Architecture and Technics
Zeynep Çelik Alexander
The question of technics appears to saturate the contemporary discipline of architecture. Technical courses occupy increasingly more of the timetable in design schools; students and practitioners alike are repeatedly forced to train and retrain themselves with new software; and new degrees at architectural schools and new courses in continuing education programs stress the growing importance of technical know-how. Perhaps more importantly, the recent centrality of technics seems to be reconfiguring the evidentiary regimes used by designers: it is now routine in architecture schools, for example, for students to justify many of their design decisions, first and foremost, as technical solutions—to such daunting problems as rising sea levels or humanitarian emergencies—with little concern that in doing so they might receive the once-derogatory “functionalist” label. All this attention to technics, however, does not necessarily amount to critical analysis. In fact, it may be argued, the more central the role that technics have come to play in the discipline, the narrower the definition of the term has become. The stories that the discipline has been telling itself about the rise of the so-called digital are a case in point: even when they purport to historicize, these stories have foreclosed the promise of history by constructing genealogies that only reaffirm entrenched narratives.
The essays in this volume take another approach. They do not only inquire into the question of technics in an adamantly historical manner but suggest that technics, in fact, might be the most promising arena for a theoretical line of inquiry in the discipline. First, they propose a more capacious meaning for the term technics, which is used here to denote a constellation of interrelated practical, artifactual, and procedural material conditions. Even though this publishing endeavor was at first naïvely named “Instruments Project” (a nickname that stuck even after its theoretical premise was abandoned), it quickly became clear that analyzing artifacts used by designers (from the T-square and the French curve to the various kinds of software used today) would be a strategy that would as much duplicate as invert historical sciences’ tendency to rest all agency with subjects—in the case of architectural history, for example, with individual designers. Prioritizing the subject or the object conformed too readily to a master-and-slave dialectic familiar from Enlightenment discourses: if humans were the master, instruments were nothing but neutral, passive tools, applying human intentions to a compliant nature. Similarly, if instruments were to be seen as the master, they acquired godlike powers. It was in an attempt to avoid such intractable antinomies that the scholars who contributed to this volume decided to focus on the middle between the object and the subject and between the instrument and its user. That middle is impossibly amorphous, sticky, and mutable, it turns out, and therefore a much more intriguing focus of historical analysis.
As recent media theory has shown us, attending to that middle also means attending to techniques. Second, then, instead of constructing complete genealogies of architecture’s relationship to technics, these essays begin with a handful of practices that today’s designer undertakes in the studio: rendering, modeling, scanning, equipping, specifying, positioning, and—last but not least—repeating. The point of departure here is no different from the insight articulated by Blaise Pascal in the seventeenth century that belief does not exist as such but becomes possible only by virtue of seemingly mundane practices. “The external must be joined to the internal to obtain anything from God,” Pascal wrote, “that is to say, we must kneel, pray with the lips, etc., in order that proud man, who would not submit himself to God, may be now subject to the creature.” According to Louis Althusser, who rephrased this passage from Pensées to account for the relationship between idea and ideology, this was a significant move. Once the force of such habits and rituals as kneeling down and opening one’s hands in prayer is recognized, Althusser wrote, an inversion occurs that rips even religious belief of its metaphysical pretensions: belief as an idea with “ideal or spiritual existence” disappears and belief as a term with a concrete history becomes possible.
This is what Ian Hacking called “historical ontology,” an act of de-ontologizing that analyzes how categories, easily mistaken to have robust, unchangeable existences, historically come into being. It is also similar to the insight articulated more recently by media theorists such as Bernhard Siegert that “man does not exist independently of cultural techniques of hominization, time does not exist independently of cultural techniques for calculating and measuring time; space does not exist independently of cultural techniques for surveying and administering space.” Lewis Mumford’s brilliant analysis of how the invention of glass gave rise to selfhood in the modern sense can be seen as a similar kind of exercise.
If the outward world was changed by glass, the inner world was likewise modified. Glass had a profound effect upon the development of the personality: indeed, it helped to alter the very concept of the self. . . . For perhaps the first time, except for reflections in the water and in the dull surfaces of metal mirrors, it was possible to find an image that corresponded accurately to what others saw. Not merely in the privacy of the boudoir: in another’s home, in a public gathering, the image of the ego in new and unexpected attitudes accompanied one. The most powerful prince of the seventeenth century created a vast hall of mirrors, and the mirror spread from one room to another in the bourgeois household. Self-consciousness, introspection, mirror-conversation developed with the new object itself: this preoccupation with one’s image comes at the threshold of the mature personality when young Narcissus gazes long and deep into the face of the pool—and the sense of separate personality, a perception of the objective attributes of one’s identity, grows out of this communion.
This is not quite as radical as Michel Foucault’s argument that “before the end of the eighteenth century, man did not exist” or as fatalistic as Friedrich Kittler’s repeated derision of the “so-called man.” Yet the relationship between technics and the human seems to be subtly dialectical in Mumford’s account of the mirror and the ego: the human appears here not simply as the master of material conditions but rather as a figure who owes its very existence to those material conditions. This way of thinking upsets the long-standing trope of defining artifactual technologies as an extension of the human body—from Marx’s application of the Hegelian master and slave dialectic into the interface between machines and humans to Ernst Kapp’s conceptualization of all technology as organ-projection (Organprojektion) and to Marshall McLuhan’s formulation that media are extensions of the human sensorium. By this logic, the hand does not precede the instrument that it holds but is dialectically reconfigured by it: it is material conditions—whether of the artifactual kind discussed by Mumford or the procedural kind discussed by Althusser and Siegert—that make seemingly obdurate existences possible in the first place.
This volume attempts to understand questions of technics in the discipline of architecture in a similar manner. The seven gerunds that structure the book can be seen as cultural techniques that stand in opposition to “any ontological usage of philosophical terms” that have shaped the discipline. While each author undertakes their analysis in a different manner—some take a panoramic view and examine a longer historical arc while others unfold around a single historical moment—they are all thoroughly historical in their approach. How was the concept of form immanent in the practices of scanning that have been debated in aesthetic discourses since the late nineteenth century? How can modeling be understood in relation to following? What was the historical relationship between rendering and experience in Enlightenment discourses? How did practices of specifying configure the distinction between intellectual and manual labor? What would it mean to imagine the primary purpose of architecture as “positioning” as opposed to “holding”? What kind of rationality is inherent in the designer’s constant clicking of the mouse in front of her screen? Each essay summons a different kind of archive and excavates it using a slightly different method, but each begins with a single technique, which is then historicized in the hopes of shedding new light on concepts and practices that are used in the design studio today.
Such an effort is bedeviled with countless difficulties, which begin with the term technics already. In the English language at least, the word technics has been almost entirely eclipsed by what Leo Marx has called the “hazardous” concept of technology. The term, Marx explains, was not only physically but also conceptually weaponized: it came to assume omnipotence as “an ostensibly discrete entity” capable of driving history, “a virtually autonomous, all-encompassing agent of change.” The meaning of the word technology, other historians tell us, underwent a twofold transformation before the twentieth century. First, the English word technology collapsed the two possible meanings inherent in the German Technik, from which it was adapted: Technik can refer to artifacts or procedures whereas in English these two possible meanings splinter into the words technology and technique. Second, as the word technology became more widespread in the Anglo-American world especially after the 1930s, it lost its previously arcane meanings as the rules of grammar, on the one hand, and as the field that studied what had hitherto been called useful arts, mechanical arts, or applied science, on the other. Meanwhile, technics, once closer to the double meaning implied by Technik, became increasingly obsolete—except when revived by the likes of Lewis Mumford, who used it more generously to describe “that field of activity wherein, by an energetic organization of the process of work, man controls and directs the forces of nature for his own purposes”—that is, as a force that was not only symbolic but also constitutive of culture in general.
Add to this the difficulty of placing the question of technics within the discipline of architecture, whose place among other disciplines at the university has historically been an uncertain proposition. If technics has been reduced to technology in common parlance, the question has been made almost synonymous with tectonics in architectural discourses. This is in large part because historians who have written histories of architectural modernism have chosen to shape their narratives around genealogies of a “tectonic impulse.” Such genealogies usually start in the German-speaking world with the architect and archaeologist Karl Bötticher, who defined Tektonik in 1852 intriguingly as “the structural and instrument-forming labor [Geräthebildende Werkthätigkeit]” but quickly provided a caveat so that he would not be mistaken for a dangerous materialist: “as long as it is able to ethically penetrate its tasks arising from the needs of the spiritual or physical life, and thus not only meet the mere needs of a materially necessary body formation but also to raise the latter to an art form [Kunstform].” Conventionally the tectonic genealogy continues with Gottfried Semper—despite the fact that in his monumental Der Stil the theorist did not even have the chance to get to that final volume on architecture whose four elements can be seen as a more dynamic version of Marc-Antoine Laugier’s fictitious primitive hut. Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc makes an important appearance in this narrative: the “structural rationalism” that he found in the Gothic is understood to have been informed by a tectonic sensibility according to which each component of a building was imagined to be as indispensable to the whole as a bone would be to an animal.
The work of these important theorists notwithstanding, for the likes of Sigfried Giedion writing in the early twentieth century, the previous century had failed to produce a robust tectonic sensibility—beyond a “tectonic unconscious” that was discernible in the infrastructural work of engineers. Yet, Giedion argued, the repressed would ultimately return: the architects of the Modern Movement would heroically retrieve this implicit tectonic impulse, making technics a “conscious” centerpiece of architectural modernity. Given the influence of this narrative, it is no surprise that in historiography, architects who chose to design tectonic expressivity (think of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s adamant articulation of the steel I-beam column in the corner of his skyscrapers even when the steel element did not reach the ground) won over those who chose to design tectonic process (think of Louis Sullivan’s ingenious turn to factory-produced terracotta in the midst of strikes that disrupted the work of masons on the construction site). So influential proved the tectonic teleology that even narratives written against it have ended up utilizing its powerful rhetoric. The rich historiography on ornament—structure’s “other” in modernist discourses—that has developed within the last two decades could be seen in this light. As the reappearance of ornament in the work of historians coincided with the reinvention of a new ornamental sensibility by contemporary designers, the narrative about modern architecture’s tectonic trajectory has only become stronger. Far from challenging the tectonic narrative, then, talk of ornament has strengthened it.
Paradoxically, Giedion, the most effective proselytizer of the tectonic trajectory, was also among the first to identify “a new constellation” in architectural modernism’s vexed relationship to technics. In his monumental Mechanization Takes Command of 1948, the émigré examined the copious documentation that he found in the patent office of his newly adopted country and wrote an anonymous history of “tools and objects.” This was a history of such “humble” things as locks, chairs, bathtubs, and bread, and such processes as the assembly line, regeneration, and, most crucially, mechanization, all of which, Giedion claimed, had “shaken our mode of living to its roots.” These humble things might have taken center stage in Mechanization Takes Command, but the human agents who made them did not disappear altogether either: a patent, after all, is a recording of authorship. It would fall to Reyner Banham to pick up where Giedion had left things off. Relentlessly critiquing architectural modernism’s tendency to demarcate technics into structures and mechanical systems to the detriment of the latter, Banham brilliantly proclaimed another meaning of technics for architecture and yet another return of the repressed. In 1969 he rewrote the history of modern architecture from the perspective of environments created by mechanical equipment as opposed to spaces created by tectonics. “Ask a historian of modern architecture who invented the piloti, and he can tell you,” Banham sneered, but “ask him who invented the (equally consequential) revolving door, and he cannot.” Modernists had for too long designed buildings that looked like machines; Banham longed for a modern architecture that worked like machines.
Against historians who pointed out that the tall austere massing of the Larkin Administration Building was indebted to grain silos, Banham extolled the building in The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment for being among the first to employ mechanical systems that provided air-conditioning in the modern sense. Yet this radicality was temperate at best. A decade after the appearance of that book, when Banham returned to the Larkin Administration Building to discuss in more detail how the mechanical systems moved the air in the building, he penned a missive directed at architectural historians on the pages of the field’s journal of record. The brief text owed its rhetorical power to a rather dry set of engineering drawings that demonstrated the workings of ductwork—drawings that were not nearly as attractive as the axonometric drawings that had been made by Mary Banham for the book. While these drawings were meant to open up a new archive for modern architecture, however, they foreclosed the possibility of another kind. Banham, attentive to the mechanical systems of the building, was oblivious to another technical ingenuity of the building: its ability to accommodate the bureaucracy that made the company’s success possible in the first place. The building had been designed, after all, to process massive quantities of information—a fact that Banham, in his obsession with the machine, failed to take note. In Banham’s world, artifactual technics trumped procedural ones: one could say that he ultimately fell prey to the machine aesthetic that he criticized so vehemently throughout his career. It is the contention of this volume that procedural technics—seven of which are examined in more detail here—deserve critical attention as well.
If historians of the Modern Movement simplified the myriad meanings of technics, the discipline of architecture today is unwittingly performing another theoretical flattening by trying to understand architecture’s relationship to technics under the misleading rubric of the digital. It is argued that because there is not a scale (building, urban, or regional) or a stage of the building process (design, construction, or maintenance) that is not affected by it, the digital is the primary category through which to understand the central questions of the discipline today. Subtle and thoughtful historical analyses are few and far between while there is no shortage of declarations about the transformative role that new computational technics will play. One textbook on the topic begins with a juxtaposition of the Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower—two favorites of the “tectonic unconscious,” according to the likes of Giedion—with an image of a wireframe model of Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Museum. The consequences of the new computational tools for the building industry, the introduction of the book claims, “are likely to be on a scale similar to those of the industrial revolution: the Information Age, just like the Industrial Age before, is challenging not only how we design buildings, but also how we manufacture and construct them.” The conclusions drawn from such historical comparisons are not modest: what unites designers today is “the use of digital technology as an enabling apparatus that directly integrates conception and production in ways that are unprecedented since the medieval times of master builders.” According to this line of thinking, the history of architecture now has to be reimagined around a digital trajectory. This volume is an attempt to complicate such narratives before they ossify into a genealogy as persistent as that of the tectonic.
The essays in this volume take an unabashedly historical and, it should be stressed, theoretical approach to understanding the question of technics and its instrumentalities. This, in itself, may seem like a provocative position after the alleged death of architectural theory, a variant of critical theory that was considered the lingua franca of the humanities for decades. During the reign of architectural theory, the discipline of architecture drew on such fields as philosophy, literary criticism, or comparative literature and stayed as clear of the question of technics as of the specter of instrumentalizing knowledge. These days, by contrast, the discipline’s focus seems to be on the other side of the humanities divide—that is, on biology, ecology, neuroscience, computer science, and other fields of knowledge whose disciplinary projects are informed by the model of the natural sciences and quantitative data. This development, however, cannot simply be explained away as indicative of a new “instrumental” sensibility that seeks immediate results within research universities. Unlike the previous generation of architectural historians and theorists, in fact, the contributors to this volume are not afflicted with anxieties about the instrumentalization of knowledge. Instead, they start with the assumption that all knowledge is always already instrumentalized and pose questions about the historical conditions that make that instrumentalization possible in the first place: How? Why? Under what institutional conditions? To what ends? It seems important to note, for example, that if the position of architecture within the disciplinary landscape of the university was always up for debate, now—that is, after the triumph of the neo-Kantian position in the early twentieth century; after the positivism controversy at midcentury; after postmodernism, science wars, and the postcritical debate—it seems even more controversial. The status of theory within architecture should be understood, then, not as a vulgar turn away from experimental speculation toward technical solutions that seek to monetize knowledge but rather as part of larger changes in the epistemological landscape of the university. This volume’s call to constructing a new archive for technics in the discipline of architecture, then, is also a call for understanding architecture’s position within these new arrangements of knowledge. How the discipline understands technics will have implications for how it situates itself within other disciplines at the university. It will also determine how it might “theorize” its own epistemological agenda.
The contributors to this collection share a few assumptions about how this disciplinary reconstruction might be carried out. First, they all argue, history or, more precisely, historical ontology is crucial to this attempt. This volume does so for a number of concepts that have come to play crucial roles in architecture’s understanding of its own disciplinary history. Lucia Allais offers an architectural history of the concept of experience, that contested term of modernity; Zeynep Çelik Alexander proposes a history of form, an abstraction that acquired salience in aesthetic discourses only in the late nineteenth century; and Michael Osman argues that it was the architectural specification that has sustained what might otherwise be taken to be the long-standing dichotomy between intellectual and manual labor in the discipline. Such histories have been attempted before, but what these essays offer are “technical” accounts of these histories—that is, histories that weave lofty intellectual concepts into concrete artifacts, practices, habits, and rituals on the ground.
Second, the essays collected here operate with the assumption that architecture is ultimately an epistemic enterprise. John May suggests in the essay that serves as an afterword to this volume that the gerunds under examination here are not “the minor expressions of technical systems external to thought, or instrumentalizable techniques with known or controllable affects” but are far more consequentially “the gestural basis of an entire consciousness.” Following a similar logic, Matthew C. Hunter proposes modeling as a mode of reasoning in its own right that he compares to children’s games; Allais suggests that an act as seemingly simple as drawing a line is an epistemic gesture that organizes experience in particular ways; and John Harwood imagines the possibility of another way of conceptualizing architecture’s epistemic jurisdiction by reading into such seemingly mundane details as those of the third rail in the Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Most alarmingly, Orit Halpern warns that the cybernetic logic underlying the repetitious operations of a designer today may belong to a form of rationality that is ultimately irrational (design students repeating the same commands on their computers all day may empathize with the poor porpoise that loses her mind in Halpern’s story!) while Edward A. Eigen narrates another story of insanity about subjects trapped at home between control and comfort provided by the home’s equipment.
Third, these essays insist not on historical breaks and paradigm shifts, as so much literature on the technical developments of the last few decades tends to do, but rather on historical continuities. They do this despite their reliance on an archaeological rather than genealogical approach—that is, their rejection of complete lineages and insistence on partial, necessarily incomplete excavations. If there are any “revolutions” to speak of here, they are revolutions in the sense of celestial bodies returning to the same position while they move in their orbits. Or, to adapt the historian G. M. Trevelyan’s famous phrase for nineteenth-century revolutions, the contemporary might simply be “the turning point at which history fails to turn.” According to Osman’s account, modern standards do not emerge out of technological developments as countless modernists have fantasized; Allais traces early modern debates about experience and experiment all the way up to the present preoccupations with rendering; and in Çelik Alexander’s history of form, the nineteenth-century distinction between morphology and dissection survives not only far longer than expected but also in the most unlikely places.
Finally, one of the most surprising outcomes of this volume must be the relationship of technics to the figure of the human. However much the narratives by Mumford, Banham, and even Giedion of Mechanization Takes Command may seem like compelling alternatives to the tectonic trajectory, at a moment when the centrality of the human is being questioned as the distinguishing mark of a problematically reflexive modernity, it is also hard to stomach these texts’ overtly humanist undertones. Despite his stated goal to write an anonymous history (akin to his mentor Heinrich Wölfflin’s “art history without names”), Giedion’s agenda was to “reinstate human values.” The book, after all, was published three years after the end of World War II, during which the “mechanization of death” occurred not only in the slaughterhouses discussed in the book but also in concentration camps. For Mumford, too, understanding the machine was the prerequisite to “reconquer[ing]” and to “re-orient[ing]” human civilization. Both texts, in fact, can be said to be guilty of psychologizing the effects of mechanization: Giedion for his long-standing belief that modernity resulted in a cognitive dissonance and Mumford for attributing the modern feeling of alienation to the machine. As for Banham, however central the concept of environment might have been to his project of reestablishing a new technics in architecture, that conception of the environment was shaped resolutely around the human and its comfort.
The human appears in an altogether different guise in this volume. The domestic technologies discussed in Eigen’s story attempt to transform machines into humans while they transform humans into machines; the neural nets in Halpern’s account are understood as the limit condition of human reason. In the cases of Çelik Alexander and Allais, the human, far from preceding the technologies under examination, is made and remade through them. Time and again these technics end up stabilizing the otherwise impossibly unstable category of the human. Indeed, as May argues, it is precisely the recognition of this ontological codependency between the technical and the human that defines technics as a philosophical category.
This is not to say that the goal of this volume is to jettison altogether concepts—experience, image, form, and even the category of the human—whose histories are paratactically attempted herein. Instead the essays collected here implicitly ask: How can central concepts of the discipline be reconfigured through a new theoretical engagement with technics? Can a reexamination of the question of technics become the beginning of a new architectural theory? As the discipline of architecture absorbs dramatic epistemological changes and keeps reconstructing its agenda, it seems more productive to be epistemologically modest. And lest such a reconstruction effort turn to a foundationalist epistemology, it is useful to keep in mind the metaphor of the raft famously used by the philosopher Otto Neurath.
We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh at the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood, the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction.
1. See, for example, the exhibition and publication undertaken by the Canadian Centre for Architecture that ultimately constructs a genealogy of the digital around such figures as Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry: Greg Lynn, ed., Archaeology of the Digital: Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Chuck Hoberman, Shoei Yoh (Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture; Berlin: Sternberg, 2013).
2. Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670; repr., London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950), section 250. The phrase is, in fact, Althusser’s paraphrasing of Pascal in Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation),” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971), 127–86.
3. See Ian Hacking, Historical Ontology (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002).
4. Bernhard Siegert, “Cacography or Communication? Cultural Techniques in German Media Studies,” trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Grey Room, no. 29 (Fall 2007): 30.
5. Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934; repr., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 128–29.
6. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1966; repr., New York: Vintage, 1994), 308; Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). Kittler’s book abounds with references to the “so-called man.”
7. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1, ed. Ernest Mandel (London: Penguin, 1981); Ernst Kapp, Grundlinien einer Philosophie der Technik (Braunschweig: George Westermann, 1877), translated by Lauren K. Wolfe as Elements of a Philosophy of Technology: On the Evolutionary History of Culture, ed. Jeffrey West Kirkwood and Leif Weatherby (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018); Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964).
8. Siegert, “Cacography or Communication?,” 30. See also Lorenz Engell and Bernhard Siegert, eds., Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung, Schwerpunkt Kulturtechnik 1 (2010); Bernhard Siegert, Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015).
9. This is not to argue that the design studio is the only site for these techniques but to limit the scope of what is addressed in this volume. Future work on architectural techniques beyond the design studio is sorely needed in the discipline.
10. Leo Marx, “Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous Concept,” Technology and Culture 51, no. 3 (July 2010): 561–77.
11. L. Marx, 564. See also Merritt Roe Smith and Leo Marx, eds., Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1994).
12. Eric Schatzberg, Technology: Critical History of a Concept (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).
13. Eric Schatzberg, “Technik Comes to America: Changing Meanings of Technology before 1930,” Technology and Culture 47, no. 3 (July 2006): 486–512. Schatzberg calls Technik a German import and attributes the role of the importer, above all, to Thornstein Veblen. Schatzberg, 487.
14. Schatzberg, 496–507. For a discussion of how the term technology elevated the useful arts from the realm of artisans and manufacture to that of big business and the university, see Leo Marx, “The Idea of ‘Technology’ and Postmodern Pessimism,” in Smith and Marx, Does Technology Drive History?, 238–57. For an exploration of how technology was gendered male, see Ruth Oldenziel, Making Technology Masculine: Men, Women, and Modern Machines in America, 1870–1945 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1999).
15. Lewis Mumford, Art and Technics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952), 15.
16. On disciplinarity of architecture, see Mark Wigley, “Prosthetic Theory: The Disciplining of Architecture,” Assemblage, no. 15 (August 1991): 6–29; Mark Jarzombek, “A Prolegomena to Critical Historiography,” Journal of Architectural Education 52, no. 4 (May 1999): 197–206; Zeynep Çelik Alexander, “Neo-naturalism,” in “New Ancients,” ed. Dora Epstein Jones and Bryony Roberts, special issue, Log, no. 31 (Spring/Summer 2014): 23–30; and Zeynep Çelik Alexander, “The Core That Wasn’t,” Harvard Design Magazine, no. 35 (Fall/Winter 2012): 84–89.
17. The most comprehensive examination of the tectonic in architectural modernism remains Kenneth Frampton, Studies in Tectonic Culture: The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Architecture, ed. John Cava (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995). See also Harry Francis Mallgrave, Modern Architectural Theory: A Historical Survey, 1673–1968 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 91–139.
18. Karl Bötticher, Die Tektonik der Hellenen, vol. 1 (Potsdam: Ferdiand Riegel, 1852), 1. See also Mitchell Schwarzer, “Ontology and Representation in Karl Bötticher’s Theory of Tectonics,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 52, no. 3 (September 1993): 267–80; and Hartmut Mayer, Die Tektonik der Hellenen: Kontext und Wirkung der Architekturtheorie von Karl Bötticher (Stuttgart: Axel Menges, 2004).
19. Gottfried Semper, Die Vier Elemente der Baukunst (Braunschweig: Vieweg und Sohn, 1851), translated by Wolfgang Herrmann and Harry Francis Mallgrave as Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). See also Gottfried Semper, Der Stil in den technischen und tektonischen Künsten, vol. 1, Textile Kunst (Frankfurt: Verlag für Kunst und Wissenschaft, 1860), and vol. 2, Keramik, Tektonik, Stereotomie, Metallotechnik (Munich: Friedrich Bruchmann, 1863), translated by Harry Francis Mallgrave and Michael Robinson as Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2004). For more recent and sophisticated understandings of Semper, see Harry Francis Mallgrave, Gottfried Semper: Architect of the Nineteenth Century (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996); Winfried Nerdinger and Werner Oechslin, eds., Gottfried Semper, 1803–1879: Architektur und Wissenschaft (Munich: Prestel, 2003); and Mari Hvattum, Gottfried Semper and the Problem of Historicism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
20. Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, Entretiens Sur l’Architecture, 2 vols. (Paris: A Morel, 1863–72). Barry Bergdoll and Martin Bressani have complicated this picture: Barry Bergdoll, “Of Crystals, Cells, and Strata: Natural History and Debates on the Form of a New Architecture in the Nineteenth Century,” Architectural History 50 (2007): 1–29; Martin Bressani, “Notes on Viollet-le-Duc’s Philosophy of History: Dialectics and Technology,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 48, no. 4 (December 1989): 327–50; and Martin Bressani, Architecture and the Historical Imagination: Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, 1814–1879 (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2014).
21. For a sophisticated critique of this idea, see a lucidly written essay by Antoine Picon, “Notes on Modern Architecture,” Positions, no. 0 (Fall 2008): 78–83. For a discussion of the “tectonic unconscious” in the split between engineers and architects, see Sigfried Giedion, Bauen in Frankreich, Eisen, Eisenbeton (Leipzig: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1928), translated by J. Duncan Berry as Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferro-Concrete (Santa Monica, Calif.: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1995); and Sigfried Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1941).
22. I am thinking here of Fritz Neumeyer, “A World in Itself: Architecture and Technology,” in The Presence of Mies, ed. Detlef Mertins (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Architectural Press, 1994), 50–58; and Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, Chicago 1890: The Skyscraper and the Modern City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), esp. 38–54.
23. Once again, Semper has an important place in these historiographical revisions. See, for example, Spyros Papapetros, “World Ornament: The Legacy of Gottfried Semper’s 1856 Lecture on Ornament,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 57/58 (Spring/Autumn 2010): 309–29. See also Gülru Necipoglu and Alina Payne, eds., Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2016); Antoine Picon, Ornament: The Politics of Architecture and Subjectivity (Chichester: Wiley, 2013); and Mark Wigley, White Walls, Designer Dresses: The Fashioning of Modern Architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995).
24. Paradoxically, Semper also became the locus of an antitectonic preoccupation with surface and ornamentation in North America. See, for example, the introduction to the special issue “Unraveling the Textile in Modern Architecture,” ed. Kate Holliday, Studies in the Decorative Arts 16, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 2009): 2–6; Robert Levit, “Contemporary ‘Ornament’: The Return of the Symbolic Repressed,” Harvard Design Magazine, no. 28 (Spring/Summer 2008): 70–85; and Jeffrey Kipnis, “The Cunning of Cosmetics (A Personal Reflection on the Architecture of Herzog & De Meuron),” in Herzog and De Meuron 1981–2000 (Madrid: El Croquis, 2000), 404–11.
25. Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948), here 2.
26. Giedion, 3.
27. Reyner Banham, Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (London: Architectural Press, 1969). See also Michael Osman, “Banham’s Historical Ecology,” in Neo-Avant-Garde and Postmodern: Postwar Architecture in Britain and Beyond, ed. Mark Crinson and Claire Zimmerman (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press), 231–51.
28. Banham, Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, 14.
29. Banham wrote that he thereby corrected his “guesswork” in The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment. Reyner Banham, “The Services of the Larkin ‘A’ Building,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 37, no. 3 (October 1978): 195–97.
30. On this, see Michael Osman, Modernism’s Visible Hand: Architecture and Regulation in America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018); and Zeynep Çelik Alexander, “The Larkin’s Architectural Technologies of Trust,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 77, no. 3 (September 2018): 300–318. For the same point about Lewis Mumford’s blindness to technics of control, see David Mindell, Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control, and Computing before Cybernetics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).
31. It is telling that around the same time, another historian was critiquing the machine aesthetic from another perspective. See Charles S. Maier, “Between Taylorism and Technocracy: European Ideologies and the Vision of Industrial Productivity in the 1920s,” Journal of Contemporary History 5, no. 2 (1970): 27–61.
32. On the problem of the digital and the analog, see Kyle Stine, “The Coupling of Cinematics and Kinematics,” Grey Room, no. 56 (Summer 2014): 34–57.
33. On the question of the digital in architectural discourses, among the many available works, see especially Antoine Picon, Digital Culture in Architecture: An Introduction for Design Professionals (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2010); and Mario Carpo, Alphabet and the Algorithm (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011).
34. Branko Kolarevic, Architecture in the Digital Age (New York: Taylor and Francis, 2003), 1.
35. Kolarevic, 2.
36. Kolarevic, 3.
37. For these developments, see Lanier Anderson, “The Debate over the Geisteswissenschaften in German Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Philosophy, 1870–1945, ed. Thomas Baldwin (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 223–25; Uljana Feest, ed., Historical Perspectives on Erklären and Verstehen (New York: Springer, 2010); and Karl Popper, “The Logic of the Social Sciences,” and T. W. Adorno, “On the Logic of the Social Sciences,” in The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology, trans. Glyn Adey and David Frisby (London: Heinemann, 1976), respectively 87–104 and 105–22.
38. In addition to Foucault, The Order of Things, see Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. Allan Sheridan (New York: Harper and Row, 1972).
39. G. M. Trevelyan, British History in the Nineteenth Century (1782–1901) (London: Longmans, 1922), 292.
40. I am referring here to Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, trans. Mark Ritter (London: SAGE, 1992). Here it is also important to acknowledge the contributions of the Posthumanities series from the University of Minnesota Press.
41. Heinrich Wölfflin, Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Das Problem der Stilentwicklung in der Neueren Kunst (Munich: Bruckmann, 1915), 46, translated by Jonathan Blower as Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Early Modern Art (Santa Monica, Calif.: Getty Research Institute, 2015), 72; Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command, v.
42. Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command, v.
43. Mumford, Technics and Civilization, 6. David Mindell has observed, however, that humans disappeared altogether from Mumford’s neotechnic phase: “In this vision people disappear from even the shiniest vehicles: for Mumford automobiles and airplanes were about gasoline and speed, not driving or piloting. However clean and electrical, machinery for Mumford remained inert and mechanistic, not actively involved with human beings.” David A. Mindell, Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control and Computing before Cybernetics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 1–2.
44. Giedion discusses the split between the constructor and the architect (Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferro-Concrete, 94–96) and the schism between architecture and technology (Space, Time, and Architecture, 211–18) as a modern cognitive incompatibility between feeling and thought. Mumford discusses a similar alienation: “Our age is passing from the primeval state of man, marked by his invention of tools and weapons for the purpose of achieving mastery over the forces of nature, to a radically different condition, in which he will not only have conquered nature but detached himself completely from the organic habitat.” Lewis Mumford, “Technics and the Nature of Man,” Technology and Culture 7, no. 3 (1966): 303.
45. Banham, Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment.
46. Otto Neurath, “Anti-Spengler” (1921), in Empiricism and Sociology, by Otto Neurath, ed. Marie Neurath and Robert S. Cohen (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1973), 199. Neurath used the metaphor throughout his career. For a good summary, see Nancy Cartwright, Jordi Cat, Lola Fleck, and Thomas E. Uebel, “On Neurath’s Boat,” in Otto Neurath: Philosophy between Science and Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 89–166.