2022 Mahoney Prize



Theodora Vardouli and David Theodore, “Walking Instead of Working: Space Allocation, Automatic Architecture, and the Abstraction of Hospital Labor,” in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 6-17, 1 April-June 2021. Prize




The paper which is awarded the Mahoney Prize this year was published in 2021 in IEEE Annals of The History of Computing and co-authored by Theodora Vardouli and David Theodore from McGill University in Montréal. Vardouli is an Assistant Professor and Theodore is the Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Health, and Computation, both at the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture, McGill University, Montreal.


Their article investigates the relationship between computing and architecture by studying an algorithm that was used for floor layout design in postwar British hospitals. The algorithm, by Whitehead and Eldars, relied on string-diagram studies that described the pattern and volume of movement of people in a typical hospital. By studying this algorithm—the debates over, adaptation of, and use of Whitehead and Eldars’ approach—the authors situate the automation of hospital design at the intersection of building science and healthcare management. Of greatinterest is the fact that, through the topic of space allocation, Vardouli and Theodore aim to present “a parallel story in which researchers promoted the adoption of computers to manage hospital labor by intervening on the activities of the laborers through the hospital building itself: not through computer terminals, but through the architecture.” As they conclude, looking at the long-term consequences of computer technology for architecture: “matching activity patterns to spatial patterns as a method of designing architecture with computers persists.” Their historical study, which strongly benefits from their ability to conduct research at the nexus of design and computation, clearly contributes to a better understanding of the operational implications of algorithmic techniques, as well as showing the impact of computer technology on fields not often discussed in computer history.


About the Mahoney Prize:

The Mahoney Prize recognizes an outstanding article in the history of computing and information technology, broadly conceived. The Mahoney Prize commemorates the late Princeton scholar Michael S. Mahoney, whose profound contributions to the history of computing came from his many articles and book chapters. The prize consists of a $500 award and a certificate. The Mahoney Prize is awarded by the Special Interest Group in Computers, Information, and Society (SIGCIS) and is presented during the annual meeting of our parent group, the Society for the History of Technology.