4.580 | Fall 2006 | Graduate

Inquiry into Computation and Design


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Overview

This subject explores the varied nature and practice of computation in design. It is also an introduction to the different work and perspectives on computation within the Computation Group.

We will view computation and design broadly. Computation will include both computing done on the computer and computing done by-hand. Design will include the process of doing design, the people or things who/that do design, the designs themselves, and the broader environment in which design takes place.

We will examine different approaches to computation and design from the perspective of metaphor. Metaphor is a powerful, conceptual device for structuring and thinking about an unfamiliar, new, or abstract domain of experience or knowledge (say, computation) in terms of another domain that is more familiar or concrete. We will examine the different, mostly unconscious metaphors that we use in thinking about and doing computation and design. We will look at the ways these metaphors emphasize and enable some ways of thinking about computation and design, while disabling or marginalizing others. These reflections may point us to new ways of seeing and doing computation in design.

The aim of the course is to develop a view of computational design beyond the specifics of techniques and tools, and a critical, self-awareness of our own approaches and metaphors for computation and design.

The semester will be divided into modules. Each module will explore a particular computational or design theme and will include a guest faculty speaker. Readings and team-based assignments will expand on the topics introduced.


This is a required subject for first year Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) students in Computation. However, it is open to interested students from other areas and departments.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2006