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Architecture and Computers: Action and Reaction in the Digital Design Revolution

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review

By James Steele. Laurence King, 2001. 240pp. £35

Architecture and Computers centres on the way computers are shaping architectural design and education, writes Barrie Evans . After that moment of clarity, it all gets more muddled. The book attempts an analytical tour, rather than straight case studies, of architects whose use of the computer interests the author. These are mostly well-known names who produce seductive images: well-done straight visualisation like Foster, form-bending Deconstruction like Gehry and Eric Owen Moss, and form-growing with genetic algorithms, which is mainly unbuilt student work.

Steele espouses the overall architectural approach of each of these seducers in turn, hardly noticing that their positions are often contradictory or that he is contradicting himself. There is no analytical framework. For example, digital design is Modernist, reductive, formal - but it is also PostModern. In future we will be drawn into metroplexes - and work will be at home. In education 'Letting the computer lead is favoured over using it as a tool'; yet in the next paragraph, it is a really useful educational tool for spatial understanding. You wonder at some of the building criticism too. We are told that Grimshaw's Eden Centre is intended to supplant the original Eden with an artificial 21st century utopia.

How media, whether pencil or computer, shape design and are shaped by it, is an interesting topic, but apparently beyond the grip of this author. You might like some of the pictures (right: a scheme by the Dutch practice NOX).

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