BY FAEZEH ENSAFI
Architectural creation is embedded within a larger field of accumulated contextual aspects. The agency of architecture can only happen within the particulars of its situation and in relation to the larger field (Meredith, pg2). Birth of digital parametric design was the beginning of a new era of power and control with technological potentials to employ limitless number of parameters. Adding parameters responding to contextual disputes reassures an utterly responsive architecture and a future brighter than ever.
Context becomes prominent when we look at the current skin-deep formalist architecture with its over-emphasized formality and lack of contextual considerations. Functionalists, on the other side, construct use as the total performance of architecture. ‘Form vs. function’ has been the subject of debate throughout the history of architecture and resulted postmodernism’s conceptual formal shells, or modernism’s boxes filled only with functional aspects. In both cases, architecture becomes a fragment, a distorted concept, which falls short for its environmental socio-political correlation as the means to escape the emptiness of object.
In the late 20th century, following modernist and postmodernist paradigms, architectural design process was getting tougher in which an extensive number of aspects needed to be considered and analyzed. Pragmatic contextual consideration was played short as functional and formal-conceptual issues were escalating. There was an intense need for a system whereby the subject matter, concept, function, form and context collaborate to solve the problems derived from these fields and to lean towards creation of a fully responsive architecture. Without a broader system, the drive for form has been listless, lost in self-referential exercises, meaningless outside of the field of architecture itself (Meredith, Never Enough, pg2).
When the first parametric design software was released by PTC in 1988, Digital Parametricism was invented and with it, new possibilities were brought into the field of design, serving as the awakening of postmodernism’s drunkenness and a solution to the discussed growing issues of the time. The new-born parametric style was developing to be more pervasive with its full access to the newly invented computational programs (e.g. Grasshopper) which performed to associate and manipulate various parameters of design deliberately and accurately. In such computational programs parameters are inserted and forms are emerged accordingly.
Since parametric design provided architects with such power, some began using parametric computational programs to solve functional, structural and constructional issues through processes of optimization and gradually fabrication. Through this medium unimaginable structures were emerged with maximum efficiency. When one created a new programmed structure, they could save the system and apply it to several projects. The new generation of complex structure could be constructed using the same parametric systems in an affordable way.
The image of an architect was becoming more powerful to the extent that he/she produced authenticity while employing the computer as their design assistant to co-create and correct profound disputes through analyzing and optimization. Absorbing computational techniques expanded the range of access and control to the extent of extracting more than just one result, thus offering the designer(s) a choice between the most efficient results. Creation of complexity as Venturi had required became effortless, hence adding new parameters to the existing functional, conceptual and formal parameters of the process was proved possible. Form, when created in the parametric process, is distorted according to the assigned parameters.
Contributing to the process by technological time-effective solutions, parametric designing is now flexible to accept parameters which could respond to every aspect of design. These parameters at this point can, and should, retain contextual relevance in order to experience further productivity and efficiency. Powerful potentials of Parametricism have been discovered, allowing the designer(s) to step back and take a look at the big picture –the larger framework of context –and react to it properly. After all, a building is inevitably reacting to its context constantly as long as it lives.
The pervasive, interdisciplinary parametric practice engages new media and provides each and every project with a high level of precision and control. However, it cannot perform without human interference. The architect needs to see the problematic contextual relationships in each project and associate suitable parameters to the process. The image of the architect is now a cyborg; half human, half robot. The future is parametric, whereby the possibility of incorporating an unlimited number of parameters is at our disposal. With the cooperation of computer, architect efforts towards the utopian ideology of an architectural creation that fits into the structure of our lives.