When the GSD Designed Software: Experiments in Computer Vision, 1965-1991

Between 1965 and 1991, the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis* involved Harvard and the GSD in the mercurial business of software development. Both academic and entrepreneurial, the Lab created dozens of pieces of software – from minimal, experimental apps to general purpose packages destined to redefine entire markets. Throughout this ceaseless, even excessive production ran a determination to model the activity of planners, designers, and architects in bits and bytes – in short, to teach computers to see the way we do.

*1965-1968: Laboratory for Computer Graphics
*1968-1991: Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis

As you might expect, both “design” and “computation” were redefined along the way. Today it seems obvious that each implicates the other; the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis helped usher in our computational second nature. Reflecting on the images collected here – each the output of software tailor-made to carry out a particular type of analysis and produce a particular type of image – exposes the work required to connect design to computation. It could have been (and still can be!) done differently.

Matthew Allen (MArch ’10), Curator
with assistance by Sophia Panova

Matthew Allen is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto