Princeton University School of Architecture
Announces the Final Public Oral Exam of
Diana Cristóbal Olave
ARCHITECTURE, COMPUTERS, AND THE AESTHETICS OF EXHAUSTIVITY UNDER IBERIAN DEVELOPMENTALISM (1953-1977)
October 30, 2023, at 11:00 a.m.
This dissertation follows the rise and decline of what I call algorithmic drawing under Iberian developmentalism — a period when the fascist regimes of Spain and Portugal sought to open their economies to Western democracies while also retaining ideological control of their cultural production, including architecture. This term is used to understand a series of affinities between architecture drawing techniques and techno-science, fueled by the introduction of computers. Confronted by the challenges of Francoist Spain, architects used algorithms as a compensatory mechanism for idiosyncratic and personal decisions, claiming moral and ethical imperatives. This dissertation argues, however, that this withdrawal of human decision-making was only aspirational. It characterizes these algorithmic drawings as exhaustive; and it reads the architects’ fascination to develop complete sets of possibilities as a strong urge for control.
The institutional archives studied in this dissertation unearth delirious and repetitive exercises that undermine the focus on efficiency found in some of the authors’ own writings, as well as the technophile rhetoric on political and aesthetic neutrality that characterized governmental claims. Examples include the mathematical graphs drawn by Javier Segui, which decomposed extensive lists of human activities and housing layouts to find correspondences between them; the housing matrix drawn by Rafael Leoz, which used combinatorics as a means to find “infinite” variations of housing forms; Constantinos Doxiadis’ infrastructural networks, which obsessively computed alternative ways of interconnecting cities and highways; and Christopher Alexander’s patterns, which provided contingency, variability, and adaptability within a computer-aided methodology.
This thesis demonstrate that what was guiding this reform impulse—that is, this increased interest in the computer—was less a concern with optimization than an articulated faith in the ethics of an exhaustive combinatorial logic. Exhaustion was time-consuming and costly; yet it was considered worthwhile because it promised variability within a repetitive step-by-step process. Enumerations, series, permutations and combinations provided architects with a new vocabulary of “variations,” “alternatives,” and “choices” that promised to express change within a step-by-step recurring methodology. Instead of marking an optimized standard to which architecture had to conform, architects used the exhaustive nuances offered by algorithmic drawing as a moral alternative to homogeneity.
A copy of the dissertation will be available, for viewing only, in Room S-110.