What is Parametric Architecture?

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

Parametric Architecture or often times called Parametric Design has many different meanings and definitions:

From Wikipedia: Parametric Design is a process based on algorithmic thinking that enables the expression of parameters and rules that, together, define, encode and clarify the relationship between design intent and design response. The term parametric originates from mathematics (parametric equation) and refers to the use of certain parameters or variables that can be edited to manipulate or alter the end result of an equation or system. While today the term is used in reference to computational design systems, there are precedents for these modern systems in the works of architects such as Antoni Gaudí, who used analog models to explore these designs. [1]

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

Parametric Architecture is focused on the design of forms and shapes that are typically curving, such as a parabola or non-linear shapes that use parametric or mathematical computations to define these shapes and forms. While Antoni Gaudi used analog formats for the Sagrada Familia by designing catenary curves based on inverted chains, in modern day processes these computations are mostly done with computers. Advanced CAD software since the late 1990’s and early 2000’s (such as CATIARhino/Grasshopper 3D, and Vectorworks/Nemetschek) have allowed these curving designs to be created in ways that previous CAD software were not able to achieve. This new software capability is allowing designers to create more curving shapes, whereas the CAD designs of the past would only allow the typical flat plane, 90 degree rectangular designs (box-like shapes) to be developed.

While some are focused on the algorithms that create these forms in architecture, many pioneers of these designs reflect on the benefits of these forms in terms of the structural integrity, along with the beauty in the flowing forms. [2] The benefits of such designs requiring less materials with optimal strength, such as that of Buckminster Fuller’s and Frei Otto’s research, are also combined with the beautiful flowing forms and shapes as described by Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher, Santiago Calatrava and Eugene Tsui to name a few modern designers.

3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

With recent developments in NeuroArchitecture, where curving forms have shown a decrease in physiological stress and fear, the flowing forms of Parametric Architecture can provide a more relaxing experience for better health and wellness. This, along with the knowledge of Biomimicry and Biophilia combine to support built environments that can support better health. As Architectural Medicine is focused on health in the built environment on all levels, these parametric designs can support these goals.

While the design approach of Parametric Architecture can vary, the overall design of buildings with more curving forms and shapes can support the benefits that neuroscience is showing to reduce the stimulation of the amygdala. This is the brain center that triggers fear, and so instead of designs triggering a fear response, it can provide a built environment that is physiologically less stressful. This is particularly important for health over time, especially where the amount of time spent indoors and in urban areas is increasing.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

From Wikipedia: One of the earliest examples of parametric design was the upside down model of churches by Antonio Gaudi. In his design for the Church of Colònia Güell he created a model of strings weighted down with birdshot to create complex vaulted ceilings and arches. Instead of having to manually calculate the results of parametric equations he could automatically derive the shape of the catenary curves through the force of gravity acting on the strings.

Where Gaudi used physical laws to speed up his calculation of parametric equations, Ivan Sutherland looked to the processing power of digital computers. Sutherland created an interactive computer-aided design program called Sketchpad. Using a light pen, users could draw lines and arcs that could be related to each other using constraints. These constraints contained all the essential properties of parametric equations.

In the past ten to twenty years, these curving, parametric designs have become more common in the world of architecture, and here are some architects and designers that have embraced such designs in their work: Buckminster Fuller, Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher, Frei Otto, Santiago Calatrava, Eugene Tsui, Neri Oxman, Frank Gehry and Norman Foster.

5. Resources: