4.542/4.581 Proseminar/Research Seminar in Computation

2016 - 2021
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Architecture

Recommended Readings & Other Resources

This is a partial collection of books and other resources that have been useful and inspiring for me over the course of my education that may be of interest to students, educators, and researchers (note: this list is ongoing, and is in no particular order). It mostly contains books that focus on the relationship between calculating and design, but it also contains texts that should be of broader interest. Most of these should be available at a university library or online and you can also find used copies of books from Amazon, eBay, or AdeBooks.

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    Shape: Talking about Seeing and Doing

    by George Stiny

    A monograph on the subject of shape grammars. The book is dedicated to showing how visual calculating in shape grammars includes symbolic calculating in classical computing machines and how in this way it broadens calculating to include art and design.

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    The Sciences of the Artificial

    by Herbert A. Simon

    A seminal book on design and artificial intelligence. Among other important ideas, it includes Simon’s educational programme, “The Science of Design”, aimed at incorporating the tools of artificial intelligence as aids to the design process.

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    Computation: finite and infinite machines

    by Marvin L. Minsky

    One of the best early books on abstract models of computation, based on lecture notes from classes taught by Minsky at MIT. One of the interesting aspects of the book is the in-depth discussion of how different models of computation are connected, such as the relation of finite automata to neural networks, of Turing machines to recursive functions, of digital computers to register machines.

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    A History of Modern Computing

    by Paul E. Ceruzzi

    A great book on the history of digital computers. Extensive analyses of the different developments in hardware and software from the 1940s to early 2000s, providing insight into the corporate, cultural, and social environment surrounding them. 

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    Structural information theory: the simplicity of visual form

    by Emanuel Laurens Jan Leeuwenberg and Peter A. van der Helm

    This book covers in a comprehensive way "structural information theory", a theory about the way the human visual system organizes a raw visual stimulus into objects and object parts. 

  • strang-thumb

    Linear algebra and learning from data

    by Gilbert Strang

    A textbook that aims to explain the mathematics on which data science depends: linear algebra, optimization, probability and statistics. All these topics are necessary to understand the architecture and mode of operation of neural network technology.

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    Aesthetic measure

    by George David Birkhoff

    This classic book develops a systematic approach to measuring the aesthetic value of particular classes of aesthetic objects, (e.g., polygonal forms, ornaments, tilings). Important aesthetic issues are discussed, such as the "unity" and "variety" of formal elements.

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    Transformations in Design: A Formal Approach to Stylistic Change and Innovation in the Visual Arts

    by Terry Knight

    A great book that uses shape grammars as the underlying model of computation for investigating style and stylistic change in art and architecture.

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    Introduction to the theory of computation

    by Michael Sipser

    A well-written modern textbook in theoretical computer science, focusing on three traditionally central areas: automata, computability, and time or space complexity. It explains the fundamental capabilities and limitations of computers from a mathematical perspective.

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    Architectural geometry

    by Helmut Pottmann, Andreas Asperl, Michael Hofer, and Axel Kilian

    A textbook for students in architecture or engineering design covering curves and surfaces, differential geometry, kinematic geometry, mesh processing, and optimization of shapes.


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    Formal engineering design synthesis

    edited by Erik K. Antonsson and Jonathan Cagan

    This book contains a series of late 1990s papers on formal computational methods for engineering design synthesis, written by a number of well known researchers in the area.

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    Builders of the vision: software and the imagination of design

    by Daniel Cardoso Llach

    A history of Computer-Aided Design and Numerical Control since the years following WWII until today, with original archival work on research on CAD developed at MIT between 1949 and 1970.



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    Architectural Morphology

    by Philip Steadman

    This book is about a research area called "configurational studies" of architectural form. It is mainly concerned with the possibility of using finite combinatorial geometry to describe and enumerate possible forms which buildings and their plans may take.

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    Logicomix: an epic search for truth

    by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou

    A graphic novel inspired by the early life of the philosopher Bertrand Russell. It builds on Russell's encounters with Frege, Cantor, Hilbert, Gödel, Wittgenstein, to introduce some of the biggest ideas in mathematics and modern philosophy.

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    Artificial Intelligence

    by Patrick Henry Winston

    A classic textbook on artificial intelligence. One of the few books that emphasizes the ideas behind the different representations and models of perception, action, and reasoning that drive the engineering of the subject.

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    Coleridge on Imagination

    by I.A. Richards

    A book on literary criticism and aesthetic theory which, among other great things, contains one of the best analysis of Coleridge's distinction between "fancy" and "imagination".

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    The four pillars of geometry

    by John Stillwell

    An introductory textbook in geometry that aims to show how the subject can be developed in four fundamentally different ways: Euclid-style constructions, linear algebra, projective geometry, and transformation groups.