In the decades following World War II, rather than focusing on the design of individual buildings or objects, architects and designers became increasingly preoccupied with the concept of systems. Architectural projects were conceived of as interactions of variable components that would allow for change over time. Every aspect of the built environment—from furniture to load-bearing structures, living spaces, and even whole cities—was reimagined as a combination of rule-based systems, each with their own logic.
For corporate architectural practices of the 1950s and ’60s, such systems allowed for the design of work spaces that could easily adapt to fluctuations in personnel and internal structures. At the same time, systems appealed to radical architecture groups with very different objectives. They imagined that the flexibility of systems would empower inhabitants to reshape their living environments according to their own needs and desires. In like manner, painters, sculptors, and filmmakers of the same period experimented with iterative and instruction-based protocols to challenge the concept of an artwork as a finished product.