The essays by historians and theorists that do reach backward, however, are uniformly excellent. Teyssot’s foreword offers a sensitive reading of Simondon’s philosophy, which is echoed in the introduction and section prefaces by the editors and a fantastic essay by Alessandra Ponte that places Simondon in relationship to Jakob von Uexküll, Deleuze, and others in a vital lineage of ecological thinking. Laurent Stadler’s short essay places the beginning of the fascination with machines in architecture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Linder’s essay on image thinking is erudite and lively; it would fit well in a volume spanning the philosophy of science and visual studies. Nicholas de Monchaux’s tangents on Jane Jacobs and cybernetics prod us to appreciate the ambiguities of systems thinking as applied to the built environment; he reminds us, obliquely, that neither “the digital” nor “architecture” is straightforwardly virtuous.
Though the practitioners in the volume (David Freeland, Brennan Buck, Dana Cupkova, Viola Ago, John Carpenter, Volkan Alkanoglu, Alvin Huang, Pablo Lorenzo-Eiroa, Satoru Sugihara, Tom Shaked, Uri Dubin, and Jose Sanchez) rarely acknowledge their inheritances from within the field of architecture, their intellectual inheritances are front and center. Almost all these practitioners employ a related lexicon: emergence, complexity, generativity, potentiality, performance, and process. This is not simply jargon. Cupkova, for example, uses water flow and erosion simulation to imagine new forms of property ownership in Pittsburgh. Sanchez looks at labor models in video games to think through Donna Haraway’s polemic on sympoietic systems. In each case, concepts migrate between disciplines in an attempt to grapple with contemporary conundrums. This appears to be a generation of architects who are curious and serious about ideas.