The Alphabet and the Algorithm

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MIT Press, 2011 - Architecture - 169 pages
2 Reviews

Digital technologies have changed architecture--the way it is taught, practiced, managed, and regulated. But if the digital has created a "paradigm shift" for architecture, which paradigm is shifting? In The Alphabet and the Algorithm, Mario Carpo points to one key practice of modernity: the making of identical copies. Carpo highlights two examples of identicality crucial to the shaping of architectural modernity: in the fifteenth century, Leon Battista Alberti's invention of architectural design, according to which a building is an identical copy of the architect's design; and, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the mass production of identical copies from mechanical master models, matrixes, imprints, or molds. The modern power of the identical, Carpo argues, came to an end with the rise of digital technologies. Everything digital is variable. In architecture, this means the end of notational limitations, of mechanical standardization, and of the Albertian, authorial way of building by design. Charting the rise and fall of the paradigm of identicality, Carpo compares new forms of postindustrial digital craftsmanship to hand-making and the cultures and technologies of variations that existed before the coming of machine-made, identical copies. Carpo reviews the unfolding of digitally based design and construction from the early 1990s to the present, and suggests a new agenda for architecture in an age of variable objects and of generic and participatory authorship.


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Review: The Alphabet and the Algorithm

User Review  - Nikola857 - Goodreads

Writing architecture continues to be a great. Similar to the Princeton Pamphlet Architecture series but actually substantive. The discussion of how the "architect" was defined by the earlier ... Read full review

Review: The Alphabet and the Algorithm

User Review  - Maxime Duval S - Goodreads

Very well written history of design from pre industrial to post industrial. Mario Carpo gives context and words to better understand current trends in architecture and the art of making. Read full review


2 The Rise
3 The Fall
4 Epilogue

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About the author (2011)

Mario Carpo is Associate Professor of Architectural History in the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture in Paris, Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Vincent Scully Visiting Professor in Architectural History at Yale University's School of Architecture. He is the author of Architecture in the Age of Printing: Orality, Writing, Typography, and Printed Images in the History of Architectural Theory (MIT Press, 2001) and other books.

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