Mario Carpo

Mario Carpo is the Reyner Banham Professor of Architectural History at the Bartlett-UCL in London and Professor of Architectural Theory at the University of Applied Arts (die Angewandte) in Vienna. He is the author of Architecture in the Age of Printing (2001), The Second Digital Turn (2017), and other books.

  • Beyond Digital

    Design and Automation at the End of Modernity

    Mario Carpo

    Recasting computational design: a new modern agenda for a post-industrial, post-pandemic world

    Mass production was the core technical logic of industrial modernity: for the last hundred years, architects and designers have tried to industrialize construction and standardize building materials and processes in the pursuit of economies of scale. But this epochal march of modernity is now over. In Beyond Digital, Mario Carpo reviews the long history of the computational mode of production, showing how the merger of robotic automation and artificial intelligence will stop and reverse the modernist quest for scale. Today's technologies already allow us to use nonstandard building materials as found, or as made, and assemble them in as many nonstandard, intelligent, adaptive ways as needed: the microfactories of our imminent future will be automated artisan shops.

    The post-industrial logic of computational manufacturing has been known and theorized for some time. By tracing its theoretical and technical sources, and reviewing the design theories that accompanied its rise, Carpo shows how the computational project, long under the sway of powerful antimodern ideologies, is now being recast by the urgency of the climate crisis, which has vindicated its premises—and by the global pandemic, which has tragically proven its viability. Looking at the work of a new generation of designers, technologists, and producers, Beyond Digital offers a new modern agenda for our post-industrial future.

    • Paperback $29.95
  • 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
  • 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 $26.95
  • 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
    • Paperback $19.95

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.

    ContributorsPhilip 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