Nathalie Bredella is an architectural historian whose work focuses on the history and theory of architecture from the 18th to the 21st century, and on media history and technology studies. Her research centers around the interplay of the technical structures, theoretical models and social constellations in which architecture is created. She was a visiting professor of architectural history with a focus on media and gender studies at the Berlin University of the Arts, where she led the DFG-funded project "Architecture and New Media." She currently teaches on the subject of Architecture and Digitalization at the ETH Zürich.

Her work has been published in journals including Grazer Architekturmagazin, Architectural Research Quarterly, NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin, and in several edited collections, among them When is the Digital in Architecture?, and Werkzeuge des Entwerfens.

Forschungsprojekt – Ekistics: computers, simulations and planning processes

This project investigates ekistics, an urban planning approach from the 1960s that dealt with global networks, data collection and visualizations. Greek architect and urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis launched ‘ekistics’, or the science of human settlements, as a field of study in the mid–1950s. He promoted this new scientific venture through The Athens Center of Ekistics, the interdisciplinary Delos conferences and the Ekistics Journal, which brought together a global network of researchers working on expanding urban systems.

Ekistics research extended beyond architecture, urban planning and geography to include, among others, economics, anthropology, media theory, sociology, and politics. Methods of computerized analysis, data collection and representation were vital to the study of ekistics, and provided a way to understand the interdependencies between designs, resources, people and settlements. Access to data, it was believed, enabled researchers to develop planning scenarios. Accordingly, maps and diagrams were key research tools, while computers were used to mathematically model settlements, and computer games simulated urban development.

My project aims to better understand the epistemological consequences of the use of computers in the research of ekistics scholars. I am interested in the interdependencies between physical space and computational data modelling, as well as in how digital systems were conceptualized in relation to natural systems. I will therefore use ekistics as an example to discuss the role data collection and visualization processes played in the early days of networking and ‘smart’ planning.