Yael Engelhart: The Flatwriter, YONA, and Beyond – Reenacting a Cybernetic Experiment

Seminar lecture


Supervisors: Prof.Aaron Sprecher and Prof. Yael

The 1960s introduced a radical, experimental utopian spirit in architecture. Neo avant-
garde architects rejected the rigidity of modernism and developed new typologies of participatory design, and new forms and structures. Technological discoveries led architects to think about place and space in a three-dimensional way, and devise new speculative planning and design methods, while reexamining the role of the architect.
This study examines housing as a significant field in the history of architecture considering the development of computing architecture. It focuses on the work of the architect Yona Friedman, chiefly his Flatwriter machine, conceptualized in his book Toward a Scientific Architecture (1971). The Flatwriter, a computerized machine that allows users to actively participate in planning their dwellings, formed the basis of the YONA software (1976). This was developed at MIT with the founder of the Architecture Machine Group, the architect and theoretician Nicholas Negroponte. The research attends to the turning point in Friedman’s work: his move from manual methodology, photo-based planning, and pictograms to action in the field of mathematics and architectural computing.

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