How this new design method actually works.



biology, we learned that a majority of terrestrial animals (Phylum: Vertebrata) have a similar skeletal structure, comprising a spinal cord, pairs of forelimbs and hind limbsBut they vary in their physical appearance, strengths, capacities, etc. based on their evolutionary factors. Availability of food, topography, climate, predators, etc. are few parameters that act as the conditions for adaptation — and thus, evolution of the species. This is (loosely) why we see a huge variety of birds, animals, plants, etc.

Parametricism works in a similar way. There is a core skeletal system — that is repetitive and takes care of the basic requirements, and parameters — that help control the system. The process is designed rather than the output itself. This makes sure the final output satisfies all necessary conditions as a pre-requisite, giving us more time to modify size, material, etc. and experiment.

Evolution visualized by Kaushik LS

“Parametric design is a paradigm in design where the relationship between elements is used to manipulate and inform the design of complex geometries and structures.”

Too technical? Here, let me give you an example. Say, we had to design a wine glass.

We create geometric surfaces, to model our product: Wine Glass. Okay, everything’s good.

Simple Wine Glass by Kaushik

Alas! I forgot to check with the manufacturers’ the size of his extruding machine. We have to slightly modify the dimensions for the mould. What do I do? One can either manually edit the model/surface, change the dimensions. In some cases (or when I’m frustrated) it’s easier to scrap everything and start anew. What if the client wanted a change? What if the glass thickness had to be changed? Is editing manually or redoing the work an efficient way?

“…you could make changes, visualize, make changes again(if needed) all in a fraction of seconds…”

What if you could edit the model without having to redraw? What if you could make changes, visualize, make changes again(if needed) — all in a couple of seconds? Remember I mentioned setting up a workflow flexible for modifications, in my last post? Here’s how we can tackle the exact same quest when opt for a parametric approach.

wineglassmaker by Kaushik

Taking it a step further, one can design whatever product satisfies the core algorithm. (Vase, Jug, Pot, Bottle, etc.) below!

Parametric Designing focusses more on the relationship between various geometries — the method of designing — rather than the end product. This means you’ll be working predominantly on how something is designed rather on ‘what’ is being designed. This is simply called Algorithmic Design in engineering terms — to design the process, and provide flexibility towards various parameters(conditions).

How can I use this to design buildings?

“…once done, you will always have a few base iterations of designs ready…”

In a house, every room has its basic requirements:

  • Fixed Furnitures (Size, Position, Orientation)
  • Loose Furnitures (Size, Placement, Orientation)
  • Overall Circulation (Area, Width, Spacing)

How these are placed entirely depends on the shape, size and orientation of the room. Setting up the relationships between Bed, Side tables, Windows, North Point, etc. and the sizes of these are parameters would simplify the entire process. Yes, it would take a lot of time initially. But once done, you will always have a few base iterations of designs ready, always satisfying the parameters. Letting a machine handle the repetitive tasks is more efficient.

The applications of parametricism is endless in the construction industry. It is only limited by current manufacturing technology in that region. With that said, we are still entirely free to explore in the digital realm, by simulating real world data. One could find various factors that would affect a building’s orientation on its site(Sunlight, Wind speeds, Urban Context, Topography, etc.) and come up with optimal orientation for your building — all even before you start your initial design phase. This is exactly what my friend Sayjel and his team have been doing at Digital Blue Foam.

Digital Blue Foam

Food for thought…

Imagine being able to walk your client through your design in Virtual Reality, make and view changes in real-time. Imagine being able to create drawings automatically based on the design. So, do architects need to learn to code, create geometric-spatial relationships? Yes, but we already all those in our thoughts. We only need to learn to present the process using a different tool; ’cause that’s what the industry is growing towards.

Further Reading & Useful Resources:

ArchitectureParametric DesignIndiaCodingTechnology
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