New York, USA
Bill Caplan, Assoc. AIA
Managing Member, ShortList_0 Design Group LLC
Master of Architecture, BS Materials Engineering
Author, "Buildings Are for People: Human Ecological Design" (Libri Publishing UK, 2016); Contrasts 21C: People & Places (Libri Publishing UK, 2018).
To bridge the gaps between architectural form, sustainable design and new materials, I founded ShortList_0 Design Group LLC in 2010 to unify sustainable technology and architectural form. ShortList_0 Design Group is an 'applied technology' think-tank, an interdisciplinary collaborative effort. Our goal is to improve sustainable design performance while maintaining architectural integrity in the built environment.
Comment on: Your views
TO P OR LOWER CASE P? THAT'S THE QUESTION
A response to Patrick Schumacher's Remarks:
Absent a better "nom d'architecture", for the moment let us call this new architectural movement Experiential. In reality, the phrase "for the moment" itself expresses the energy transferred between tectonic and participant in the new idiomatic style. We are indeed indebted to Zaha Hadid and Patrick Schumacher for extending the mantle of Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal 5 and Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, coalescing the emergence of a new style yet to be defined, still unnamed. It is interesting to note that TWA pre-dated computer design and the Walt Disney Concert Hall's design, originally in stone, preceded Bilbao. Others noteworthy include Craig Dyker's Oslo Opera House, Kazuyo Sejima/Ryue Nishizawa's Teshima Art Museum and the Rolex Learning Center, as well as designs by Bjark Ingels and Ben van Berkel. And yes, there are many more. Let us not forget Richard Serra, who dramatically impacts the human sensory system through structural form and the strong conveyance of gravitational force by otherwise static objects. His sculpture is unoccupied architecture, or perhaps architecture occupied by energy. We must not confuse autopoietic pattern generation with the tectonics of form, its relationship to sensory perception and the definition of space, i.e. architectural style.
Let us not trash "parametrics", or in broader usage "parametricism". Parametric design tools are important whether merely as a designer's pencil, an architect or engineer's BIM tool set for adaptation, or a means to impact form emerging from site, social and programmatic inputs. As a designer's pencil, something new will replace parametric software in the future as we evolve from eye-hand coordination, to eye-mouse, eventually achieving brain-realize. As an input/output concept, parametricism endures as a black box realization process. Patrick Schumacher's assertion of the need to categorize this new architectural style is well taken, even if only to coalesce its disparate elements. We should not demean this exciting release of energetic and experiential architectural form, nor the wonders of computer aided parametric design, with the stigma of classifying either with the capital P "Parametricism."
Bill Caplan, ShortList_0 Design Group, New York
Thank you Farshid Moussavi for this elaboration of the universality of parametric thinking and its promise for "intelligent designs that embrace the full complexity of our environment". Given the difficulty in bridging the gap between form finding and material architecture, perhaps this should be an educator's call to arms. Although engineers have successfully applied the power of parametric software for several decades, architectural designers have been slow to employ the true capability for anything more than pure form generation, as you aptly indicate. Much of this has to do with the inability of architecture schools to provide a schema that focuses parametricism on form 'created from' "parametric thinking as a way to integrate formal experimentation with performative concerns". In lower case, parametricism is both a technique and a mode of thinking that employs the empowerment provided by software for performative design, as applied by the designer's creativity. It is time to dispense with the capital "P". As a style or classification it will not survive the decade.
Bridging this educational gap will be fraught with obstacles. Although the world is certainly different from that you describe in the ‘90’s, the problems of creating a relevant studio experience in an industry unaccustomed to change remain. The overwhelming majority of studio instructors insufficiently understand how one might progress from the assignment of external parameters, whether they be environmental, physical, social or cultural, to engage in a feedback loop with form. This presents a major stumbling block. If we do not grasp this moment, the opportunity for designers to employ parametricism to inspire performative design might be lost, left to the engineers. It will be displaced by the next plaything to shape form, as well as the progressive dumbing of existing software. Each year, in the name of 'user friendly', the handful of companies that control AEC software tend to reduce itemized control in favor of generic modifiers. It will not be long before the parametric programs geared for architectural designers will severely restrict the application of parametric thinking in favor of parametric filters, with pushbutton design solutions. Yes, hardcore programs will always exist for engineers and techies, but they will remain beyond the scope of architecture students and designers.
This is the crucial time to realize parametric thinking for architects and designers.
The future of parametric thinking lies in the hands of our educators. We must not let this empowering opportunity slip away.
ShortList_0 Design Group LLC
The declaration of "Parametricism" renders unfortunate disservice to the mastering of parametric design for eco-sustainable and programmatic use. Your statement, "Perhaps the most intelligent use of parametric modelling is to explore new formal disciplines to bring a wide range of increased efficiencies, in terms of structure, energy, constructional assembly, shaping of flows of people, air and so on", deserves plaudits. But please leave off "Perhaps".
Parametricism is not about style, but rather about relationships; relationships that can be manifest in a multitude of styles yet to be imagined. It is the technique of input parameter informing output, which in turn may comprise a new input - in simple terms, algorithmic formation. In the rarified world of academic architecture, where AEC profession and building constraints receive little attention, exploration of parametric software capability tends toward form-finding and flirtation with futuristic concepts of dynamic architecture, sometimes parametrically tied to social and sustainable inputs. We have barely begun to grasp the true capabilities of parametric design, to redefine the architectural envelope as a function of interrelationships between sustainable eco-practice and technology, site, program and stylistic creation. If we must coin the word "parametricism" from parametric design, it can only mean the process of parametric design. To imply that parametric modeling is merely a new form of form, currently described by tessellation divisions, or as Mr. Shumacher puts it, the "new primitives of parametricism are animate (dynamic, adaptive, interactive) geometrical entities - splines, nurbs, and subdivs"* , merely glorifies an organic style that has existed for at least two decades and does not require the use of parametrics.
This leads to your point "... even architects tackling sustainability have not fully grasped the challenges it raises. Their approach is objective, technological and ecological, ignoring the cultural and psychological dimensions, thus exemplifying modernity’s limiting paradigm." We live in a world of tack-on technology, rarely fully exploiting the opportunity for true interdisciplinary design from inception. Hence, tremendous inefficiency and waste occur, much of it involving purported Sustainable Design that does not perform as advertised. Parametric design is essential to meaningful sustainability, forming a building envelope in harmony with the environmental resource vectors emerging from a site. The design of a building envelope must be generated so that its integration provides a substantive benefit rather than a gratuitous gesture. True unification of architecture, environmental resource vectors, envelope and program might define the way toward a new architectural idiom, call it what you will - but not Parametricism.
By "environmental resource vectors" we encompass the full spectrum of resources that surround a building. These include obtainable energy transmitted by radiation, conduction and convection; light; air to breathe; water to consume or utilize - whether in the form of solar rays, wind, fluid, gas or thermal mass; solar for direct electrical conversion or solar thermal, air flow for circulation and ventilation, thermal mass for heat and cooling, and even ambient light. The envelope, its complete volumetric enclosure, whose shape and orientation must be influenced by the vectors of these resources, maximizing the value of the sustainable design features to integrate sustainable technology as one with the design, to maximize the harvest of surrounding energy resources. For this we need parametrics; stylistic Parametricism is gratuitous form usually faking function.
The path to more sustainable design is through "relevant" sustainable design. The path to relevant sustainable design begins with architectural form emerging from a site's environmental vectors, sense of place, and use. Parametric design as a process tool offers phenomenal promise. It affords the opportunity to incorporate sustainable technology and eco-practice as one with the building envelope - harvesting, conserving and generating energy in a substantive way. This benefits the client, the public and the planet. Let us use parametric design to create form with relevant substance; perhaps we can call the result "parametricism".
Note *. The Parametricist Epoch: Let the Style Wars Begin, Patrik Schumacher, London 2010, Published in: AJ - The Architects’ Journal, No 16, Volume 231, 06. May 2010.
ShortList_0 Design Group LLC