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Parametric Design 1 Parametric Design: Towards A Future Architecture submitted by Karol Mac Gairbheith for the BSc (Honours) Architectural Technology London South Bank University Faculty of Engineering, Science and the Built Environment Department of Property, Surveying & Construction 2009 COPYRIGHT “Attention is drawn to the fact that copyright of this dissertation rests with South Bank University. This copy of the dissertation has been supplied on condition that anyone who consults it is understood to recognise that its copyright rests with the University and no information derived from it may be published without the prior, written consent of the University.” “I declare that the dissertation is my own unaided work except where specifically referenced to the works of others.” _____________________________________

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Parametric Design 1

Parametric Design: Towards A Future Architecture

submitted by Karol Mac Gairbheith

for the BSc (Honours) Architectural Technology

London South Bank University

Faculty of Engineering, Science and the Built Environment

Department of Property, Surveying & Construction

2009

COPYRIGHT

“Attention is drawn to the fact that copyright of this dissertation rests with South Bank University. This copy of the dissertation has been supplied on condition that anyone who consults it is understood to recognise that its copyright rests with the University and no

information derived from it may be published without the prior, written consent of the University.”

“I declare that the dissertation is my own unaided work except where specifically referenced to the works of others.”

_____________________________________

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Stephen Crawford and Michael McCune for making the Architectural Association experience an unforgettable

one. I found working with both of them as a team to be inspirational.

I also want to thank Maria Flodin from Bentley for obtaining the permission that I needed to be able to show ‘screen shots’ of the

Generative Components platform within this research.

I would like to thank BAM Design – a subsidiary of the Royal BAM Group – for giving me a great deal of support during my time at

university, as well as the occasional light-hearted diversion to the pub.

I want to thank Jeff Carter, not only for providing a fascinating insight into the days of ‘Rapidographs’ and ‘Double Elephant’ drawing

boards, but also for giving the consent to include that interview in this research.

I am deeply thankful to Carlos Gonzalez for giving me an incredible learning experience at South Bank University. His tuition taught

me the importance of challenging taxing aspects of design and technology. Also I’d like to thank Carlos for introducing me to my

mentor for this research.

And so my most sincere gratitude goes to Lilly Kudic for all the encouragement and continued support throughout this project. I am

highly privileged to have had the opportunity to learn and develop under Lilly’s intellectual direction. Thank you so much for teaching

me the importance of expressing language, poetry and art in architecture, with substance.

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Abstract

An Exploration of the Architectural Opportunities Afforded by the New Concepts And Strategies of Parametric Design,

acknowledging the importance of retaining architecture as a craft.

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Table of ContentsList of Figures...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................5Introduction .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................6

The New Paradigm shift ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 6Design Research and Methodologies............................................................................................................................................................................................................................8

Literature Search ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 8Personal Interview.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 8Computational Experimentation ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 8Events ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 9Analysis ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 9

Literature Review...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................10Dystopian Vision of Future Architecture...................................................................................................................................................................................................................10A Period of Late Style?.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................10The Death of Drawing ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................11The New Wave of Parametric Design...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................12Emergent Design Paradigm ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................13

Findings.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................15The Digitisation of Physical Models ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................15Agency Scripting: The Search for an Optimal Pattern.........................................................................................................................................................................................16An Evolutionary Design Process ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................18Computational Design Platform for Architecture .................................................................................................................................................................................................19An Exercise in Parametric Translation........................................................................................................................................................................................................................21A Culture of Crossbreeding the Tools of Platforms ..............................................................................................................................................................................................21Visualisation, Animation and Advanced Simulations in Digital Analysis ...................................................................................................................................................22Digital Fabrication and Rethinking Conventions ................................................................................................................................................................................................22Craftsmanship........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................23A Change in Practice and New Meaning in Collaboration ................................................................................................................................................................................23Jeff Carter In Conversation .............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................23

Analysis .........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................27

Conclusion .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................29Bibliography...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................31

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List of Figures

Fig. 1 3D Print of DLA Chandelier (early iteration) ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..15 by project team1

Fig. 2 DLA Chandelier Project …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….17 by project team1

Fig. 3 Interchange Project (Generative Components) …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..20 by author2

Fig. 4 Oratory Chapel, St Peter The Apostle High School, Clydebank, Scotland …………………………………………………………………………...28 by BAM Design3

Notes 1 Diffusion Limited Aggregation Chandelier: by Michael McCune, Steven Crawford & Karol Mac Gairbheith; Unit 3, AA Summer dLab, London, 2008

2 Karol Mac Gairbheith, Interchange Project, Smart Geometry Workshop, San Francisco, 2009

2 Oratory Photos/Renders/Drawings: courtesy of BAM Design, St Albans, 2009

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Introduction

The New Paradigm shift The architectural profession has to date had a well chronicled life. This is particularly evident from the middle of the nineteenth

century when the Victorians set about a wholesale documentation of the histories and theories of architecture in an effort to reassure

themselves of their own place and significance in the previous four millennia. And correspondingly the same is true of its primal

medium for communicating ideas, concepts and minutiae. Architectural draughtsmanship. It has been acting as the architect’s delegate

on site ever since the days when the profession became distinguished from that of a stonemason. Yet drawing as a fundamental

architectural process has become industrialised. Not only by the introduction of computer-aided design (CAD) but also by the

subletting of drawing work to the paraprofessionals who propose to build aspects of the works. In practice the emphasis has moved

from architectural drawing as a craft in itself, to a reduction of detailing, following through to architectural modelling.

The past decade has witnessed the emergence of a new generation of architects, the offspring of the advanced digital and information

age we now find ourselves in. The resultant paradigm shift in architecture is assigned to an aggressive exploration of new processes and

media through experimentation with digital computational tools, architectural prototyping, and most significantly, live building

projects. With so much built and many currently under execution this shift continues to develop at a swift momentum. Individual

schools such as the Architectural Association, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Pratt Institute, along with large

architectural and engineering firms such as Foster + Partners, Grimshaw Architects, Zaha Hadid Architects, Gehry Partners LLP, Arup

and Buro Happold to name a few, have all, helped pave the way for this new shift. The academic setting has long been an active partner

in this process. Particularly motivated by the influence of their leaders desires to realise great visions and push the boundaries of both

architectural and engineering technologies beyond their limits, some modern teams have not only defined new conceptual tools and

methodologies, but also brought about a reformation of architectural design practice. A lucrative revolution in studio-based networks

bear a sense of shared authorship of the design projects they embrace. Although the potentialities of the well-matured virtual realms of

design greatly exceed the construction industry’s ability to realise them, current advances in digital fabrication are dramatically turning

this conception on its head. Ocean, a design research network, are one of many research collectives exploring the form/fabrication

rubric and the resolution of this emergent design paradigm. And these research networks are driven by shared interests, and an eagerness

to harness the possibilities, that is to be able to detain and resolve every single detail within any design process. The ultimate effect is a

fuelling of architectural ambition. What began with the obsession of exploring the possibilities of complex surface modelling that

CAD afforded has now become an interrogation of the complex volumetric components to be proliferated onto such forms.

This transformation comes at a time much in need of rapid change due to the ever-diminishing role the architect has to play within the

formulation of the built environment. It is a time where the distinction between architecture and quite truthfully, just plain building,

has become unclear. Such concerns calls for a serious discussion, one that will attempt to narrate a documentary insight into some of

the critical developments that has and shall help shape and preserve the future of architecture. It is a sparse subject area, which at a

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prolonged glance appears to span a seemingly infinite horizon. Theoretical frameworks that overlap and dissipate amongst disciplines

are both adjacent to and quite far removed from the field of architecture, some are syncretic in their very natures.

This research strives to explore new concepts and strategies for parametric design as non-linear dynamic systems, and to delineate the

pertaining architectural prospects, whilst acknowledging the importance of retaining the field of architecture and its artefact as a craft.

It sets out to narrate a documentary history and evaluate some of the key theoretical frameworks surrounding it.

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Design Research and Methodologies

Schumacher (2008), while delivering a presentation at the 2008 Venice Architectural Biennale, declared that ‘parametricism’ is “the

great new style after modernism”. It is of course crucial to understand that parametric design is by no means a style. For the proposes of

this research, parametric design will be discussed in light of what it is, distinct to the dictum of “style” proposed by some practitioners.

Zaera-Polo and Moussavi (2003, p.7) of Foreign Office Architects comment that a “style” is unable “to provide internal consistency to

the work under any circumstances: very often the traits of a style become irreconcilable with the material inconsistencies of the

environment.” Thus opposed to being branded a movement, parametrics is an intricate computational process that allows the

generation of relational models, which simultaneously controls the overall physical configuration and opens up the possibility of

performance-based assessments and scenario testing. The focus is now on the reorganisation of process as opposed to the confined

formality of the end product.

Literature Search Purist and experimental research methodologies are to be implemented to undertake this thesis (body of research). Since the research

topic is of an advanced nature, all focus will be directed towards finding recent publications. Journals and articles fresh off the shelves

will be checked for relevant information and the Internet will be considered as a breeding ground for new information and software

tutorials. The goal is to find crucial texts, journals and articles that document the rapid change in the state of the art and capture in

essence the diametrically opposed perspectives and indeed perceptions held both by participants and mere observers.

Personal Interview The qualitative research on this topic is by means of a ‘semi-structured interview.’ The purpose of the interview is to get an insight into

an era when the drawing board was still widely used in architectural practice. And the chosen respondent is Jeff Carter, an associate at

BAM Design. By exploring the views and opinions of a professional architect, this in turn validates the gathered information. The

advantages of a semi-structured interview are that the focus stays on the questions set (interview topics), although the order is

determined by the flow of the discussion. Compared to structured interviews, semi-structured interviews have the added advantage of

flexibility and the potential addition of extra information by the interviewee. It creates a natural discussion that enables the interviewee

to talk around the subject area, and potentially leads to a formative inclusion of broader implications beyond the scope set out by the

interview topics. It should be understood that Jeff Carter’s consent to use the transcript of the interview featuring his overview of

building production information has been obtained.

Computational Experimentation It is felt that in order to appreciate the true nature of parametric design, one must participate within the heart of the action, and reflect

and test by experimentation those concepts, strategies and tools within the arena of computational modelling. To test and experiment

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with various platforms. A project procured during an intensive twelve-day programme in advanced digital design - at the Architectural

Association School of Architecture (04 – 15 August 2008) – will be examined to illustrate the anatomy of agency scripting. It is felt

that it is vital to do so, as scripting is a very important aspect of computational design and it is a difficult concept to grasp. This will be

followed by a four-day project carried out at a Smart Geometry workshop in San Francisco (27 - 30 March 2009). Crucially, it will shed

light on setting up a parametric component and the use of an associative computational platform.

Events Attendance at the Smart Geometry Alumni Summit and Conference in San Francisco (31 March – 01 April 2009) will add great depth

to the research as it presents the most up-to-date report on the progression of parametrics. However attendance at various lectures and

exhibitions in London will also have something to add.

Analysis A combination of issues discussed during the literature review and the research results found will be used to relay a formidable

discussion on the key debate of whether or not parametric design has a role to play in the future of architecture.

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Literature Review

Dystopian Vision of Future Architecture A reminiscence of the critical events of 2008 unveils an unforgiving compulsion for the architectural profession to muddle through this

shift in circumstances. The sheer threat of irrevocable climate change, aggravated by prolonged misuse of the planets resources, became

a common global understanding. Concurrently the British government has made carbon emissions reduction a flagship policy, but the

country still trails behind Europe in implementation. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) demonstrated an ardent interest

in positively dealing with issues of sustainable design, but even so, found themselves under scrutiny by their members as to the relevance

of their duties to the profession. On another note, the global economic downturn has resulted in noticeable changes to both the US and

British construction markets. A latent meltdown has hit hard on work linked to commercial and residential sectors. Large architectural

and construction firms have collapsed whilst others have been taken over with resultant job loss and cuts, as students of the affected

disciplines struggle to attain internships. Most significantly, critics’ reviews of the Venice Biennale entitled “Out There: Architecture

Beyond Building” rendered a bleak portrait of the field’s future, amidst reports of a desire to return to traditionalism. Does this dreary

perception suggest that the stale smell of selling out is beginning to emanate from the present state of architecture?

The Biennale’s objective was to encourage an investigation of how the profession could tame technological systems to make people feel

“more at home in the modern world.” Instead it showcased an instantaneously recognisable ‘space-age rhetoric’ with dominating

themes such as rigid game logic, dark domesticity, and ideas of infinity (Hunter, 2008). Hunter’s (2008) own interpretation of the

exhibition depicts incapacity to “shape the merging of virtual and real worlds in a positive way,” and failing “to place architecture firmly,

materially, and imperatively on this territory.” In an article addressing the very purpose of the Venice Biennale, Baillieu (2008) cunningly

drew a divergent parallel between the scientific “big bang experiment” and the state that architecture was in at the time, arguing that it

was “short of a big idea” that could “change how we think about the world.” In light of this evidence it is apparent that today’s “ideas are

too frequently so tentative, so ungrounded in reality, as to offer little insight” as to what the future should hold (Hunter, 2008).

A Period of Late Style? Architecture … used to deal in ideas, and it was able to speculate on its future direction. It took risks and it wasn’t afraid of

failure. People were open-mouthed at some of its experiments and its audacity to attempt the impossible, and were moved by

its beauty (Baillieu 2008).

Modern architecture is now a century old tradition. The great transformation in the nineteenth century, during the rise of the industrial

megalopolis, brought intense social and technological changes, hugely influencing the birth of the Modern Movement. Everything was

about building a new and better world. Subsequently, the Second World War left many countries physically exhausted, financially

cleaned out and suffering from a substantial housing crisis. In spite of this, western civilization was overcome by a remarkable sense of

optimism, opening the doors to acceptance of modernist architects in a bid for ambitious solutions to chronic problems.

Retrospectively Alison and Peter Smithson understood there were problems associated with the modernist movement during the post-

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war years. The disjunction caused by the war meant that modernism needed to be reorganised and that enough had been proposed and

built to be able to establish a comprehensive critique. Robert Venturi later argued for a more inclusive, contextual approach to design,

and his theoretical and built work that followed heralded the post-modern era in the late twentieth century. The movement

deliberately mixed artistic styles and media, suspicious of illustrious theories, and in an awkward relationship with art this to a large

extent still resides today. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, architecture was without doubt hand-made, with each unique piece an

attestation to its creator. According to Jodidio (2004 p.8.9) “the cost-driven logic of machines made it necessary to abandon the unique

in favour of the identical, of the standardised unit of production,” originally one of the main traits associated with modernism.

“We are in a period of late style,” claims architect and theorist Peter Eisenman in the deliverance of his highly contentious “Six Point

Plan” at the RIAS Convention 20081. Lateness construed by Eisenman was “a moment in time when there are no new paradigms or

ideological, cultural, political conditions that cause significant change.” No novel substrate could articulate the kind of change

experienced in the late nineteen hundreds. The remaining points extended far beyond this to proclaim the weakness of architecture as a

medium, with today’s buildings lacking in meaning or reference, a warning of students “passivity” and concerns about the qualitative

issues that computers have on design. Yet, diametrically opposed to such views, Lars Hesselgren, co-director of the Smart Geometry

Group, feels that they “merit serious debate” (Freisen et al, 2008).

The Death of Drawing The architecture of the Gothic period is regarded collectively as being the most momentous manifestations of human culture. The

work of initially small groups of masons and master builders established the medieval paradigm shifts of geometry, full scale drawing,

and the technology of large scale framed construction. These innovations propelled the adoption of Gothic architecture as the

medieval architecture serving faith, and marking place in the evolving urban centres in Europe. The Gothic master builders stimulated

“by the scientific and technical behaviour of materials,” utilised their numerous expertises and enveloped a coherent means of operation

that ultimately defied the limitations imposed by the reality of that time (Wiscombe, 2006). The most notorious of examples attesting

this truth is the advance of a skeletal structure supported by flying buttresses, a feat that marked a pinnacle in the history of technology.

The physical craft was now more complex and grander. Except, building empirically happened to be the only method of testing

innovative new ideas. Construction works that resulted in disappointment (and sometimes collapse) necessitated reconstruction of the

areas concerned. Fortunately there was a procedure in place that made this practice, to an extent, bearable. Each step in the building

process was systematically recorded. Those records facilitated a reaction and the proceeding systematic analysis created a feedback

loop that informed improvised adaptation, sometimes adulterating the desired effect. And further documentation of the lessons

learned provided a stimulus of proactive measures that would permit prolific future successes. In spite of this, the occurrence of a

critical moment would add a new dimension to that scenario, defining the initiation of architectural design practice. In devising a

planning process that strived to resolve every detail in advance, the Gothic master builder became the Gothic architect, making

architectural drawings an indispensable catalyst for construction. And this planning process presides now over all forms of building

projects that have been realised to this present day. The development of modern architecture would have been impossible without the

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colossal influence of those medieval drawings. Yet whilst the very constructs of modernity were excitedly being embodied during the

second half of the nineteenth century, a sleeping leviathan quietly awakened, one that would become known as the autocratic impetus

that brought about the industrialisation of architectural drawing and building production.

The generation of Computer Aided Design (CAD) “software for personal desktop computers” induced an “almost universal

application in all areas of construction” (Raj, no date). According to Raj (no date) the origins of its initial development can be traced

back to the nineteen sixties, a time when the designers of the “aircraft and automotive industries” began to base their calculations on the

use of primitive computers. Nonetheless, major developments in computing within the fields of science and engineering enabled

numerous forward-looking large architectural firms to embrace CAD in its nascent form to help eliminate repetitive tasks and attempt

to increase productivity. From this transformation in practice, a market began to emerge, despite the steep learning curve with its

imposed time and cost implications. Its potential had begun to be realised. Resultantly, the software evolved to become more

sophisticated, useable - and workforces gradually downsized. Phil Bernstein (2009), vice president and industry strategy relations for

Autodesk AEC, categorises CAD into three successive generations. The first being conventional CAD drawing essentially no different

from hand-drafted drawings, the second, a smart object orientated drawing - where the user is not required to draw every element - and

the third, the recent advent of Building Information Modelling (BIM). A BIM model is in essence “a digital prototype of the building to

be built,” a well equipped three-dimensional digital tool (Bernstein, 2009). Computation technology’s recent advance in both software

and hardware has finally enabled the utilisation of theoretical constructs that have in theory been around for approximately thirty years.

The New Wave of Parametric Design In parametric design a set of independent parameters are chosen and systematically varied according to defined criteria in order

to arrive at not just one object but a series of variations. Usually, the parameters are given a geometrical interpretation

(Jormakka, 2008).

For most, the more familiar term for parameters is variables; features that are changeable, particularly in a numerical fashion.

Parametric design in architecture can be traced back in part to Antoni Gaudi’s creation of the renowned hanging model. It was a

parametric device reflecting Gaudi’s mathematical training and instinctive sense of structural order. So in some sense, parametric

modelling has been around for a long time, although it “is only now beginning to be harnessed through algorithmic techniques” (Friesen

et al 2008). Designers are capable of assembling a logical rule-based geometry, once the rules that describe the connections between

elements have been specified. The key is to introduce parametric logic into both the design process and the computational model. And

this requires the designer to initiate by setting up rules and relationships that define the overall schema of the project with the

additional benefit of having more control over some of the irregularities that occur as the project evolves. Critically, parametric

modelling can rapidly respond to change. Most current 3D modelling packages have either built-in or plug-in scripting engines that

enable this advanced form of computational design. But to do this with parametric software, one must first learn to abandon the

reliance on the simple act of drawing that traditional CAD platforms offer, their own inherent algorithms, programmed by the

numerous software developers, form those lines drawn with ease in CAD. The current shift is for architects to programme their own

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custom made computational tools to allow the freedom to design, and an ability to handle any contradictions that may arise. And this is

a far cry from the all too common jurisdiction of permitting compromise. According to Friesen et al (2008) “algorithmic design,

emergence behaviour and generative form” has changed the way we construct and see contemporary architecture. It is an intricate

computational process that allows the generation of relational models, simultaneously controls the overall physical configuration and

opens up the possibility of performance-based assessments and scenario testing. These parametric simulations are possible due to the

great degree of knowledge – and power - embedded within the models. However, this paradigm shift is more than just a new mindset

for design and practice, it is also a by-product of new digital tools that have appeared on the horizon.

Decision making within an architectural process is defined and predicated by innumerable factors and constraints. The role of

the architect is to process the complexities of a problem and provide a way forward (not a solution) that will accommodate,

embrace or negate the constraints presented (Hook 2004, p.90).

Emergent Design Paradigm One of the most important sources of literature for undertaking this research is that of “Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains,

Cities and Software” by Stephen Johnson. The book documents the naturally occurring phenomena of emergence which can be loosely

framed as change that occurs from the bottom up. To concisely define this broad issue is a difficult task. According to Johnson (2002,

p.64), any “paradigm shift” theory is insufficient. As a subset of the “histories of intellectual development – the origin and spread of new

ideas”, the “paradigm-shift model” in principle has a difficult time explaining how it has come into being (Johnson 2002, p.64).

Emergence, “a field of research that had been characterised by a handful of early-stage investigations blossomed overnight into a densely

populated and diverse landscape, transforming dozens of existing disciplines and inventing a handful of new ones” (Johnson 2002, p.65).

Based on the sciences of complexity and self-organisation, “the movement from low-level rules to higher-level sophistication is what we

call emergence, and … [investigates] a higher-level pattern arising out of parallel complex interactions between local agents” (Johnson

2002, p.19). It is a bottom-up system inherent in all natural forms, without the “pacemakers” we have built into our social organisations

which are structured in a top-down hierarchical fashion. To be truly considered emergent, a given system must be adaptive to its

environment and intrinsically behave with “a mix of order and anarchy” (Johnson 2002, p.38). The text is ideal for enquiring about

organized complexity which is paramount to resolving the problematic statement that has set the tone for this research.

Tom Wiscombe, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founder of “emergentarchitecture.com,” has

written two articles relevant as base knowledge for this research. Both “Emergent Processes” and “Emergent Models of Architectural

Practice” provide a comprehensive discussion of the more general aspects of this new design paradigm of emergence. Bottom-up

evolutionary processes place innovation – the creation of the new – within the spectrum of complexity theory. Wiscombe, within those

articles, attempts to discuss to a certain degree, its relation to contemporary architectural debate. In contrast to Eisenman’s position of

essences and the theoretical, Wiscombe argues instead for a relevance of this process to architectural debate, unconcerned by the role of

computing as a mediator. Ultimately a definition is given to the concept of emergence within contemporary architectural design as the

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“generation of collectives and coherent systems” (Wiscombe, 2005). Hence understanding that concept of the integrated whole, is a

fundamental requirement for succeeding in parametric design. According to Wiscombe:

We are all familiar with the way a building is generally produced: the architect defines a space plan and sometimes a

representative form; structural and mechanical engineers are invited in after the fact to add order and performance but often

have to resort to illogical or weak solutions to maintain the design intent. Construction documents are then produced which

are only analogous to what will actually be built; contractors are brought in to say how the conflicted contraption might

actually be fabricated and erected. There is often no feedback or feedforward, no learning, and certainly no coordination going

on at most of those coordination meetings. The question of evolution and complexity never enters the picture (Wiscombe

2005).

This articulate account sites the conventional mode of architectural design firmly within today’s climate of disjunction. It forces the

question; what is the difference between conventional practice and an emergent practice of architecture? The answer lies within how

both design processes are organized. Conventionally, a hierarchical system operates by prioritizing form generation over the subsequent

design criteria, resultantly producing “top-down engineered solutions” with its tectonic elements (Menges 2009). It is totalitarian in its

linear disposition and inevitably incoherent. The emergent design paradigm on the other hand, is Therefore the emergent design

paradigm is the direct opposite of what we know as conventional practice, but with one major difference. It is a largely dynamic …

Complexity shouldn’t be sought for its own sake. The temptation to let the imagination run wild with the use of advanced tools… The

goal shouldn’t be the edge of chaos, instead it’s about finding the equilibrium. Instead work through multiple iterations and feed into

the design process (Menges 2009).

Invent the logics during the design stage to avoid the conventional practice of “retrofitting post design” (DeBiswas)1. Thus asserting the

entire process of gathering information during the design process as crucial.

Notes 1 Eisenman, P. (2008) Eisenman’s Six Point Plan, Building Design, May 2

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Findings

The Digitisation of Physical Models The tradition of architectural model making as a means of developing ideas has now been overtaken by a new technology. This process

has evolved from the palms of the human hands into digitally controlled machinery; the product is the automation of physical

modelmaking directly from the 3D design files generated from computer-aided design (CAD) software. This advance has been coined

as rapid-prototyping technology (RPT) and owes its innovative supremacy to laser technology sold by Russia to Germany. The

knowledge acquired from this exchange was incorporated in enhanced printing technology, eventually enabling the aeronautical,

automotive “and medical industries to create models of everything from hearing aids to the giant wings of the Airbus A380”

(Strongman, 2008, p.40). Although many large architectural practices have invested in this technology, the machines remain an

expensive purchase. The design teams can now submit an ‘stl’ or ‘vmrl’ file before 4.00pm and find the finished physical model on their

desk the following morning. Providentially a boom in “out-of-house service bureaus” has made the technology available to firms of all

sizes at affordable prices (Strongman, 2008, p.40). From as little as £50 per model, those bureaus offer a two to three day turn around.

The advantages of using RPT are abundant.

Various iterations of massing models at concept design stage can be rapidly prototyped by 3D printing, enabling one to put the best

product forward to close a deal. The ready availability of physical models can facilitate a faster approval from clients, and the reduction

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of model build time and cost can allow designers to focus on their intentions. There are several types of RPT machines and the means

by which they create models are the same, albeit the kind of materials and fixing agents deployed. It is a process of layering consecutive

cross-sections on top of one another from the bottom up. The 3D Printer in its simplest form was devised by the Massachusetts

Institute of Technology (MIT) and manufactured by the Z Corporation and has the ability to 3D print across numerous iterations and

achieve increased accuracy within the consequential models and really shows its true significance when applied to complex designs. The

Z Corp’s 3D printer can now print in colour – useful for the representation of simulated environmental data - and hybrid modelling

achieved by combining 3D print with laser cut parts. Nonetheless, Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

machines are far more advanced than the 3D printer. They have superior strength and can produce models of literally any size by joining

individual elements together. Strongman (2008, p.40) believes that rapid prototyping “could soon allow architects to create 1:1 models

of building components.”

Agency Scripting: The Search for an Optimal Pattern “Systemisation of vision” is the means by which one may build a vision according to Martha Tsigkari of the Specialist Modelling Group

at Foster and Partners. Martha believes that in the light of the emerging generation of architects one must be a scripter, a development

manager, and most importantly “a creator of an integral system”1. Steinfeld believes that “metrics” presents a sociological challenge to

the design team, proclaiming the need to move beyond the metaphor of “architect as tool-maker.” Instead by entering into a dialogue

that exceeds “the internal logics of tools” one may unearth a “holistic practice” of those tools. According to Steinfeld agency scripting

may be referred to as “a search for a formal design process” 2. And what mostly attracts designers to it is how the act of manipulating a

script can transform geometry and yield complex effects. There are opportunities to systematically layer complexity in an infinite way.

However it is crucial to realise when to stop. Getting close to equilibrium is valid goal, but if there is too much to build, it will never lead

to realisation. The trick is to learn the system from the bottom up, once it is understood it can be formalised. Woodbury declared that

patterns may be thought of as “tools for thought and action,” simply because they can be used to “link the basics of a system to a large

design”, and the origins of patterns can be traced back to major theorists such as Ruskin, Vitruvius, Christopher Alexander and Palladio.

“Finding code, copying it and modifying it” is the quickest way to learn how to script3. Yet this is a simple task in comparison to actually

managing the datasets created to inform the design process. One must establish workflows to deter from losing information about the

processes involved in generating the project, in every step along the way. This is made possible by writing ‘pseudo-code’ into the scripts

to describe each consecutive function. Yet the ‘pseudo-code’ has another purpose. Having each step described in advance, allows

different programmers to work on it, especially if the script contains bugs. In which case it needs to be ‘de-bugged’. Creating a flow

diagram of the thought process will help inform the parametric workflow. Not only will they serve as a visual guide through an

algorithmic process, but also diagrams can become more intricate to show instances of feedback loops as the process evolves in time. To

write search algorithms one must begin with learning a programming language. There are many of them, and the norm is to be multi-

lingual in that arena.

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An Evolutionary Design Process Last year, the Architectural Association School of Architecture held its third “AA Summer dLab” two-week study programme in

advanced digital design. In participating alongside Stephen Crawford and Michael McCune as a team of three (Group 1), a design

thesis was intensively developed and in effect, successfully tested the potentialities of linking digital computation directly to rapid

prototyping. The chosen studio (Unit 3) was led by Dave Pigram (Supermanoeuvre, Columbia GSAPP and Pratt Institute) and Ezio

Blasetti (Serge Studio, Columbia University and Pratt Institute), demanded the design and fabrication of a full-scale chandelier. Not

just any chandelier, or a design methodology for that affair, but a chandelier devised using a strictly generative and morphogenetic

design process, aided with the study of a group elected growth algorithm as a vehicle for producing the custom logics of formation.

After an initial three days of scripting workshops in Rhino (VbScript) and an introduction to a variety of growth algorithms, Group 1

selected Diffusion Limited Aggregation (DLA) to procure the basic form finding parameters, and posited the use of coral and ivy

growth as generative models. Patterns based on a DLA algorithm generates high populations with a small number of decisions i.e.

imitative of growth modes in both ivy and coral.

A desire to implement context-sensitive dynamics within the writing of the script motivated the design team to locate a room in which

to site the fabricated chandelier upon completion. Consecutively, a measured survey of that room was conducted to enable the creation

of a computer generated three-dimensional model. The model’s reflected ceiling plan was then rendered to produce an image that

captured the effects of natural illumination from the external windows. This image was imported into Rhino where a ‘heightfield’ tool

abstracted the light and dark pixels from the image, relative to the degree of tone, and ultimately presented a ‘b-spline’ surface of the

resultant topology, characterised by elevated light areas and lowered dark areas. The ‘heightfield’ surface played a vital role as an

interactive stimulus to the activities programmed within the first agency-script. However, other agents in the form of user defined

input parameters such as the number of particles, threshold distance scale factor, velocity scale factor etc., played an equally crucial part.

The running script began by placing a seed on the lowest point on the surface with the ceilings then populated by the number of

particles given. The particles instantaneously commenced to wander on the ceiling plane - below the ‘heightfield’ surface - in random

paths, frequently evaluating the extent of illumination respective to its proximity. It is this constant assessment that influences the

velocity and distance threshold of each particle. A particle halts the moment it enters the distance threshold of the seed a line is

immediately plotted between both, and the particle transformed into a new seed. This process continues to run until all of the particles

have expired by becoming seeds. The developed script interprets the light and dark regions of the ceiling plane from the ‘xyz’ values

obtained from the gradation points of the ‘heightfield’ surface above. It is a point’s relative position on the z-coordinate that indicates

the degree of light applied within the corresponding location on the plane. Notably, the light intensity areas have a significant purpose.

They enable the realisation of the original design concept that was to provide artificial light to the dark areas of the room. However

although the reflected ceiling plan was rendered under daytime lighting conditions, it seems to contradict that underlying concept. The

principle behind this was that the traditional method for luminaire design tends to create conditions in which artificial lighting is lost to

a degree as it reaches the perimeter of the room. The justification for the DLA chandelier is that it forges an almost inverted scenario.

Hence emitting light from the edges into the heart of the space, at its best the intention attempted to create a certain kind of

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atmospheric lighting. So when particles roam in high intensity zones they have increased momentum and an increased distance

threshold; the contrary applies in low intensity conditions. The overall scope of the effect is that low light intensity resulted in vast

populations of seeds with short connections in between, whereas the high light intensities ensured sparse inhabitants with distant

association, meeting the desired effect. The static seeds are assigned as the nodal setting out points for each composite LED light

source, whereas the connecting lines represent the members that bind the entire lighting system together. The finalisation of the

aggregated pattern marked the end of the procedures embedded within the first script.

The second script had to perform two major tasks; firstly, to generate the form of the chandelier and, secondly, to prepare its

constituent parts for digital fabrication. The programmed procedure commenced by reproducing two sets of the seed connection lines

at an offset from the ceiling plane (on the z-axis), and lofted surfaces between them to create the members linking each light node.

Their offset dimensions varied depending on the density of seeds surrounding the start and end points of each connection line. In

essence this differentiation created members that were deeper in section and suspended further from the ceiling where high density was

encountered. The light nodes were to be fabricated as 30mm diameter tubes with a height that conformed to the member depth found

at each node point. The next procedure was to unroll each member’s surface less a 15mm offset at either side to allow for node

placement and labelling each for assembly. Individual node heights were also labelled and presented. A RhinoNest plug-in was then

used to automatically create a cutting list for each sheet of material to be sent to the laser-cutting machine. Effectively, this nesting tool

saved file preparation time and prevented significant material waste.

Computational Design Platform for Architecture Most of the parametric modelling software currently used to investigate/harness the possibilities of advanced digital design in

architecture was originally created for the product design, film and animation industries among others. However, Bentley’s Generative

Components (GC), a subsidiary of Microstation, was developed specifically as a relational computational modelling tool for

architectural design. It is widely known for its ease of use and the premise that you don’t have to be an expert scripter to avail of the

powerful opportunities it can lend itself to. The beginning of parametric design is about setting out the parameters, thinking about how

they can be controlled, and how the design iterations are to be generated. Therefore it is crucial to study relationships. GC is a graph-

dependant software and it forces designers to establish hierarchies between their building components. The built-in ‘Symbolic

Diagram’ is a legible map of the entire computational model. It represents everything that has been defined within both the model and

scripting interfaces. Ultimately the symbolic graph can be used as a tool to map the design flow by mimicking the process of

construction as exactly what it is assumed to be in reality. This is possible by attempting to base the logic of the computational model

on actual construction processes or techniques. The ‘Graph Function’ tool provides a scripting interface that be used to write anything

from functions that plot between the lowest and highest points on a surface to simulate drainage analysis, to functions consisting of

conditional statements - contradiction handling machines. One of the highlights about GC is that you can create control systems

within the model that can be linked to certain elements of the building form, and by playing around with the parameters given to the

controls system one can watch the effects it has on the building form, or solar shading for example. A multi-threaded approach to

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control systems can achieve a great deal of variation within the design systems being played out within the computational model,

whether its for environmental modulation or simply reasons of aesthetics.

An Exercise in Parametric Translation Participation in the “Smart Geometry Workshop 2009” in San Francisco provided the opportunity to try out the potential of GC by

developing a personal project. In order to generate proposals for an integrated transport interchange where the movement of buses was

considered to be an overriding factor, the workshop was utilised to translate the behaviour of buses into a parametric device. The

intention was to parametrically define a complex spatial programme based on dynamic non-static bus paths to enable form

generation from a hierarchy that prioritises passenger infrastructural needs. A ‘Bus Component’ was created and arrayed on curvalinear

paths. When applied to tight radii, the component illustrated turning circles that slightly overcompensate, and so a safeguard was

constructed that insured against a compromised functionality. The bus component’s embedded point system enabled the creation of

‘b-spline’ curves that served as the underlying construct from which the interchanges' physical and structural form could be built. This

meant that the creation of the interchange’s geometry from those paths was in a position to react with the movement of the bus path

and update its configuration accordingly. The overall workshop experience proved to be an invaluable lesson on taking an aspect of

design and making it parametric.

A Culture of Crossbreeding the Tools of Platforms All parametric designers operate by using multiple computer software platforms. This is primarily due to the unique tools to be found

within each type. According to Ko “explicit solutions are rare for complex problems”4, and so searching in purist ways often necessitates

the use of a wide array of tools to effectively decompose a problem. GC is compatible with C Sharp (C#), which permits added

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flexibility within the writing and running of scripting functions. Processing software provides an environment where interactive effects

can be programmed, and it is commonly situated within the realms of interactive architecture (IA). However, Microsoft Excel happens

to be one of the most significant partners within the process of computational modelling. GC is set up to link directly to Excel.

Numerical values can be extracted form the model’s geometry and then exported to a spreadsheet database. For example, the design

team can use that spreadsheet as a daily basis changes schedule, and it can contain numerical values for almost anything - floor outlines,

sections, floor areas, apartment types or even nodal coordinates. Its purpose isn’t to keep track of changes, but rather to implement

them. The design team can change numerical values within the spreadsheet as needed and the direct link with GC facilitates an update

of the models geometry to reflect changes in values. That is the beauty of this system; the computational model constantly changes with

every update without the need for any remodelling.

Visualisation, Animation and Advanced Simulations in Digital Analysis Herein lies a major value of models: we can anticipate consequences without becoming involved in time-consuming, possibly

dangerous, overt actions. Even scale models … enable us to make measurements that would be awkward otherwise… models are

indispensable to careful experiment (Holland 2000, pp. 10-11).

Kasik declared that the boundless means to walk through in observation, to “validate an object, what surrounds it,” and examine the

dynamics, is the most constructive benefit of visualisation. More significantly, there is much to be intensely gained by understanding

elements that are in motion, especially “in the context of the entire model”5. Structural analysis software such as Strand7, Ansys and

Robot has helped make it possible to realise complex structures in architecture. Their tools facilitate simulations that show the effects

of dynamic loads, identify areas that that have stressed or rotational issues. It communicates its results in two ways: visualisations and

tabular datasets. They can be used to optimise the structural model and even exported to Excel in order to inform the associative

geometry in GC. Running real-time animation of the structural analysis optimised the roof structure of the British Museum’s Great

Courtyard6. Coenders who has an interest in artificial and collective intelligence predicted that a digital means of modelling the

behaviour of people will be developed to analyse the functionality of designed spaces, determined by the paths they might take7.

Information based on this kind of intelligence could be combined with structural simulations to predict the loading requirements on

challenging structures like bridges. However, Autodesk’s Ecotect software has captured the imagination of all parametric designers, as

building performance design becomes an important area of focus.

Digital Fabrication and Rethinking Conventions The digital revolution has made new forms and methods of digital fabrication possible. It marks a departure from the culture of mass-

production brought about by the industrial revolution, into a new world of mass-customisation. By informing the machine to gain

higher complexity through mass-customisation, computation can yield a richness of material. To develop a craft, when it is not

understood how a material behaves, involves relentlessly testing by experimental trials until the materials’ behaviour is understood.

Hence it is crucial to understand material behaviour. Digital fabrication is now taught in many schools of architecture. Marty Doscher,

Architectural Technologist at Morphosis Architects, feels that this is of great benefit. “Because, if the designer learns to pick up digital

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fabrication and execution as a part of their design process. It won’t be this other thing that all of a sudden they have to figure out how to

balance with what they normally thought of as the [concept design] sketch”8.

Wiscombe (2006) believes that the recent re-integration of architects and builders is resultant of “the establishment of linkages

between methods of designing and methods of production.” This unity will finally enable architects to regain the influence on project

delivery that was lost in the nineteen seventies to the advent of the construction manager.

Craftsmanship Doscher stated that not only must designers behave like human computers so as to manage design projects between numerous

computational platforms, but also must enter the “field to discover the link between” their “design or sketch, and the building being

executed.” Interestingly enough, he advises that delegating some aspects of fabrication to craftspeople can significantly reduce

expenditure. For example, a costly CNC process could be substituted for “design based on the plaster craft.” Many “artists” would

relish the opportunity to craft beyond the realms of regular cornices and finishing drywall8.

A Change in Practice and New Meaning in Collaboration Sanderson believes that technology could deepen the value of collaboration. The simple change of a parameter in a parametric model

during a meeting with a structural engineer has the potential to induce a creative dialogue capable of richly informing the design

process9. Kara (2009) of Adams Kara Taylor (AKT) identified quality of work and innovation as the key drivers for building a practice.

AKT have used those drivers as differentiators throughout their collaborative projects. AKT’s mission statement is to “create

preconditions that give rise to strategy and innovation” (Kara 2009). Have to be able to monitor all the relationships between

architecture, structural engineering and construction, and try to foresee the problems that may arise.

Jeff Carter In Conversation with author (KMG)

KMG What was the general teaching ethos at the time of your education (beliefs and aspirations)?

JC When I started my studies in 84, so it’s not the middle ages, the teaching was based on the history of architecture and a review of

the architects and buildings of that era. Beliefs and aspirations related to the fashion of the time, what was in vogue.

KMG Post-modernism was well underway at that time?

JC It was, but it also depended on tastes and interests. The students who were cutting edge wanted to get involved with that.

Others preferred the historics and followed a retro style. During critiques there were those who would’ve spent a lot of time on

air-brushed drawings, especially the part-timers, because they were used to churning them out. And there was always that full-

time guy with the ideas, and on one sheet. Everybody else had ten. But this one had a bit of a splodge on it and with that he

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would describe what he was trying to get at. The ethos did vary, and it’s quite interesting how people came up with ten different

solutions to the same brief.

KMG What were some of the commonly used keywords?

JC It’s difficult to remember the actual buzzwords used in the industry at that time. It’s probably easier to talk about the drawing

instruments and processes we were using in design, such as: Repedographs; Air-brushing; Artists’ views/perspectives; Tracing

paper (negatives); Dye-line printing; Letraset (transfer letters and numbers); Letratone (trasfer coloured film); Razor blades

and Erasers.

KMG What were the processes involved in producing architectural drawings?

JC We used ink pens called ‘Rapidographs’ - also known as ‘Rotrings’ – and ‘Air-brushing.’ Firms had ‘perspective artists’ because

they didn’t have computer-generated images available to them. Drawings on ‘tracing paper’ were ‘negatives’ for a ‘Dye-line’

printing machine. The sheet had to be fed through rollers and an internal UV lamp bleached the yellow out of the ‘Dye-line’

sheet, leaving behind a white sheet with the drawn lines in black. The ‘Dyeline’ machine needed a watery Ammonia based print

solution that we had to mix ourselves. The fumes were quite strong and I don’t think that it would meet today’s COSH

requirements. Eventually great big Zerox machines replaced them. There were many grades of tracing paper and the only way

you could correct a drawing on tracing paper was to scratch it out with a razor blade. As a starter, if you weren’t used to it, you

could easily put a hole in it. That was a nightmare, because you’d have to patch it somehow. You can imagine producing an A0

drawing for a real major job, you could spend ages producing a work of art, with fantastic lines that construct and draw cavity

walls and al sorts of things, then you’d sort of make a blob over here, you literally had to cut out a piece of tracing paper and put

in a new bit with clear magic tape. After putting it through a Dye-line machine it would come out as a big patch. A nightmare,

especially if those drawings were to be used for presentation. Stencilling was used for presentation drawings. Title blocks for

example. Each individual letter had to be stencilled onto the sheet. Letrasets were used for big presentations. The construction

lines had to be drawn before the letters were to be transferred by lining them up and rubbing them off. Letratone, a coloured

film, were used to add colour fill to the drawings. The required shape had to be cut out of the letratone with a scalpel and then

lined up on the drawing for a transfer. And it was quite difficult procedure on A0 sheets when used with drawn brickwork. It

was like a work of art, not like computers, where there’s a line at x centres, adjust that piece and the fill automatically appears.

We had to draw a bloody line. Letrasets and letratone seem a bit prehistoric, but it wasn’t that long ago, ‘84, over twenty years.

(Chuckle)

KMG Could you briefly illustrate what was it like at the beginning of your career?

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JC Initially I was practicing with a ‘ruling pen’, drawing on ‘linen cloth’ that had a browning colour to it. The weave to it was quite

close, didn’t look cellular, more like a consistent material. It was held in place by pins or sometimes with clamps onto the

drawing board. I practiced by drawing lines with a ruling pen at various thicknesses. The length of the drawn line depended on

its thickness, as the pen needed to be manually filled up with ink after every line. And that was a tedious process. I started as an

office junior in a traditional architectural practice and had to use a ‘Double Elephant’ drawing board, which was bigger than

‘A0,’ with a similar sized ‘T-square.’ At ‘A0’ they were quite large drawings.

KMG Why were the drawings so big?

JC You couldn’t reduce them. The architects in those days used to detail every nut and bolt on the drawings.

KMG Everything?

JC They didn’t want too many drawings, or because of the scales we were using, they wanted to draw as much on a particular

drawing as possible. When drawing by hand the scale needed to be slightly larger than that now drawn on computers, otherwise

it gets too intricate. Not only was everything being detailed, but also a lot of the details were full size. We used to draw all the

different timber mouldings when detailing windows.

For someone of the author’s generation, the interview with Jeff Carter was exceptionally interesting. In the same way that parametric

protocols exclude those unfamiliar with their technology and terminology but seem routine to those using these, Jeff made strange and

exotic references that sketched the sense of another (past) world of design sensibility and method. That this world was the norm for

architects until very recently – and that the overlap between hand and machine drawing continues – is remarkable. The sheerly physical

nature of analogue drawing was communicated as literally and metaphorically worlds away from current industrialised practice, where

everything is drawn at full scale. In Jeff’s world, 1:1 mostly had relevance only to the rarefied world of shop fitters as a means to produce

bespoke joinery and anticipate every potential 3D problem. In contemporary Building Information Modelling programmes, it is the

total integration of all consultants’ inputs that potentially offers a perfected production information process. Jeff talked of tracing

paper, razor blades, and magic tape without hesitation; the drawing process (and most importantly, the correction of information) was

almost a textile process where the treatment and maintenance of the surface of the paper was critical to the drawing holding together as

both information and artefact. Revision of detail is now so swift that it barely feels like revision at all; it has become absorbed into a

seamless building production process that is less integrated than before and, in Jeff’s view, somewhat detached from design as a process

familiar to construction industry professionals for four millennia.

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Already from the information gathered it appears as though the parametric universe is in amazing contrast to the world of practice Jeff

started in. However one startling discovery was made in the interview. What happens to those who aren’t on the boat? In other words,

is there something about the digitisation of architecture and, in particular, parametric design that may separate practitioner from

practitioner? With fee levels shrinking year on year - and present architects’ fee income something like 40% of the levels of the 1960s

and 1970s - it is conceivable a two speed profession will develop, and only those who can use the comprehensive abilities of current

software will survive financially. However, this is not the only issue; parametric design has demonstrated remarkable formal power, yet

its future strength may be in resolving much more modest work and translating this into simple digitised fabrication, reducing costs and

rationalising subsequent construction. This is a true paradigm shift from Jeff’s early experiences in practice, and following the writer’s

experience of the Smart Geometry Conference confirms that the design processes of architectural design have shifted almost beyond

recognition.

Notes 1 Martha Tsigkari (SMG Foster + Partners) Information Architectonics, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Alumni Summit, 2009

2 Kyle Steinfeld (lecturer at the Pratt Institute) Reflective Tool Craft, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Alumni Summit, 2009

3 Robert Woodbury (SIAT, Simon Fraser University) Patterns for Parametric Design, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Alumni Summit, 2009

4 Joy Ko (Brown, RISD) Mathematics in Design: Challenges, Solutions, and Opportunities, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Alumni Summit, 2009

5 David Kasik (Boeing) Massive Model Visualisation, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Conference, 2009

6 Chris Williams (Bath University) Parametric Design and Optimisation, A Historical Perspective, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Conference, 2009

7 Jeroen Coenders (Ove Arup and Partners) BIM++, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Alumni Summit, 2009

8 Marty Doscher (Morphosis Architects) Digital Design and Tectonics for Buildings Made by Humans, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Conference, 2009

9 Steve Sanderson (CASE Inc.) Design Technologies for the Built Environment, San Francisco: Smart Geometry Alumni Summit, 2009

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Analysis

Lars Hesselgren, co-director of the Smart Geometry Group and research director of KPF Associates initiated the Smart Geometry

Conference 2009 Alumni Summit by declaring that we designers have departed from “an obsession with the tool, now turning to an

obsession with the product of the tool.” Conversely without insinuating any reference to a product of ‘poetic’ nature.

Volker Mueller, research director for computational design in Bentley’s Applied Research group, stated that prevalent designers

assumptions of how things work in design and construction technology are presently being substituted with a determinant

understanding of “actual scientific behaviour.”

Brett Steele, director of the Architectural Association School of Architecture and AA Publications in London, delivered one of the first

talks on the topic of “The Death of Expertise,” focusing on the “question of learning today in architecture and how that increasingly

becomes a project in and on itself.” Steele gave counsel to the pending danger of architecture becoming industrialised. Modern

architectural school must adapt itself to technology: most striking architectural form of obsolescence.

The methods and strategies for approaching design are plentiful. There are numerous design methodologies available to architects and

have been for many years. From methods that use nature and geometry as authorities, to music and mathematics as models, the

embracing of accident and the unconscious as sources, rationalist approaches, precedent, responses to site and context, and generative

processes all have substance and support (Jormakka, 2008). And multiple methods may typically be used in tandem, whereas some with

a more focused approach may be isolated. There is no strict rule that binds an architect within design execution.

Zaha Hadid Architects still produce physical models in their studios, as they appreciate that “creating a model by hand is an important

way of developing ideas” (Bekiroglu, cited in Strongman 2008, p.41). This hits a note with Eisenman’s comment on the importance of

drawing by hand …

“We define rules, encode problems, … need to keep talking and trying different things instead of just making slight changes or

adjustments to model” (Onur Yuce Gun – KPF)

J Parrish, head of Arup Sport - specialist sports venue design – and co-director of the Smart Geometry Group, in a discussion on “Seeing

Complexity” asked the questions “parametrics, is there a choice?” and “is it really the best way to do things?” In spite of that, in telling of

his collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron on the National Stadium (Birdnest) in Beijing, Parrish pronounced that the project

couldn’t have been realised without the use of “parametric tools, methods and platforms.”

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Conclusion

Despite a large amount of data assembled through primary experience (attendance at the Smart Geometry Conference, daily use of

programmes such as Generative Components etc.), material derived from secondary research (books, journals, magazines etc.), and what

sometimes felt like an uncharted route through rather opaque and very different sources it is very difficult to give any sense of how

conclusions can be drawn. However, given that the title of this dissertation refers to ‘a future architecture’ it might be worth

considering whether parametric design can deliver this. It is suggested that this assertion is incorrect in the following respects. Many

parametric designs are considered formally and hierarchically abstruse by a generation of older practitioners, and unlikely to subvert or

replace what are often characterised as acceptable traditional values of architectural organisation and aesthetic appearance. Skills in

parametricism are intellectually demanding to acquire, and may demand more devotion of time and effort than is practical for mid

career practitioners. There is a perception that parametricism is the domain of large practice and consultancy, and has little or no

relevance to the 80% of architecture professionals who operate either as sole practitioners or in practices of less than 5 people. The

definition and adaptation of design parameters is often considered to best suit large scale projects, thus excluding the majority of

schemes. Lastly, Parametricism has factored in neither the sustainability or community agendas, and thus avoids the social programmes

that helped propel the modernist paradigm shift of the late 19th century.

Conversely, parametricism may offer a genuine future for architecture for the following reasons. Parametric design has been adopted

by a significant number of major practices who have had the financial leverage to invest in the purchase of the programmes, and devote

dedicated staff to probing their possibilities. The result of this investment has been apparent in projects like Herzog de Meuron’s

Allianz stadium in Munich and the Beijing Olympic stadium, both developed through parametric design techniques, and now

immediately identifiable both by a cognate and non cognate public. The indeterminacy of structural calculation previously problematic

in complex large scale buildings has now been breached by parametric programmes that enable engineers to confidently assess

performance under load of almost any physical configuration. Also, the number of differs in fabrication no longer stalls projects, or

compromises their affordability. Again parametric design rationalises these issues by forewarning the consequences enabling cost

strategies to be devised that wipe out the anomaly before it can damage the final design.

Most interestingly, Patrick Schumacher has now made major theoretical claims for parametric design, advocating it as a kind of 21st

century modernism. Architecture has largely been subsumed by the necessity of processing commissions for the last decade and a half of

the UK and western bubble economies rather than developing a persuasive theoretical basis. It may thus be the establishment of a

powerful and integrated theoretical framework that elevates parametric design to what may be its true position of significance. With so

many traditional architectural virtues at its heart (geometry, structural innovation, and methodological rigour) parametric design is at a

developmental threshold. The final significance of parametric design may fall short of being a conceptual paradigm shift, but few would

deny the capability it has to fundamentally influence the way architecture (and architectural components) are produced.

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Adding ants to the overall system will generate more interactions between neighbours and will consequently enable the colony itself to

solve problems and regulate itself more effectively. Without neighbouring ants stumbling across one another, colonies would be just a

senseless assemblage of individual organisms – a swarm without logic (Johnson 2002, p.79).

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Hook, M. (2004) freesearch (draft notes about choosing), in: Black, R. and Hook, M. Topography. Melbourne: RMIT University Press.

Hwang, I. Sakamoto, T. Ferre, A. Kubo, M. Sadarangani, N. Tetas, A. Ballesteros, M. and Prat, R. (ed.) (2006) Natures. Verb, Volume 5. Barcelona: Actar.

Jodidio, P. (2004) Architecture Now! 3. Cologne: Taschen GMBH

Johnson, S. (2002) Emergence – The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. London: Penguin Books.

Jormakka, K. (2008) Design Methods. Berlin: Birkhauser.

Kolarevic, B. and Klinger, K. (2008) Manufacturing Material Effects: Rethinking Design and Making in Architecture. Oxon: Routledge.

Zaera-Polo, A. and Moussavi, F. (2003) Phylogenesis: foa’s ark, in: Kubo, M. and Ferre, A. Phylogenesis: foa’s ark, foreign office architects. Barcelona: Actar.

Sakamoto, T. and Ferre, A. (ed.) (2007) From control To Design: Parametric/Algorithmic Architecture. Verb Monograph. Barcelona: Actar.

Spuybroek, L. (2004) NOX Machining Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson.

Terzidis, K. (2006) Algorithmic Architecture 1st ed. Oxford: Architectural Press.

Ward, J. Johnson, T. and Davis, P. (1998) Peter Pran: An Architecture of Poetic Movement; Altered Perceptions. Winsor: Andreas Papadakis Publisher.

Verebes, T. Spyropoulos, T. Obuchi, Y. and Schumacher, P. (ed.) (2008) AADRL Documents 2, DRL Ten: A Design Research Compendium. London: AA Publications.

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Articles/Journals Baillieu, A. (2008) Leader: There’s No Big Bang at Venice, Building Design, September 12, p. 2.

Coates, N. and Sidor, N. (2008) Debate: Will The Downturn Be Good For Architectural Creativity?, Building Design, Date Unknown, p. Unknown.

Davies, H. (2008) Helpdesk: 2D or not 2D? Modelling packages offer you more, Building Design, July 18, p.19.

Eisenman, P. (2008) Eisenman’s Six Point Plan, Building Design, May 2, p. Unknown.

Eisenman, P. and Spiller, N. (2008) Debate: Have computers damaged architects’ design quality?, Building Design, May 16, p. Unknown.

Friesen, L. El-Ali, J. and Hesselgren, L. (2008) Generative Geometry: Should architects draw the line at parametrics?, Building Design, July 18, pp.22-23.

Hunter, W. (2008) Culture: Venice Biennale Future Imperfect, Building Design, September 19, pp.24-25.

Littlefield, D. (2004) Designs on Digital, Building Futures, pp.18-19.

Rattenbury, K. (2007) Culture: Reflections of a model citizen, Building Design, February 2, p. 16.

Schumacher, P. (2008) Practice: IT: The future is parametric, Building Design, September 19, p. 22.

Strongman, C. (2008) IT in Practice: Model Progression, Architects Journal, January 24 pp. 40-41.

Wiscombe, T. (2006) Architecture After All/After Practice: Emergent Models of Architectural Practice, Yale Perspecta, 38, pp.59-68.

Wiscombe, T. (2005) Emergent Processes, OZ, 27, (5 pages).

Websites Bernstein, P. (2009) Podcast: (Time Travelling with Autodesk). [Online] Available from: http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.showonthemove [Accessed 16 January 2009]

Bierut, M. [2009] Preoccupations, Drawing Board to the Desktop: A Designers Path. [Online] Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/jobs/08pre.html [Accessed 8 February 2009]

Chalmers, M. [2007] The Death of Draughtsmanship. [Online] Available from: http://www.scottisharchitecture.com/blog/read/450 [Accessed 9 December 2008]

Holverstott, B. [2008] What can architecture learn from nature? [Online] Available from: http://greenerbuildings.com/column/2008/09/08/what-can-architecture-learn-from-nature [Accessed 9 September 2008]

Peters, T. [2008] Architecture Supermodels: Report from SmartGeometry Conference. [Online] Available from: http://www.archnewsnow.com/features/Feature250.htm [Accessed 13 December 2008]

Raj, D. [no date] History of CAD. [Online] Available from: http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/print_article.php?articleId=137428 [Accessed 9 December 2008]

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Sanderson, S. [2008] Realizing Performance-based Architecture. [Online] Available from: http://www.smartgeometry.org/book/export/html/62 [Accessed 12 December 2008]

The Emergence and Design Network (2006) Newsletter 01_01 Jan 06. London: EDN.

Exhibitions Royal Academy of Arts (2009) Andrea Palladio: His Life and Legacy (exhibition viewed 23 October 2004, Royal Academy of Arts, London)

Lectures Kara, H. (2009) Engineering, A Practice [lecture attended 04 February, AA Lecture Hall, London]

Menges, A. (2009) Integral Formation and Materialisation: Computational Form and Material Gestalt [lecture attended 26 February, LSBU Keyworth Centre, London]

Events Summer dLab: Advanced Digital Design. Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, August 2008

Smart Geometry Pre-Workshop Training. University of Westminster, Baker Street, London, January 2009

Smart Geometry Workshop. Palace Hotel, San Francisco, USA, March 2009

Smart Geometry Alumni Summit: Building Visions. Palace Hotel, San Francisco, USA, March 2009

Smart Geometry Conference: Vision Building. Palace Hotel, San Francisco, USA, April 2009

Interview Carter, J. (2009) Personal Interview (Analogue Building Production Information), 06 May.