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Matthew Allen

Matthew Allen works at the intersection of architecture, computation, and aesthetic subcultures. He holds a PhD and a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University, and he is the author of Flowcharting: From Abstractionism to Algorithmics in Art and Architecture (gta Verlag, 2023) and the forthcoming Digital Postmodernism: The First Era of Parametric Architecture. Allen has published essays in Log, e-flux, Domus, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and many other venues. His research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and other institutions. Allen has worked for MOS, Preston Scott Cohen, and other firms at the leading edge of contemporary architectural practice. Along with his teaching and research at WashU, Allen is the editorial director at Architecture Exchange.

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By the time the computer arrived on the architectural scene, its place had been prepared by decades of avant-gardist experimentation. The modernist program of rationalizing creative practice took a decidedly bureaucratic turn between two generations of constructivists in the 1930s and 1960s. From Paris to Cambridge, painters, poets, designers, and architects poured their energy into cracking the code of artistic genius in hopes of democratizing the creation of better environments, thus stimulating a nascent repertoire of algorithmic techniques. The motivation to use these new techniques emerged from attempts to understand art and architecture through serial effects. By reformulating their disciplines in terms of flowcharting procedures developed in the field of scientific management, artists and architects enacted a paradigm shift that had long been a cherished dream of modernism, replacing composition with organization as the basis of design.