Negotiating the Interface: Communication and Collaboration in Building Technology, from Graphic Manuals to Software
By Rosamond Fletcher
The interface has been the subject of substantial contestation and the locus for evolving forms of communication and collaboration within the architectural profession. The significance of the architect’s interface has been visibly heightened during times of massive change in the building industry, as is evident in the early-mid 20th century history of dimensional and modular coordination and the late 20th and early 21st century methods of mass-customization. Within these intervals of time the abundant evidence of graphic manuals and software programs not only documents the attempt to disseminate information on new modes of production and create user-friendly media but also records the active participation of these devices in the evolving perception and realization of new methods of building. The subtle distinctions and constant flux between when the architectural object precipitates technological advances and when technology drives the aesthetic and socio-economic outcome of building are carefully registered in the architect’s interface. The following work will argue, however, that beyond the measurable success of a particular paradigm in building (standardization, mass-customization) and the popular interpretations of its tools, the most provocative and enduring factor of the history of building technology is the type of communication and collaboration that it has fostered – the “necessary evils” of production. The work at hand will demonstrate that the struggle to design and perfect the mode of exchange between architects and the numerous players of the building industry is, in itself, a vital and compelling history of making.