Learning Parametric Designing

Learning Parametric Designing

Marc Aurel Schnabel (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-180-1.ch004
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Parametric designing, its instruments, and techniques move architectural design education towards novel avenues of deep learning. Akin to learning and working environments of engineering and manufacturing, it offers similar advantages for architects. Yet it is not as simple as using another tool; parametric designing fundamentally shifts the engagement with the design problem. Parametric designing allows architects to be substantially deeper involved in the overall design and development process extending it effectively beyond production and lifecycle. Leaning parametric design strategies enhance architects’ critical engagement with their designs and their communication. Subsequently, the computational aid of parametric modelling alters substantially how and what students learn and architects practice.
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Pieter Bruegel, a Netherlands’ Renaissance painter, depicted a representation of the ‘Tower of Babel’ as a building that is constantly redefining its needs, as it grows larger and more complex (Figure 1, left). The painting shows a tower nearly reaching the clouds and illustrates all the problems then associated with cities, buildings and life within and the constant change and reaction to new situations during the process of building.

Figure 1.

Right: Pieter Bruegel’s ‘Tower of Babel. Right: Archigram’s Plug-in City


The exploration of the relationship between human beings and the natural world, and the subsequent implications of interactions between them, has deep roots in our social and cultural understanding of society. Cities, therefore, are direct reflections of their inhabitants, as their architectural expressions directly influence the living conditions of their people. In recent practice, architects have designed and described buildings through the means of (master-) plans, sections, elevations, or descriptions of render-perfect, complete architectures in which change was not part of the picture. A few, however, have tried different approaches to communicate architecture.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Archigram already presented an idea that reacted against the permanence of houses in what it called the “Plug-in City” (Figure 1, right). They proposed architecture that is ever changing and adaptable to different social and economic conditions (Karakiewicz, 2004). Their proposal did not develop further than a conceptual stage, yet it lays in contrasts to the common practice that also Le Corbusier describes as non-intelligent building machines, whereby these machines would not think, and would therefore be unable to adapt to change.

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