The Computational Making Group was formed in 2014 by faculty, students, and alumni of the Design and Computation discipline group in the Department of Architecture at MIT. The goal of our group is to articulate and circumscribe an emerging area of interdisciplinary research we call Computational Making. In recent years, there has been growing interest in “making” and “makers”, usually revolving around digital fabrication. We aim to expand the study of making beyond its current bounds, and to examine the potentials of computational theories and techniques in making activities across contexts and scales.

We view making broadly to include the making of things – from drawing a picture on paper, to weaving a basket, to building an interface, to 3D printing a model, to machining engine parts, to constructing a building – as well as the making of spaces through movement and perception. Making might also encompass other active, constructive processes – for example, making use, meaning, sense, and so on. Importantly, we view making as an improvisational, action-centric, embodied, and situated activity. Our focus is not on the end results of making activities, but on the processes and practices of their formation.

Viewed thus as a material and perceptual enterprise, we propose making as a counterpoint to designing, often viewed as an immaterial and cognitive enterprise with a concomitant foregrounding of design “thinking” and “reasoning.” Herbert Simon’s characterization of design as “mental window shopping” [1] or, venturing further back in history, Leon Battista Alberti’s definition of design as the “pre-ordering of the lines and angles conceived in the mind,” [2] are two seminal examples. However, design as an abstract activity separate from or prior to making (along with related dichotomies of thinking vs. doing, mind vs. matter, subject vs. object, and so on) is debatable, even in the most conceptual of fields. As the theoretical biochemist, Otto Rössler, observed and put into practice: “essentially mathematics is nothing more than pottery […] it is always real things one manipulates. [3]

The relationship between abstract computation and active making is our ultimate inquiry. What are potential collisions and collusions between these two worlds?
[1] Simon, H. A. (2001) The Sciences of the Artificial 3rd ed., Cambridge: MIT Press, p. 164.
[2] Alberti, L.B. (1986) The Ten Books of Architecture (1755 Leoni Edition), NY: Dover, p. 2.
[3] Samuel, Nina, ed, (2012) The Islands of Benoît Mandelbrot: Fractals, Chaos, and the Materiality of Thinking, New York, NY: Bard Graduate Center, pp. 52, 54.