Interview between host Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM and Ginger Nolan

January 18, 2022

Savage Mind to Savage Machine by Ginger Nolan

An examination of how concepts of  “the savage” facilitated technological approaches to modernist design

Attempting to derive aesthetic systems from natural structures of human cognition, designers looked toward the “savage mind”—a way of thinking they associated with a racialized subaltern. In Savage Mind to Savage Machine, Ginger Nolan uncovers an enduring relationship between “the savage” and the development of technology and its wide-ranging impact on society, including in the fields of architecture and urbanism, the industrial arts, and digital design.

Nolan focuses on the relationship between the applied arts and the structuralist social sciences, proposing that the late-nineteenth-century rise of Freudian psychology, ethnology, and structuralist linguistics offered innovations and new opportunities in studying human cognition. She looks at institutions ranging from the Public Industrial Arts School of Philadelphia and the Weimar Bauhaus to the MIT Media Lab and the Centre Mondial Informatique, revealing a persistent theme of twentieth-century design: to supplant language with more subliminal, aesthetic modes of communication, thereby inculcating a deep intimacy between human habit and new technologies of production, communication, and consumption.

This book’s ultimate critique is of the development of the ergonomics of the spirit—the design of the human cognitive apparatus in relation to new aesthetic technologies. Nolan sees these ergonomics as a means of depoliticizing societies through aesthetic technologies intended to seamlessly integrate humans into the programs of capitalist modernity. Revising key modernist design narratives, Savage Mind to Savage Machine provides a deep historical foundation for understanding our contemporary world.

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Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM
Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM

Bryan Toepfer is the Principal Architect and founder of TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC, an Architecture firm specializing in Residential Design, Construction and Virtual Reality modeling.

Taking his philosophy of the importance of education to heart, he guide clients through the process of Design and Construction with each project. He runs a blog titled “What the Hell is Architecture?” with the goal of sharing with others the many aspects of Architecture. He also coaches Intern Architects studying for their Architectural License exams, and is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Alfred State College.

He lives in Rochester with his wife, Nicole and their son Finn, along with their dog and two cats.

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