Architectures: Constructing the Common Ground (with Olga Touloumi, Routledge, 2020) and co-author and co-editor of Designing the Computational Image, Imagining Computational Design (with Daniel Cardoso Llach, Applied Research and Design Publishing, forthcoming 2023). Vardouli also co-curated with Cardoso Llach the exhibition Vers un imaginaire numérique (Montreal 2021). Vardouli’s scholarship has been recognized with the 2022 Best Paper Award by the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) and the 2022 Mahoney Prize by the Special Interest Group for Computing Information and Society (SIGCIS) for an article co-authored with David Theodore. Vardouli is an External Examiner for two graduate programs at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London and the Communications Editor for the journal Technology, Architecture + Design (TAD).
Lectures are free and open to the public. Lectures will be held Thursdays at 6 PM ET in 7-429 (Long Lounge) and streamed online unless otherwise noted. Registration required to attend in-person. Register here or watch the webcast on Youtube.