Buildings as cyborgs: Expressions of hand and machine craftsmanship in architecture

Nadia Mehdi Alhasani, University of Pennsylvania


Hand and machine are the means of bringing the design of a building into reality. Many attempts have been made to integrate their application in the process of construction without definitive result. Contemporary buildings are brought into existence in a more or less intuitive selection of the processes, usually based on imitating successful experiences rather than initiating them. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the expressions resulting from hand and machine on artifacts and our attitude towards these expressions. This study demonstrates that the existing ad hoc combination of hand and machine processes is due to a misunderstanding of the essence of these processes, a change in their application to architectural practice, and a misinformation about their origins that led to an increase in the materialization of certain misconceptions and distancing from certain realities. To master hand and machine craftsmanship is to understand building materials, processes of production, and the nature of workmanship--their extent and limits, their applications and implications, and their meaning and representation. Five single family, fully detached houses designed by architects are explored: the Gamble, Robie, Esherick, Farnsworth, and Eames houses. These are positioned on a scale of workmanship from total hand to total machine production. Each building is examined as a text based on the fact that the artifact reflects the characteristics of its process of production, thus accepting the idea that the visual logic of the building is related to its construction logic. This concept is researched through the explanation, evaluation, and expression of building materials, processes of production, and nature of workmanship. One approach towards bringing a balance to the process of building is the building of architectural cyborgs--buildings put together through hand and machine craftsmanship. This is achieved through a synthesis of their application that is based on an understanding of the triadic relation created between materials, processes, and workmanship, as applied within a given context.

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Recommended Citation

Alhasani, Nadia Mehdi, "Buildings as cyborgs: Expressions of hand and machine craftsmanship in architecture" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026512.