Author Archives: Jennifer Bray

Parametricism

The idea that we may be moving into this new architectural generation that Schumacher has coined Parametricism, is rather intriguing. I had never considered the idea that parameters and design rules could actually become so commonplace that it would deserve its own space in history; such as Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, or Modernism movements. I actually believe it could happen eventually, as either a collective category or a smaller portion of a larger whole, but I’m not entirely sure how soon that Schumacher’s ideas will be manifested or universally accepted. I’ve had this debate with people I consider quite practical, and they do tend to bring up good questions concerning this very style of architecture. Though, in a way, I believe each generation had its own design rules. The big difference here is the possibility that Parametricism will impact and incorporate the organizational processes of all those before it.

Parametricism, according to Schumacher, is defined as when all elements of architecture have become parametrically malleable resulting in the intensification of internal and external relationships. Instead of relying on geometric figures such as the pyramid, cube, rectangular prism, or sphere; we are starting to consider new vocabulary, shapes and systems consisting of splines, blobs, nurbs, particles, and scripts. Previous styles have depended upon the shapes. Will the new style make the shapes dependent upon something greater? Could this be nature? Very few can deny the beauty in the organic forms of nature.

I’m not sure I can jump completely on board with the idea that Parametricism is going to be the new “big” style for this era. How does he know this isn’t just another crisis we’ve reached trying to separate ourselves from Modernism? I understand that if this were the case, then that is indeed a huge crisis; but wasn’t deconstructavism also a big crisis? Is it because parametric solutions have been used to answer the big questions we have asked; or because it may be the solution to all of our problems? I believe this may be true, but only if it is used and applied correctly. Simply creating something using splines and blobs won’t be enough. The questions that are coming up are more about architecture giving back to society instead of always taking and being purely aesthetic. Schumacher tries to address both issues with his explanation of formal and functional heuristics in the hope that both issues may be addressed and solved with Parametricism. I am completely on board with his formal heuristics; but I don’t think he looked into all ideas in functionality. In order for the proper use of such technology, or any monumental change, a good portion of society needs to jump on board and realize the benefits of such a movement.

“Complex Variegated Order” is on the verge of being considered an oxymoron. I agree with Schumacher that these changes need to be made. I have actually expressed my dislike for the cookie-cutter houses that are populating our suburbs and how those are taking away from the unique possibilities of architecture. Continuing with my example of suburban houses, parametric design might be able to unify a community with architecture that is similar but different; with a “variegated order.” Maybe one rule is changed from structure to structure, but that is enough to give each home the uniqueness that it deserves; celebrating the differences. I can see how the idea of parametric thinking might be utilized in a circumstance where one designer is creating and adjusting all the rules for a specific area, such as a neighborhood in the suburbs or in urban planning; but I don’t see how these rules can be used universally between designers.

If there is an infinite amount of possibilities, what is keeping people from taking things too far? There are some that may dream of a structure that is more sculpture that building. When everything is at your fingertips, where do you draw the line? Is there a set of rules that can keep the core ideals of Parametricism from being lost in the creativity? But doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose? Maybe this is unavoidable. Haven’t we always struggled with the balance between form and function? I cannot deny that the ideas and big picture surrounding Parametricism are very interesting and they clearly create interesting space and structure within the architecture world, but will the functional part of those spaces be lost? Will it work the way it needs to? Maybe there are a set of rules or parameters that can be put in place to make sure this isn’t lost. That idea might still need to be developed. Will there be wasted space or materials? If Parametricism is trying to tie interior with exterior, the bulbous building shapes will have to create bulbous difficult interiors. Or will the wall thickness vary so the interior can still be used optimally? Then is that really tying the interior with the exterior? The blobs, will they make everything rather difficult to work with? Will everything have to follow this new architectural movement? Maybe they already are. Industrial design seems to be taking on these kinds of concepts; maybe it’s about time architecture jumped on the band wagon.

Ultimately, I am very interested in seeing whether Parametricism will become an epochal style within this generation or not. New technology has provided us with the opportunity for the extreme shift necessary to make Parametricism a reality, but we are still in the exploratory phase where we don’t yet understand the possibilities and responsibilities that this huge advancement in technology has provided. Understanding this makes me feel that advanced digital, parametric design and thinking might still be hidden in the future; but I certainly don’t see this style being passed up and ignored. I’m still concerned; will function and usefulness be swallowed up by theory? Maybe society needs this shift, but is society ready for the shift?

Work Cited:
Schumacher, Patrik. “Parametricism.” Intensive Field Conference 2009 Lectures. USC School of Architecture. California, Los Angeles. 12 Dec. 2009. Lecture.