Computer Architectures is a collection of multidisciplinary historical works unearthing sites, concepts, and concerns that catalyzed the cross-contamination of computers and architecture in the mid-20th century.

Weaving together intellectual, social, cultural, and material histories, this book paints the landscape that brought computing into the imagination, production, and management of the built environment, whilst foregrounding the impact of architecture in shaping technological development. The book is organized into sections corresponding to the classic von Neumann diagram for computer architecture: program (control unit), storage (memory), input/output and computation (arithmetic/logic unit), each acting as a quasi-material category for parsing debates among architects, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists. Collectively, authors bring forth the striking homologies between a computer program and an architectural program, a wall and an interface, computer memory and storage architectures, structures of mathematics and structures of things. The collection initiates new histories of knowledge and technology production that turn an eye toward disciplinary fusions and their institutional and intellectual drives.

Constructing the common ground between design and computing, this collection addresses audiences working at the nexus of design, technology, and society, including historians and practitioners of design and architecture, science and technology scholars, and media studies scholars.

chapter 1|12 pages


Toward a polyglot space
ByOlga Touloumi, Theodora Vardouli

part I|2 pages


chapter 2|20 pages

Computing environmental design

ByPeder Anker

chapter 3|23 pages

The work of design and the design of work

Olivetti and the political economy of its early computers
ByAnnMarie Brennan

chapter 4|19 pages

Bewildered, the form-maker stands alone

Computer architecture and the quest for design rationality
ByTheodora Vardouli

part II|2 pages


chapter 5|15 pages

Augmentation and interface

79Tracing a spectrum
ByMolly Wright Steenson

chapter 6|20 pages

The first failure of man-computer symbiosis

The hospital computer project, 1960–1968
ByDavid Theodore

chapter 7|19 pages

The unclean human-machine interface

ByRachel Plotnick

part III|2 pages


chapter 8|25 pages

Architectures of information

135A comparison of Wiener’s and Shannon’s theories of information
ByBernard Dionysius Geoghegan

chapter 9|11 pages

Bureaucracy’s playthings 1

ByShannon Mattern

part IV|2 pages


chapter 10|21 pages

Imagining architecture as a form of concrete poetry

ByMatthew Allen

chapter 11|20 pages

The axiomatic aesthetic

ByAlma Steingart