Mario Carpo

Mario Carpo is Reyner Banham Professor of Architectural History and Theory, the Bartlett, University College London. He is the author of Architecture in the Age of Printing: Orality, Writing, Typography, and Printed Images in the History of Architectural Theory and The Alphabet and the Algorithm (both published by the MIT Press) and other books.

  • The Second Digital Turn

    The Second Digital Turn

    Design Beyond Intelligence

    Mario Carpo

    The first digital turn in architecture changed our ways of making; the second changes our ways of thinking.

    Almost a generation ago, the early software for computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) spawned a style of smooth and curving lines and surfaces that gave visible form to the first digital age, and left an indelible mark on contemporary architecture. But today's digitally intelligent architecture no longer looks that way. In The Second Digital Turn, Mario Carpo explains that this is because the design professions are now coming to terms with a new kind of digital tools they have adopted—no longer tools for making but tools for thinking. In the early 1990s the design professions were the first to intuit and interpret the new technical logic of the digital age: digital mass-customization (the use of digital tools to mass-produce variations at no extra cost) has already changed the way we produce and consume almost everything, and the same technology applied to commerce at large is now heralding a new society without scale—a flat marginal cost society where bigger markets will not make anything cheaper. But today, the unprecedented power of computation also favors a new kind of science where prediction can be based on sheer information retrieval, and form finding by simulation and optimization can replace deduction from mathematical formulas. Designers have been toying with machine thinking and machine learning for some time, and the apparently unfathomable complexity of the physical shapes they are now creating already expresses a new form of artificial intelligence, outside the tradition of modern science and alien to the organic logic of our mind. 

    • Paperback $24.95 £20.00
  • The Alphabet and the Algorithm

    The Alphabet and the Algorithm

    Mario Carpo

    The rise and fall of identical copies: digital technologies and form-making from mass customization to mass collaboration.

    Digital technologies have changed architecture—the way it is taught, practiced, managed, and regulated. But if the digital has created a “paradigm shift” for architecture, which paradigm is shifting? In The Alphabet and the Algorithm, Mario Carpo points to one key practice of modernity: the making of identical copies. Carpo highlights two examples of identicality crucial to the shaping of architectural modernity: in the fifteenth century, Leon Battista Alberti's invention of architectural design, according to which a building is an identical copy of the architect's design; and, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the mass production of identical copies from mechanical master models, matrixes, imprints, or molds. The modern power of the identical, Carpo argues, came to an end with the rise of digital technologies. Everything digital is variable. In architecture, this means the end of notational limitations, of mechanical standardization, and of the Albertian, authorial way of building by design. Charting the rise and fall of the paradigm of identicality, Carpo compares new forms of postindustrial digital craftsmanship to hand-making and the cultures and technologies of variations that existed before the coming of machine-made, identical copies. Carpo reviews the unfolding of digitally based design and construction from the early 1990s to the present, and suggests a new agenda for architecture in an age of variable objects and of generic and participatory authorship.

    • Paperback $25.95 £20.00
  • Architecture in the Age of Printing

    Architecture in the Age of Printing

    Orality, Writing, Typography, and Printed Images in the History of Architectural Theory

    Mario Carpo

    A history of the influence of communication technologies on Western architectural theory.

    The discipline of architecture depends on the transmission in space and time of accumulated experiences, concepts, rules, and models. From the invention of the alphabet to the development of ASCII code for electronic communication, the process of recording and transmitting this body of knowledge has reflected the dominant information technologies of each period. In this book Mario Carpo discusses the communications media used by Western architects, from classical antiquity to modern classicism, showing how each medium related to specific forms of architectural thinking.

    Carpo highlights the significance of the invention of movable type and mechanically reproduced images. He argues that Renaissance architectural theory, particularly the system of the five architectural orders, was consciously developed in response to the formats and potential of the new printed media. Carpo contrasts architecture in the age of printing with what preceded it: Vitruvian theory and the manuscript format, oral transmission in the Middle Ages, and the fifteenth-century transition from script to print. He also suggests that the basic principles of "typographic" architecture thrived in the Western world as long as print remained our main information technology. The shift from printed to digital representations, he points out, will again alter the course of architecture.

    • Hardcover $40.95 £34.95
    • Paperback $32.95 £26.00

Contributor

  • Perspecta 40 "Monster"

    Perspecta 40 "Monster"

    The Yale Architectural Journal

    Marc Guberman, Jacob Reidel, and Frida Rosenberg

    A monster is in our midst, and its name is Architecture.

    Contemporary architecture is in many ways a monstrous thing. It is bigger, more broadly defined, increasingly complicated, more costly, and stylistically and formally heterogeneous—if not downright unhinged. Not only is the scale of the built environment expanding, but so is the territory of the architectural profession itself. A perfect storm of history, technology, economics, politics, and pedagogy has generated a moment in time in which anything seems possible. The results have been at times strange and even frightening.

    Long ago, the birth of an abnormal creature was interpreted as a sign of looming trouble. These monstra—from the Latin monere, “to warn” and monstrare, “to show”—were viewed with both fear and fascination. This fortieth issue of Perspecta—the oldest and most distinguished student-edited architectural journal in America—examines architecture past and present through the lens of the monster. The contributors—a diverse group of scholars, practitioners, and artists—embrace the multitude of meanings this term carries in an attempt to understand how architecture arrived at its present situation and where it may be going. Perspecta 40 represents in itself a kind of monster—a hybrid, jumbled, conflicting amalgamation of work and ideas that looks at the past in new ways and tells of things to come.

    Contributors Philip Bernstein, Mario Carpo, Arindam Dutta, Ed Eigen, Mark Gage, Gensler, Marcelyn Gow and Ulrika Karlsson (servo), Catherine Ingraham, Mark Jarzombek, Terry Kirk, Leon Krier, Greg Lynn, John May, John McMorrough, Colin Montgomery, Guy Nordenson, Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, Emmanuel Petit, Kevin Roche, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto (Atelier Bow-Wow) and Ryuji Fujimura, Michael Weinstock, Claire Zimmerman

    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00