Parametric design is a logic and rational approach of designing which provides effective solutions, where its geometry being defined by mathematical definitions and algorithms. It has the capacity to create sophisticated architectural compositions of various combinations.

Parametric design is not unfamiliar for architects. The computer did not invent parametric design, nor did it redefine architecture or the profession; but it did provide a valuable tool that has since enabled architects to design and construct innovative buildings with more exacting qualitative and quantitative conditions. Patrik Schumacher used the term ‘Parametricism’ to refer to a number of new trends of design in architecture based on Parametric.

It is suggested that the architectural profession is experiencing a paradigmatic shift from a predominant use of explicit CAD technologies and representational methods towards building architectural models as digital simulations, which more importantly are used as increasingly productive tools for design exploration. Inside academia parametric tools are quite popular among students of architecture.

Some students like to apply parametric methods to their design projects using software packages such as Rhinoceros and Grasshopper. However, they may not always be aware of the challenges of these methods because student projects are not real design situations as experienced by practicing architects.

“An architect must be a craftsman. Of course, any tools will do; these days, the tools might include a computer, an experimental model, and mathematics. However, it is still craftsmanship – the work of someone who does not separate the work of the mind from the work of the hand. It involves a circular process that takes you from the idea to a drawing, from a drawing to a construction, and from a construction back to an idea.”
– Renzo Piano

By this blog on “parametric design” we are enquiring about the role of the designer, the role of sketching, and the role of computer programs in the parametric design process.

Role of Designer

Architects must promote their position from being a mere consumer to an innovative producer. They should think of going beyond the limitations of conventional design, underscoring that architecture programming is gradually moving towards programming architecture. These are notably young graduates of architecture schools, who state that software can never meet designers’ needs.

Importance of sketching and physical modelling

A study on the process of sketching shows that even though sketches and externalisations, in general, are claimed to be central to the design task, they are not essential activities for expert architects in the early phases of conceptual designing. Therefore, we can argue that, if sketching is still seen in parametric design, is it possible to map other roles to it? The answer is important since if sketching provides multifarious characteristics it cannot be simply marginalised by the software. Sketching is sometimes assumed as a social actor that brings all of the design team together for a discussion on alternatives or possible decisions. In this case, all of the principals, associates and architects in a company sit around to ‘design things together’, designing through discussion.

To conclude, there are many voices underscoring the role of software in parametric design; some like Schumacher even talk about sketching in Maya or Rhino to explore ‘radical design ambitions’. The specificity of parametric is nearly equal to the use of computation in architectural design.

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