Daniel Cardoso Llach


Updated December 2020

Daniel Cardoso Llach is an architect and researcher interested in issues of automation in design, human-machine interaction, interdisciplinary creativity, and technological cultures in architecture and design. He is an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, where he chairs the Master of Science in Computational Design program and co-directs CodeLab. He is the author of the book Builders of the Vision: Software and the Imagination of Design, which identifies and documents the theories of design emerging from postwar technology projects at MIT, and traces critically their architectural repercussions. His writings have been published in journals including Design Issues, Architectural Research Quarterly (ARQ), Digital Creativity, and Thresholds, among others, and in several edited collections including The Active Image: Architecture and Engineering in the Age of Modeling (Springer 2017) and DigitalSTS: A Handbook and a Fieldguide (Princeton 2019). Daniel routinely lectures and teaches workshops around the world. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, and a PhD and MS (with honors) in Design and Computation from MIT. He has also been a research fellow at Leuphana (MECS), Germany, and a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, UK.

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gmail: daniel.cardoso.llach
twitter: @dcardo

Rethinking Automation in Construction
A project investigating the confluence of artificial intelligence and robotics to support building practices. We are interested in developing adaptive systems that enhance and interact with human expertise on site, and in articulating a vision for human-machine construction ecologies that eschew the aspiration of full autonomy and recognize the socio-technical complexity of building practices. See more.
Experimental Archaeology of CAD: Software Reconstructions of Early Computer-Aided Design Systems
“Archaeology of CAD” is a series of interactive installations exploring the
origins of Computer-Aided Design by reconstructing a selection of its
pioneering technologies from the 1960s and 70s. See more.
Designing the Computational Image, Imagining Computational Design Exhibition
An exhibition examining the formative period of Computer-Aided Design and numerical control technologies. With support from the Graham Foundation, the exhibition showcased materials from computational design pioneers such as Ivan Sutherland, Janet Tomlinsen, Nicholas Negroponte, Steven Coons, Lillian Schwartz, George Stiny, Robin Forrest, among others, and a selection of contemporary works by artists and architects including Zach Lieberman, Golan Levin, Kristy Baillet, Carl Lostritto, Andrew Heumann, among others. See more.
Design, Technology and Society Book Series
Design, Technology and Society is a Routledge book series I co-founded and co-edit, offering new critical perspectives and creative insights into the roles of technological systems and discourses in the design and production of our built environment. As computation, software, simulations, digital fabrication, robotics, ‘big data,’ artificial intelligence and machine learning configure new imaginaries of designing and making across fields, the series approaches these subjects critically from enriched socio-material, technical and historical perspectives —revealing how conceptions of creativity, materiality and labor have shifted and continue to shift in conjunction with technological change. See more.
Acacia: A Simulation Platform for Highly Responsive Smart Facades
An experimental simulation environment, Acacia, for the design and analysis of highly responsive building facades. Unique to Acacia is its capacity to enable the modeling and assessment of façade behaviors in response to both environmental and human inputs. See video.
Croma: Organic Architectural Components
A collaborative research initiative to develop a responsive, programmable architectural component based on cheap organic polymers.
Melnikov Press-Fit Kit
A 3D version of my so-far-2D Melnikov Grammar; an open, fractal system for creating spaceframes. See more info.
Design and Computation Workshops
Between 2008 and 2012 I co-taught workshops on scripting and automation for design and fabrication in universities across the world. I worked with great colleagues including Kenfield Griffith, John Snavely and Skylar Tibbits. Universities included Cornell, Harvard, Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá), Universidad de Chile, and American University of Sharjah (UAE). Image credit: student project by Rodrigo Velasco, Bogotá.
News, Talks and Events

Talk at The Architekturmuseum Der TUM
Virtual talk and conversation with Philip Schneider at the ArchitekturMuseum der TUM in Munich, covering some of the recent work at our lab creatively reconstructing historical CAD systems and speculating about new design technologies. I delivered the talk in the context of the exhibition The Architecture Machine, which focuses on the influence of computation in architecture, curated by Teresa Fankhänel, where one of our pieces is on display. November 25, 2020. See video.

Algotecton - Installation at SIGGRAPH 2020 Art Gallery
A generative fabrication installation based on the Weaire-Phelan structure developed in collaboration with Jingyang Liu and Yi-Chin Lee was selected for the SIGGRAPH 2020 Art Gallery, curated by Nik Apostolides. Due to COVID restrictions, the conference and gallery will take place online and will be on display until October 2020. See more.

Paisajes Distantes - Networked Performance at ICCC '20
A networked audiovisual performance that links soundscapes and visuals from Pittsburgh and Bogota captured during the COVID-19 quarantine period of 2020. An exercise in juxtaposition, it places dissimilar sounds and imagery of ferrovial systems, water canals, urban fauna, and domestic life alongside synthetic soundscapes created using guitars, granular synthesis, and other software instruments. Created with Andres Lombana-Bermudez as part of Altiplano. Selected for presentation at the SoundArt event at the International Conference of Computational Creativity (ICCC '20), Sep 7-11, 2020. See video of piece.

Reconstruction, Emulation, Speculation - Talk at 4SEASST
Presented ongoing work into CAD software reconstruction, emulation, and speculation at the "Re-animating the history of computer graphics" panel, organized by Ranjodh Singh Dhaliwal and Akshita Sivakumar at 4SEASST. August 18, 2020. See more.

Sculpting Expressive Spaces - Talk at Universidad de los Andes
Gave one of the inaugural talks for the incoming cohort of architecture and design graduate students at Universidad de los Andes on August 14, 2020. The talk explored the long history of machine learning in the creative fields and suggested new directions for computational design research drawing from recent work by my research group at Carnegie Mellon. View poster.

History of CAD - Talk at the CMU Department of History
Discussed my research on the development of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) systems through a combination of historical, ethnographic, and creative technology prototyping methods in a guest talk with students and faculty in the CMU Department of History, organized by Prof. Chris Phillips. Feb 20.

Sketchpad Reconstruction - Featured in Munich Exhibition on Architecture and Computers
The catalogue for Teresa Fankhänel's exhibition The Architecture Machine at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, includes an essay by the curator on the software reconstruction of Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad, which is also showcased physically in the show. See more.

Laborious Computers - Talk at Harvard GSD Symposium
Discussed issues of digital labor in architecture in the symposium “Other Histories of the Digital” at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. The event, organized by Matthew Allen, Phillip Denny, and Christina Shivers on April 2, 2019, concluded with a roundtable discussion moderated by Antoine Picon. Other participants included: Sean Keller, Andrew Witt, Olga Touloumi, Theodora Vardouli, Eve Blau, among others. See more.

Working Things Out - STS+Architecture lecture at the University of Michigan
Lectured at the Fall 2019 Science, Technology, and Society Speaker Series at the University of Michigan’s STS Department, co-hosted by the Department of Architecture, and organized by Joy Knoblauch, on 4 November 2019. In the talk, discussed pedagogical efforts to put socio-technical perspectives at the center of computational design research and learning.

Infrastructures of the imagination - Lecture at Clemson University
Delivered a lecture entitled “Infrastructures of the Imagination” at Clemson University’s Department of Architecture on March 27, 2019. The lecture was part of a back-to-back event with CMU School of Design’s Associate Professor Molly Wright Steenson. The two lectures were followed by a conversation moderated by Clemson University Professor Winifred Elysse Newman.

A Hard Core: Architects and Science in the Research University - Panel at HSS 2018
Organized Session and paper presentation at the History of Science Society Conference, with Theodora Vardouli, Matthew Allen, and Anna Vallye, and respondent Jennifer Light. November 3, 2018. See more.

The Calculative Imagination: Digital Masterclass at the Bauhaus University, Weimar
Invited for a talk and a one dat workshop at the Bauhas University in Weimar, Germany. October 18-19, 2018. See more.

Guest talk at University of Toronto
Guest talk in the Architecture and Media course by invitation of Prof. Pete Minosh at University of Toronto. October 17, 2018. See more.

Designing the Computational Image - Invited Lecture at MIT
Invited to the MIT Department of Architecture Lecture Series, Fall 2017, organized by Moa Carlsson. November 17, 2017. See more.

Delivered Keynote and Workshop at Universidad del Valle, Colombia
Delivered keynote at Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia, in the conference VI Seminario de Representacion de Proyecto, organized by Rodrigo Vargas. November 10, 2017. See more.

Invited Lecture at the HCII Institute at Carnegie Mellon University
Invited to lecture at the Human Computer Interaction Institute Seminar Series at Carnegie Mellon, Fall 2017, organized by Brad Meyers and hosted by Jodi Forlizzi. October 13, 2017. See announcement.

Designing the Computational Image, Imagining Computational Design Exhibition Opens
The exhibition Designing the Computational Image, Imagining Computational Design opens at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, September 22, 2017. Curated and designed by Daniel Cardoso Llach, and supported by the Graham Foundation, the exhibition featured a selection of historical materials from the history of CAD and numerical control, as well as contemporary expressions of computation in design. The opening event was attended by over 200 visitors from the university and the wider public. See more.

Invited Lecture at Perspective Rules Symposium, Germany
Invited to lecture at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS) in Leuphana University, Germany, as part of the Perspective Rules Symposium organized by Nicole Stocklmeyr. January 17, 2017. See more.

Keynote at Humboldt University, Berlin
Delivered keynote at the Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, in the conference CAx: Dimensions of Computer-Aid in Architecture, Bio-material Sciences, Design and Medicine, organized by Dr. Kathrin Friedrich. April 3, 2017. See more.

Invited Lecture at the Institute for Advanced Architecture, Barcelona
Invited to the Winter Lecture Series at the Institute of Advanced Architecture (IAAC) in Barcelona. March 3, 2016.

Invited Lecture in Mario Carpo's 'Digital Turn' course at the Bartlett, London
Invited to give a guest lecture as part of the course 'The Digital Turn: A Cultural History,' by Professor Mario Carpo, along with Phillippe Morel, at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London. March 16, 2016.

Organized Panel at the Design History Society: Three Episodes in the Postwar Imagination of Design, San Francisco, CA
Talk and Organized Panel "Three Episodes in the Postwar Imagination of Design" with Molly Wright Steenson and Theodora Vardouli at the Design History Society Conference in the California Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA. September 10-13, 2015.

How do Bits come to Matter? Towards a Material History of Computational Design, London
Invited lecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, May 19, 2015 as part of the Material Matters Lecture Series, organized by Xavier De Kestelier. See Announcement.

Design Across Boundaries: Stuckeman Center for Design Computing Open House and Symposium
I organized an open house and flash symposium in the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing. Imagined as the first instance of an annual event, the eventcombined an exhibition of computational design research and coursework directed byPSU faculty, and a symposium joining emerging scholars and practitioners of computational design. Special guests included Athina Papadopolou, Somnath Ray, Laia Mogas Soldevilla and Orkan Telhan. See Poster.

Form & Code Exhibition
This exhibition, organized and curated by Peter Lusch, displayed creative work made by students writing their own (Processing) code in different courses—including my course Algorithmic Tectonics. The exhibition, which featured the work of several courses across the College of Arts and Architecture, took place in the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing on April 29, 2015.

The Architect's Bargain: Building the Bilbao Effect in the Abu Dhabi Desert
In the Industries of Architecture Conference, I spoke about architects' professional engagements with Middle East clients, based on my work as a participant observer and consultant in Abu Dhabi, UAE. How do architects deal with the complicated social and political questions that arise in this particular context of practice? Are there situations that oppose professional pragmatism and ethical concerns? At University of Newcastle, November 13-16, 2014.

Aedificatoria Binaria: Talk at "What's the Matter" Conference, Barcelona
Talked about the materiality of digital information in the "What's the Matter?" Conference in Barcelona. September 4, 2014.

Bits come to matter: Talk at Foster and Partners, London
I spoke about the origins of Numerical Control at Foster + Partners office in London.

A conversation with Nicholas Negroponte and The Architecture Machine Group

I introduced and moderated a panel with Nicholas Negroponte and many of the original members of The Architecture Machine Group, as part of the Futures Past Conference at MIT organized by Olga Touloumi, Theodora Vardouli and Duks Koshitz, November 21, 2013. See video.

Computational Making Workshop at University College London, DCC14
I spoke at and co-hosted a workshop on Computational Making at UCL London, chaired by Terry Knight, as part of the 2014 Design Computing and Cognition (DCC) conference.

Seeking a Lingua Franca-Images of BIM: Talk at University of Basel
I gave a talk and contributed a Chapter in Imagery in the Age of Modelling: Operative Artifacts in the Design Process in Architecture and Engineering. The event was curated by Dr. Sabine Ammon, and Dr. Inge Hinterwaldner, and took place in the University of Basel, Switzerland, May, 2013. See more info.

Building BIM: Talk at Autodesk, Boston
In June 18, 2013, I gave a talk and had a discussion with Autodesk developers about my research on Building Information Modeling practice. The talk was organized by MIT collegue Lira Nikolovska, and took place in June, 2013.

Accident and Control: Talk at WWW Drawing Symposium in the Drawing Center, NY
Gave a talk and participated in a discussion with James Wines, Archigram's Michael Webb, Jurg Lehni,Ann Tarantino, and others, on the role of drawing in the digital age. The event took place in The Drawing Center, New York, May 11, 2013. See more info.
Ph.D. defense: Builders of the Vision
Successfully defended my Ph.D. dissertation at MIT before my truly wonderful committee: Terry Knight, Lucy Suchman, Rosalind Williams, and Takehiko Nagakura. MIT, August 26, 2012.


Missiles, symbiosis, and the invention of an algorithmic tectonics: Talk at AA Visiting School - Bogotá
Gave a talk at the AA (Architectural Association) Visiting School in Bogotá, Colombia, about the discourses of design produced by the "ecology of knowledge" that developed around army-funded research operations active at MIT during the post-war age—July 22, 2012. See more info.
AUS Workshop 2011
The manhattan (car-less) promenades: Workshop at MIT
In June 2011 I co-tutored with Nida Rehman one of the Archiprix Workshops at MIT. The workshop explored Manhattan's grid as the site of a process of urban "erosion," opening new public space networks for pedestrian use, or "Promenades." The workhop results were exhibited in the New York Guggenheim Museum and Center for Architecture.
AUS Workshop 2011
Computational design workshop: Workshop at AUS
In March 17, 2011, taught a 3 day design workshop on computational modularity and variation in the American University of Sharhaj, in the UAE. In collaboration with Gehry Technologies colleagues Santino Medina and Maher El Khaldi.
Conceptions of Human and Non-Human Agency (The Poetics of Automation): Conference paper in 4S, Tokyo
I presented Conceptions of Human and Non-Human Agency (The Poetics of Automation) in the 4S Conference in Tokyo, Japan. August 15, 2010. Read the abstract.
Algorithmic design in the UFM - Guatemala
I was invited to give a lecture and micro-workshop in Universidad Francisco Marroquin (UFM), in Guatemala City. The talk's title was: Apuntes para una poética automática. Visited the beautiful Petén and the impressive Yaxhá.
Cornell Reviews
I was invited as a jury for 2nd year undergraduate design studio final review at the Cornell University School of Architecture.
Croma project paper presentation in the 2010 ECAADE in Istanbul
I presented the Croma project in Istanbul at the ECAADE conference and featured in the MIT website.
Computational Design Workshop in Cornell
Collaborated with Kenfield Griffith at a Cornell University School of Architecture design and scripting workshop. The workshop was organized and co-taught by Cornell Professor (and MIT Ph.D.) Yanni Loukissas.
Computational Design Workshop in Harvard GSD
Collaborated with Kenfield Griffith at a Harvard Graduate School of Design design and scripting workshop. The workshop was organized and co-taught by DDeS Candidate Taro Narahara.
General Exams - Design automata
Researching the history of automata and automation for my exams. Thinking of design automata.
New Geography of Design paper in ECAP 2009
Invited to Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona to present the paper 'New Geography of Design' under the ECAP 09 European Conference of Philosophy and Computing, early July.
Scripting Workshop in Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá
In January 2009 we taught a Des&Comp Workshop in Bogotá with friends and colleagues Ken Griffith and Skylar Tibbits. The workshop had the support of McNeel (Rhinoceros) and Universidad de los Andes School of Architecture.
Voronoi Pavilion, Lima Peru
The Voronoi Pavilion, in Lima, Peru, designed by Natalija Boljsakov and Brian Miller. I collaborated with the designers by automating aspects of the form-generation and fabrication of this exhibition space, for Lima's UPC's architecture school.
Planar-Surface (Bojlsakov + Miller)
Scripting for change
I helped my friends (and ex-students) in Peru's UPC Natalija Boljsakov and Brian Miller to develop a custom tool for designing and altering complex surfaces. Some applications will be presented in Bogota this month. August 1, 2008.
Altiplano in Somerville
On August 21, 2008, performed live in Sommerville before a small audience with Altiplano (Andres Lombana and Daniel Cardoso Llach). The VJing was in charge of Maria Mendez. Lots of feedback and beautiful noise. Listen to a Lo-Fi recording of the performance.
Reviews at Wentworth
On May 5, 2008, was invited as a guest critic to the first year's architecture studio reviews at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
Generative Fabrication
Generative Fabrication at theBAC
On January 8, 2009, I presented a lecture on Generative Fabrication, and a micro-workshop on scripting, in the BAC (Boston Architectural College). The lecture and workshop are based on my Master's Thesis.
Design and the Automated Utopia
I gave a presentation entitled Design and the Automated Utopia at the Critical Digital Conference, at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. April 17, 2008.
Melnikov Grammar
Melnikov Grammar paper accepted to the 3IA'2008 the 11th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Artificial Intelligence in Athens, Greece.
Books and edited collections
Other Computations: Digital Technologies for Architecture from the Global South

This special issue of the Dearq journal I co-edited with Andres Burbano explores computational design practices in architecture outside of the “global North,” challenging diffusionist accounts of technological innovation in architecture. It comprises eight peer-reviewed articles, one invited essay, reviews of projects by Southern practitioners, and an afterword by historian of architecture and technology Antoine Picon. Read the introductory essay here. All of the issue's contents are available open access here.

Builders of the Vision: Software and the Imagination of Design
Long in the making, my book Builders of the Vision: Software and the Imagination of Design was published by Routledge in June of 2015. Builders is an intellectual history of Computer-Aided Design and numerical control that identifies and documents the emergence of a 'technological imagination' of design from cold war technology projects at MIT —and traces it critically to contemporary architectural practices. See it in Amazon. See it in the Routledge website.
Selected articles and chapters

Between Accident and Control - Essay in WWW Drawing: Architectural Drawing From Pencil to Pixel
This book, edited by Janet Abrams and Mehrdad Hadighi, and published by ACTAR in 2020, collects essays and conversations on the transformation of architectural drawing in the digital age. My essay is entitled "Between Accident and Control: Contrasting Traditions of Computational Design." I argue that what architects do with computers is not drawing, and distinguish two intellectual traditions of computational design: one concerned with precision and production, and one concerned with exploration and uncertainty. Other authors include Andrew Heumann, Jurg Lehni, Jane Nisselsson, Anne Tarantino, Seher Sheh, James Wines, Michael Webb, and Mark West. See book. See essay online.

Cultivating the critical imagination
This article, co-authored with Mine Ozkar, documents and reflects upon a pedagogical project aimed at fostering critical engagements with technology at the Computational Design Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon, a graduate research and learning laboratory at the nexus of architecture, computer science, art, and design which I have been helping shape for the last several years. See more.

Unruly Bits
In this article for the Digital Frictions series, edited by Shannon Mattern for Urban Omnibus, I think about modularity and computation — and the disobedient elements and actors that make up the built environment. Read article.

Tracing Design Ecologies
In this chapter, developed for the digitalSTS handbook edited by Janet Vertesi and David Ribes, I propose a method to use digital traces in sociotechnical studies of design. Drawing from my work on BIM coordination, it incorporates data as an ethnographic material susceptible of both visual representation and quantitative analysis, alongside other forms of observation and reflection. The interdisciplinary digitalSTS handbook won the Olga Amsterdamska award at the 4SEASST conference. Read the article open access here.

Of Algorithms, Buildings and Fighter Jets: A Conversation with Robin Forrest
Interview with Robin Forrest published in Architecture Research Quarterly (ARQ) in November 2017. A founding member of the Computer-Aided Design Group at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a student and collaborator of CAD pioneer Steven A. Coons at MIT, Robin Forrest occupies an important place in the history of computational design. The issue was organized and edited by Nathalie Bredella and Carolin Höfler. Access the article here.

Data as Interface: The Poetics of Machine Learning in Design
This chapter offers a brief history of machine learning in design using examples from architecture, music, and the visual arts, and theorizes the new forms of design authorship emerging around the design, curation, and manipulation of data. Other contributors include Lev Manovich, Luciana Parisi, and the volume's co-editors Christoph Engemann and Andreas Sudmann. See more.

Architecture and the Structured Image
This chapter considers the transition of architectural images from pictorial representations of a design into mathematically enlivened and 'operative' artifacts performing it. The chapter evolved from interdisciplinary discussions and collaborations with architectural and image theorists, philosophers, and media scholars at the Eikones research group at the University of Basel, Switzerland, and is included in The Active Image: Architecture and Engineering in the Age of Modeling, an edited collection organized by Sabine Ammon and Remei Capdevila-Werning. Other contributing authors include Reinhold Martin, Gabriela Goldschmidt, Irene Mittelberg, Rivka Oxman, and others. Read the chapter here.

Software Comes to Matter: Towards a Material History of Computational Design
This article, an adaptation of Chapter 3 in my book Builders of the Vision, examines the early history of numerical control, and argues that software can be seen as an inchoate theory of design. Summer issue of DesignIssues 2015. See article.

Algorithmic Tectonics: How Cold War Era Research shaped our Imagination of Design
Contributed an article to Computation Works: The Building of Algorithmic Thought, a special issue of Architectural Design (AD) edited by Xavier De Kestelier and Brady Peters, launched in April, 2013.
A digestible vanguard: the "Bosque de la Esperanza" by Giancarlo Mazzanti and the "social moment" of Colombian architecture
In this article I discuss the 'social moment' of Colombian architecture through a critical look at one of Giancarlo Mazzanti''s recent projects: El Bosque de la Esperanza.For Cuadernos de Vivienda y Urbanismo June 2012. See Spanish and Portughese versions (PDF).
'Perfect Slaves' article published

My article 'Perfect slaves,' about the early days of computational design at MIT was published by the Dearq journal, edited at the Universidad de los Andes. Free online version of the journal. September 14, 2012

The Carless Street published in the New York Atlas of Possibilty
In the context of the Urban Design Week the "Manhattan Promenades" project was featured online and published in a book called "New York Atlas of Possibility," a collection of urban and architectural proposals for the city.
Inertia of an Automated Utopia
My paper "Inertia of an Automated Utopia," which discusses critically the cybernetic reformulation of authorial agency in Nicholas Negroponte’s early work on CAD (and some repercussions in contemporary design) was published in the 39th issue of Thresholds, edited by Adam Johnson.
Hello (3D) World
Hello (3D) World is a collection of my introductory handouts to scripting and geometry automation (using RhinoScript). Download it here.
Sigradi 2010
Editorial Co-chair for the Sigradi 2010 Conference to be held in Bogotá, Colombia in November 2010.
Shift+Design in IJAC
On August 2010 IJAC (International Journal of Architectural Computing) published my article "Shift_Design," where I discuss technical and cultural aspects of the design and scripting workshops taught in US and South American architecture schools.
Notes and Sketches

The Poetics of Automation
Dissertation keywords: Human-Machine Interaction, authorial agency, automation, utopia.
Coming back
Fall of 2008 return to Central Square, Cambridge, MA.
Des-comp Blog
Guest editor of MIT's Design and Computation Group blog-space. Also, of 4.583 - Computation group forum.
Iseo Lake
Photo taken from a train near the Iseo Lake (Pronvincia di Brescia, Italy). August 29, 2008.
Daniel Cardoso Llach, 2008-2021