Peer-reviewed article in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (Special Issue: Computing and Capitalism)

Citation: Vardouli T and David Theodore, “Walking instead of Working: Space Allocation, Automatic Architecture, and the Abstraction of Hospital Labor,” in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing [Early Access] doi: 10.1109/MAHC.2020.2990111

Abstract: “Space allocation” was a central pursuit in postwar research on computing and architecture. Researchers sought an algorithm that could automatically design the most efficient floor plan for a set of activities. In this article, we connect an early algorithm for computing architectural floor plans to the postwar British hospital. We examine how researchers adapted algorithmic methods for floor layout design developed in industrial capitalist settings in the promotion of the British welfare state. Finally, we pay special attention to the agency that certain graphic inscriptions borrowed from mathematics had in validating these particular algorithmic methods as promising avenues for the algorithmic automation of all architectural work. This article situates the automation of hospital design in postwar U.K. at the intersection of building science and healthcare
management, with the aim to contribute critical perspectives on algorithmic reifications of work in early computer-aided architectural design systems.