• Automatic Architecture: Motivating Form after Modernism
    Sean Keller
    University of Chicago Press, 2018
    Sean Keller

Rolf Gutbrod and Frei Otto, West German Pavilion at Expo '67, 1967, Montreal.

This book examines architecture's fascination with autonomic design methods during the 1960s and 1970s. Influenced by broader postwar developments—the expansion of science, the emergence of structuralism, the development of serial music and art, and, most importantly, the appearance of electronic computing—the architects considered here proposed radical reformulations of design methods. Condemning both intuition and historical precedent as inadequate to the postwar condition, automatic architecture argued for design processes that were rational, systematic, and transparent. Through these methods architecture would be connected to mathematics and science. This book provides an account of the development of such automatic design processes, a historical shift that both extended selective principals of modernism and presaged the expanding role of computational methods in contemporary architecture. It concludes by expanding our understanding of the automatic through Stanley Cavell's concept of "automatism," which recommends the motivated deployment of the automatic as a technique of cultural production.

Sean Keller is associate professor and director of history and theory at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture. He is a historian and critic of modern and contemporary architecture, focusing on the relationship of architecture and technology after 1945. His work has been recognized by a Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and the Winterhouse Award for Design Writing and Criticism (2009). He is a frequent contributor to Artforum and has written for numerous anthologies and journals, including Grey Room, Perspecta, Journal of Architectural Education, and Art Journal. He is also coauthor of Munich '72 (Yale University Press, forthcoming).