Parametric design is a process based on algorithmic thinking that enables the expression of parameters and rules that, together, define, encode and clarify the relationship between design intent and design response.
Parametric design is a paradigm in design where the relationship between elements is used to manipulate and inform the design of complex geometries and structures.
The term parametric originates from mathematics (parametric equation) and refers to the use of certain parameters or variables that can be edited to manipulate or alter the end result of an equation or system. While today the term is used in reference to computational design systems, there are precedents for these modern systems in the works of architects such as Antoni Gaudí, who used analog models to explore design space.
: Parametric modeling systems can be divided into two main types
Form-finding is one of the strategies implemented through propagation-based systems. The idea behind form-finding is to optimize certain design goals against a set of design constraints
One of the earliest examples of parametric design was the upside down model of churches by Antonio Gaudi. In his design for the Church of Colonia Guell he created a model of strings weighted down with birdshot to create complex vaulted ceilings and arches. By adjusting the position of the weights or the length of the strings he could alter the shape of each arch and also see how this change influenced the arches connected to it. He placed a mirror on the bottom of the model to see how it should look upside-down.
Gaudi’s analogue method includes the main features of a computational of a parametric model (input parameters, equation, output)
By modifying individual parameters of these models Gaudi could generate different versions of his model while being certain the resulting structure would stand in pure compression. Instead of having to manually calculate the results of parametric equations he could automatically derive the shape of the catenary curves through the force of gravity acting on the strings
Nature has always served as inspiration for architects and designers. Computer technology has given designers and architects the tools to analyse and simulate the complexity observed in nature and apply it to structural building shapes and urban organizational patterns. In the 1980s architects and designers started using computers running software developed for the aerospace and moving picture industries to animate form
One of the first architects and theorists that used computers to generate architecture was Greg Lynn. His blob and fold architecture is some of the early examples of computer generated architecture. Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport’s new Terminal 3, finished in 2013, designed by Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas, with parametric design support by the engineering firm Knippers Helbig, is an example for the use of parametric design and production technologies in a large scale building.
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