Enable or Impose: Architecture and the Organizational Complex –
‘But the machines don’t explain anything, you have to analyze the collective apparatuses of which the machines are just one component. Compared with the approaching forms of ceaseless control in open sites, we may come to see the harshest confinement as part of a wonderful happy past.’ – Gilles Deleuze
In his early essay The Organizational Complex: Cybernetics, Space, Discourse (1998) Reinhold Martin (GSAPP, Columbia University, New York) observed the pervasive reflexivity of the post-WWII discursive formation through the intertwinement of architectural and cybernetic thought and by focusing on American architectural and technological projects of the 1950s and 1960s.
In Martin’s interpretation, the all-encompassing integration of organism, machine and society, demanded by the pioneers of cybernetics, was so thoroughly destabilizing that it called for organization to restore the necessary equilibrium to the entire assemblage. This pushed to the foreground the binary pair of entropy-information: the ever-threatening disorder and its opposite, permanently reconciled through the feedback loop. Against this background of organization and control mechanisms a new humanist project was formed through a varied pool of works, such as Cybernetics – Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, authored by the cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener in 1948, and Siegfried Gideon’s Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History, published in the same year. When concepts of feedback, information flows and regulation were generalized from specific applications in engineering to systems in general – including systems of living organisms, abstract intelligent processes, and language – both animals (biological systems) and machines (non-biological or ‘artificial’ systems) were considered to operate according to cybernetic principles, and thereby creating a non-hierarchical information system of nodes in a network.
On the basis of that, Martin recognized reflexivity on yet another level, leaning on the works of Foucault and Deleuze, inspired by historical reflexivity between humanism and the control-society. Martin points at the double manifestation of Foucault’s theoretical network, expanding it from discourse to space, particularly referring to the post-WWII spatial production. Following Deleuze, the modulations of the control-society had replaced, as it were, the molds of the disciplinary society, as a new mode of confinement. Based on this, Martin hypothesized: ‘’The irreducibility of this control-society to its techne – even as certain network-based technologies are decisively implicated in it – as well as its modulated structure, leads us to suspect that along with cybernetic machines, certain architectural techniques might also belong to that collective apparatus dedicated to what Deleuze calls ‘the approaching forms of ceaseless control in open sites’”. Today’s prevalent human-machine symbiosis and its hybrid decision-making (controlling) processes call for rediscovering the influence of cybernetics and a ‘constructivist epistemology’ on the tradition of 20th century architectural concepts and design methods. The reinterpretation of the meaning and contribution of a previous era shall contribute to understand the complexity of thinking and designing systems and to recognize issues of control within this new era of technology, whether they are of an organizational, conversational or form-giving kind.
Therefore, we invite the fellows of the ‘gta’ and ‘ITA’ doctoral programs to enter the rich and stimulating body of work by Reinhold Martin and prepare 15-30 minutes presentations that would coil their doctoral project’s discussions around this notion of the organizational complex, taking into account any of the architectural disciplinary ‘genres’ – be it design, publishing, teaching, exhibiting or activism.
Reinhold Martin is Professor of Architecture at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where he also directs the Ph.D. program for architectural history and theory, as well as the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture. He is a member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society and the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. Martin received his doctorate from Princeton University on the subject Architecture and Organization, USA c. 1956. His publications include the books The Organizational Complex: Architecture, Media, and Corporate Space (2005) and Utopia’s Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again (2010).
In 2012, Martin organized the exhibition Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, together with Barry Bergdoll. The exhibition presented housing and transportation proposals for suburbs, developed by five interdisciplinary teams of architects, designers and ecologists, thereby responding to The Buell Hypothesis, which identified the five American suburbs under consideration of a broad range of factors to outline their needs and potentials. In addition to his participation in numerous exhibitions together with Kadambari Baxi, with whom he was partner in the firm Martin/Baxi architects for over a decade, Martin was a founding co-editor of the journal Grey Room and has written widely on the history and theory of modern and contemporary architecture, urbanism, technical media, cultural theory and globalization.
One of his current projects, The Architecture of Knowledge: Universities as Technical Media 1750-1950, is an epistemic inquiry into the architecture and evolution of American universities from the late 18th century to early 20th century, which runs parallel to the history of technical media. Martin understands architecture as a material complex with a specific, inherent logic, integrating different modes of perception and communication, which constitutes the core of the architecture of reading, writing, observation, speaking, and listening. Instead of focusing on individual media he is primarily concerned with architectural elements, such as domes, campuses, laboratories, libraries, chapels, and auditoria. With this research, Martin aims at writing a history of the intermediation of different spatial and technical formats in the production, storage, and transfer of knowledge.
‘Fundamental #13: Real Estate and the Housing Question’ – Peggy Guggenheim Foundation Venice
‘Architectural Visualization since 1900’ – CCA, 2013
‘AAD Arguments’ – Columbia GSAPP, 2012
‘What Good can Architecture do?’ – The Harvard GSD, 2010
‘Utopia’s Ghost: Postmodernism Reconsidered’, Rice University, 2009
‘The Organizational Complex: Cybernetics, Space, Discourse’ in Assemblage,
No. 37 (Dec., 1998), 102-127
‘Organicism’s Other’ in Grey Room, No. 4 (Summer, 2001), pp. 34-51.
‘One or More’ in Grey Room, No. 7 (Spring, 2002), pp. 114-123.
The Organizational Complex: Architecture, Media, and Corporate Space, MIT Press, 2003.
‘Environment, c. 1973’ in Grey Room, No. 14 (Winter, 2004), pp. 78-101.
‘Moment of Truth’ in Log, No. 7 (Winter/Spring 2006), pp. 15-20.
‘The Last War: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again’ in New German Critique, No. 99,
Modernism after Postmodernity (Fall, 2006), pp. 63-82.
Multi-National City: Architectural Itineraries, Actar, 2007 (with Kadambari Baxi).
‘History after History’ in AA Files, No. 58 (2009), pp. 14-16.
Utopia’s Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again, Minnesota, 2010.
The Buell Hypothesis, The Temple Hoyne Buell Center
for the Study of American
Architecture, 2011 (editor, with Leah Meisterlin and Anna Kenoff), available online at:
‘Financial Imaginaries; Toward a Philosophy of the City’ in Grey Room,
No. 42 (Winter 2011), pp. 60-79.
‘Historical Consciousness’ in Journal of Architectural Education (1984-),
Vol. 64, No. 2, Beyond Precedent (March 2011), p. 82.
‘Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream,’ MOMA, 2012 –
exhibition catalogue (with Barry Bergdoll).
Fundamental #13: Real Estate as Infrastructure as Architecture, available online at:
Kathrin Dorfler, Martin Hartung, Marija Marie, Romana Rust, Mejrema Zatric
Mejrema Zatrić (gta): What is Urbanism? – Organizational and Disciplinary Implications of Urban Research in the Early Socialist Yugoslavia
In the midst of organizing a self-managed revolutionary socialist society in the post-war Yugoslavia, the institutionalization of urbanism unfolded under the pressure to define what kind of discipline it exactly was. After the Tito-Stalin split in the late 1940s the adherence to the eastern role model seized – a situation that demanded a more diverse sampling of references in this kind of definitions. By discussing a selection of newspaper articles from the era, this presentation implies links between different takes on urban research, the economic and political situation and, finally, the institutionalization of technocratic urbanism.
Mejrema Zatrić is a doctoral fellow and candidate at the Institute gta at ETH Zürich, and holds degrees in architecture from the University of Sarajevo and the Metropolis Program of the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya in Barcelona. Mejrema’s research, inspired by the critical urban theory, is focused on the architectural-historical inquiry into the urban transformations of socialist and post-socialist Europe. Her doctoral project examines the theoretical implications and the socio-political underpinnings of the urban research undertaken by pioneering architects in socialist Yugoslavia of the 1950s.
Dubravka Sekulić (gta): Constructing Nonalignement: The work of Yugoslav construction industry in the third world 1961-1989
The presentation will outline how the specific position of Yugoslavia during the Cold War has led to forging unexpectedly strong ties to the decolonizing countries of Africa and the Middle East, especially in the 1960s, and how these ties materialized in space. Furthermore, the specificities of the Yugoslav political system that differentiated it from the other socialist countries will be explained: the socialist self management, the existence of societal property, and their impact on various approaches to architectural labor as well as on a diversity of architectural projects developed in countries such as Nigeria, Zambia or Iraq.
Dubravka Sekulić is an architect researching at the intersections between architecture, governmentality and economy, currently as a PhD fellow at gta/ETH Zürich. The working title of her thesis is Constructing Nonalignment: The work of Yugoslav Construction Companies in the Third World 1961-1989. She is the author of Glotzt Nicht so Romantisch! On Extralegal Space in Belgrade (Jan van Eyck, 2012) and Three Points of Support: Zoran Bojović (msub, 2013) and editor, together with Ziga Testen and Gal Kirn, of Surfing the Black Yugoslav Blackwave Cinema and its Transgressive Moments (Jan van Eyck, 2012).
Sasha Cisar, Clayton Miller (ITA): Against Abstraction: Increasing Information through visual and mathematical clustering
The presentation will discuss the method of data ‘clustering’ applied in architectural and urban planning to increase information. It will be shown how high level goals like climate change and associated measures like zero emissions, energy neutrality and systems amelioration become possible through parametric data (mining and) analysis to specifically tailor measures based on different efficiency metrics.
Sasha Cisar is a scientific researcher at the chair of Architecture & Building Systems (ITA) at ETH Zürich currently researching on zero-emission retrofit of building stocks and energy related planning. He was trained as an architect and worked in both Zürich and New York City. He co-founded and edited the journal on architectural theory “Models Ruins Power” and recently published the first issue “We Live In Models”.
Clayton Miller is a Research Fellow in the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) where he is studying visual analytics for building performance data. He is a mechanical engineer who is morphing into an architect through immersion. He’s the former CTO of a building monitoring startup and a Fulbright Scholar, both experiences in Singapore.
Nikola Marinčić (ITA): Towards Continuity in CAAD. Pre-Specific Modeling in Architecture
Against the background of computer-aided architectural design methods the paper offers insights in a new research perspective, which focuses on the conceptualization and implementation of design tools. Thereby, the paper addresses the current discourse around parametric design in the context of architectural theory.
Nikola Marinčić is an architect and computer programmer. He graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade, Serbia, and recieved his MAS diploma at the Chair for Computer Aided Architectural Design at ETH Zürich. Currently he researches and teaches at the ETH / CAAD on pre-specific modeling and sound design for architects.
Stefana Parascho (ITA): Digitalization of Integrative Design Processes
Under consideration of architecture as a complex network comprised of biological, machinic, and social systems, the presentation addresses two case study projects, based on an integrative, computational design method. The paper will outline future research on the integration and automation of design processes and focus on direct feedbacks between design and construction in a highly integrated architectural procedure.
Stefana Parascho is an architect with a strong interest in digital and structural design. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Stuttgart and has focused during and after her studies on computational design. She has worked in Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering and designtoproduction, Stuttgart and was a research assistant at the University of Stuttgart. Her research focuses on integrative design methods implemented through digital fabrication techniques.
Elena Chestnova (gta): Architectural History and the Media: Gottfried Semper and the Popular Press
Gottfried Semper is a milestone figure in the development of the discipline of architectural history. The years of the mid-19th century, in which he worked, saw the discipline establish its position as a field of knowledge. The question of how this development interacted with the contemporary explosion of media is little addressed. This paper will explore the relationship between Semper and the popular media and test questions about ways to think of the media within the history of the discipline.
Elena Chestnova (b. 1986) is a PhD candidate at Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio. She has graduated as an architect from the University of Cambridge and ETH Zürich and has worked in architecture, history and the non-profit sector in Zürich, London and Jerusalem. Elena works on her PhD within the framework of the research project ‘Architecture and Globalisation of Knowledge in the 19th Century. Gottfried Semper and the Discipline of Architectural History.’ She researches Semper’s teaching at the Department of Science and Art in London and analyses Semper as an agent within the networks of popularized knowledge.
Marc Frochaux (gta): The Mechanisms of the Environment: the Invention of Architectural Research in France 1968 – 1978
The presentation will give insights into the Institute of the Environment, a pedagogical and research institute created in Paris after the events of Mai 68, during the collapse of the Beaux-Arts System. The school was reorganized in pedagogical units, which follow a new experimental pedagogy at the time. The notion of environment covers a complex intervening of competencies in a multidisciplinary scope: apart from architecture, design and urbanism, the institution gathered six fields from human sciences and information sciences (psychology, sociology and economy, mathematics, informatics and communication). Presented will be an analysis both of the administrative and architectural mechanism of the institution: the political intentions behind it, the actors that elaborated the pedagogical model, and the building that housed it, constructed in collaboration with Jean Prouvé.
Marc Frochaux was trained as an art historian at the university of Lausanne and as an architect at the ETH Zurich. He worked as a scientific assistant for the Archives de la Construction Moderne – EPFL, publishes in 2009 an architecture guide of Lausanne and writes occasionally reviews for the architectural Magazine Werk, Bauen und Wohnen, apart from his independent activity as an architect. He takes part in the new doctoral program of the gta Institute since October 2013, where he started research on the Institute of the Environment, Paris 1968 – 1978. The thesis postulates that beyond the pedagogical reform that followed the collapse of the “Beaux-Arts system” this institute started in France an unprecedented epistemological reflection, which eventually helped to define a new scientific field: architecture.
Jorge Orozco (ITA): Architecture, Post-modernism and Computers. Staging three post-modern concepts in the light of IT towards new contracts between architecture and computers
From its origins until today, the concept of computing has changed to an extend that computing does not only refer to a single computer anymore but to their network. The paper focuses on these computer networks and contextualizes them through an investigation of post-modern paradigms in architecture: the sign, the language, and the image.
Jorge Orozco is an architect and PhD researcher based in the CAAD group at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s Department of Architecture in Zürich (supervised by Prof. Dr. Ludger Hovestadt). Broadly, his research focuses at overlaps between information and communications technology and architecture. The programming and theorizing experiments that he carries aim at sketching feasible new contracts between computers and architectural design by reconsidering established poststructuralist paradigms rendered in the architectural field. Jorge holds a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Architecture and Information from ETH Zürich, and a Master in Advanced Architecture degree with specialization in Digital Tectonics from IAAC, Barcelona. He previously worked as Project Architect at the design department of Variantes, Oficina de Arquitectura, a design and construction office based in Morelia, Mexico.
Martin Hartung (gta): Values of Representation: Architecture on the Art Market
At the beginning of the 1980s it was no longer a surprise to encounter architectural planning tools, like models and drawings, as autonomous objects for sale in American art galleries. Architecture-related art exhibitions began to thrive with postmodernism and gained interest concurrently with the foundation of the first architecture museums and the Venice Architecture Biennale. Taking as its basis a critical examination of the emergence and context of architecture exhibitions in art galleries in New York City, the presentation analyses the ways in which a network of actors on the market for objects of architectural production has influenced the distribution and the archiving of this material with regard to the preservation and creation of architectural history.
Martin Hartung is a doctoral fellow at the Institute gta at ETH Zürich. He studied art history, theology, and cultural anthropology at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg. Martin previously worked as a Curatorial Assistant at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2011-2013), as Research Assistant and scholarly advisor at ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe (2010-2011), and as Assistant Curator at Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein (2009-2010). His current research is focused on architecture-related exhibitions on the art market that took place between 1975 and 1985.
Andreas Kalpakci: Complicating the “Complex”: For a Discussion on the Origin of Methods
This contribution aims to create a discussion about the methods adopted by Reinhold Martin in his dissertation and later book, The Organizational Complex, for the study of the architecture of American postwar corporations. The aim of the presentation is not to engage in an erudite conversation, but rather to reflect more fundamentally on the study of the relationship between organizations and architecture in modernity; how this study changed throughout history; how this change could inform the methodological discussion of the current workshop.
Andreas Kalpakci is an architect. He graduated from the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, Switzerland, and Yale University, United States. His PhD research focuses on the discourses and technologies employed in the organization of the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (1928-1959).
November 6th, 2014, 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.
November 7th, 2014, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
November 8th, 2014, 10 a.m. -1 p.m.
Cabaret Voltaire, Spiegelgasse 1, 8001 Zürich