P2C_Trey V Meyer

Computational Adaption:  “The Importance of the Human Element”

The processes of parametric design as a form driver can only be as effective as the designer’s understanding and ability to create correlations between the input data generating the final product.  I believe simulations focusing on varying parameters could then be overlayed and combined to create results responding to multiple social, economical, etc. factors.  The capability to generate large quantities of solutions through computational methods allows for the opportunity of the human element through evaluation and deciphering of these solutions by the designer.  What data is input to parametric simulation, how the data effects the rules determined by the designer, and how results focusing on different socio-economic factors are fused together are all examples of the ‘human element’ dictating the results of computational design.  Professor, Ming Tang, speaks of this topic in his 2007 ACSA essay:

“We don’t believe this constraint can be overcome by the growth of artificial intelligence in the near future. It is still necessary for City Generator to rely on the evaluation from human, and more importantly, the creativity of human.” (City Generator: GIS Driven Genetic Evolution in Urban Simulation, Ming Tang)

I believe this statement is stressing the role of the designer to understand the processes of computational adaption, evaluating the results without losing the creative element in the judgment and decision making.  This lends itself to the idea that parametricism’s successfulness lies in the utilization of the proper parameters being identified, then implemented in order to create a desired finish product.  With this being said, one must not lose sight that the goal of computer aided design as a tool used to generate form is based on creating a set of rules that can be modified to adjusted to respond to varying factors.

The premise of Parametricism is that all urban and architectural elements must be parametrically malleable. Instead of assembling rigid and hermetic geometric figures  – like all previous architectural styles –  Parametricism brings malleable components into a dynamical play of mutual responsiveness as well as contextual adaptation” (“The Parametric City”, 
Patrik Schumacher)

“This thesis is a comparison of some of the main “parametric” software and a study of the implications of the new approach that Patrick Schumacher (Zaha Hadid Architects) calls Parametricism, defining it as the new architectural style after modernism. The way that it is changing Urban Design, in particular, is analyzed through three projects that belong to deeply different realities, reaching  interesting reflections on how the architect should use at the best the new technologies in his hands.”

My strategy in the developing a simulation as a system of fragmentation was intended to be affordable to a variety of scales and functions.  I used a system that subdivided surfaces with the input data being represented and quantified in the form of points and lines, thus a point -> line -> surface work flow concept.  The Voronoi script allowed for this computational adaptivity along with a large quantity of solutions based on the parameters being identified such as circulation, solar factors, gathering hubs, etc.  The script could then be run with the various input factors, creating ideal results for those variables.

The final results of the simulations can only be reviewed in regard to how successful the designer was in determining the malleable factors generating the form.  With the Voronoi simulation offering the opportunity to function on a variety of scales, one may begin to create a fluid language ranging from the human to the urban scale.  With the results being created with similar processes, it becomes the designer’s role to dictate how the different scales of simulation may begin to relate.  Along with connecting results of different scales, the designer must also evaluate the ideal solutions based on varying input data within the same scale may begin to integrate in the most reasonable manner.  The relationship between computational adaption in the architectural and urban landscape can therefore be scrutinized based on the effectiveness of the ‘human element’ as the designer must determine the parameters, evaluate the results, and integrate the solutions with complimentary simulations and contextual factors.

Voronoi Simulation of Site, Circulation, & Gathering Hubs Generative Studies Fragmenting the Surface and Demonstrating Line -> Point -> Surface Concept






  1. Trey, you being your essay with a very prominent and important stance for one to take, and that is”The processes of parametric design as a form driver can only be as effective as the designer’s understanding and ability to create correlations between the input data generating the final product”. In other words, Parametric design if nothing without the human hence “The importance of the Human Element”. As we think about our final boards for DAAPWorks, I wonder if a bit of your poster could be organized to take this stance. You could have diagrams clearly showing the parametricism and the power of the computer as well as where human creativity has to intervene. This could be a very informative poster for the audience if you decide to make your poster this mini thesis or argument for others.

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  3. Thanks Diana! I like this idea and think it is very possible to show a timeline/infographic with the workflow of how I generated simulations based on various input and then selected and merged the multiple results together. I agree that it could be a strong and interesting argument.

  4. Anders Rustin

    Trey, it seems our papers both take very similar stances on the role of data-driven design within the creative process. I think you make great points about parametrics not being about computer driven design, but human-driven and aided by computers. I agree with Diana that a stance, or workflow to show the human thought process while receiving your computational results could really strengthen this point within your presentation.

  5. Andrew Campbell

    The human element is, as you said, the most important value in a design, weather parametrically derived or not.

    Where we differ is in your assertion that the human element should be used to control, vary and prioritize computational results. This is a heavy-handed parametric approach, where as I would argue a much lighter derivation. Personally I could never completely trust computational results and would instead use them as a stepping block or starting point for my own design, rather than choosing just the variables of focus I would argue the importance in prioritizing these variables and constraining them personally, or using them as design inspiration.

    To simplify this argument – making parametrics work as a structure, as opposed to making a structure work parametrically. Both are good ways to think about parametric design.

  6. Kate Bogenschutz

    Nice words, Trey. You mention how it is the designers role to understand and input data, that only then will parametric design reach its potential in form and understanding. I’m wondering how designers, teachers, and architects can regulate this? It seems that parametric design is more often then not becoming a purely aesthetic tool. Do you have any thoughts on how this can be minimized or controlled so that the design produced contains meaning and depth?