From Parametric to Algorithmic Design

Ionuț Anton
ICAR 2012: (Re)writing history proceedings, International conference on Architectural Research

In the last two decades we have witnessed an infusion of digital technology in architecture. These technologies have changed the way that we perceive architecture, using concept from biology, mathematics or philosophy that have interpreted and applied through computation. The contemporary architectural discourse seems to be invaded by parametric systems analysis tools and algorithms for generating form.

An architecture based on computation means more than labeling this amalgam of terms, it proposes the use of the computer as a tool for analysis and conceptual design. Computation will transform concepts into streams of bits and generating rules, adapting the structure and function to performance parameters, form-finding through self-organizing systems.

The complexity of the world around us urges us to have another approach in which we must consider all relations and emerging contextual constraints if we wish to develop an architecture as an exact reflection of our society. Thus we call on control systems that mediate the interaction between architect and the data and information flux that we must bring into the design process. The computational environment proved to excel at this process of transforming data through a logical sequence that generates significant results.

Today, parametric modeling offers a way of generating architectural form which displays a wide range of possibilities, through which we can build entire chains of associations and relationships between data and form. Focus is moving towards the equations that describe the relations between objects, and correlations are established, as opposed to a imposition of a rigid form.

In contemporary architectural practice, digital technologies start being used, not as a visualization tool, but as means of generating form and means of transforming shapes. Instead of modeling a form, designers use logic and rules as generative algorithms which are used to incorporate various constraints and that can dynamically adapt the architecture solution.

This paper will also discuss the use of parametric design tools in a workshop with the goal of developing parametric systems that are informed by external conditioning. A series of approaches will be discussed that will be based on a component design method and a multiple parameter form finding technique.

Moving forward, from a simple parametric technique, the author will argue that a more complex, algorithmic design using computational tools is the next step in developing an architectural design in the digital age. Latest developments in traditional design applications are offering the ability for scripting, empowering the use of algorithms in the design process.

Today we are witnessing a new era in which the architect is not bound by the capabilities of traditional digital software and its limitations. Programming languages facilitate the development of targeted, simple but effective application. These applications don’t require advanced knowledge of programming complex three dimensional vector based environments, but the knowledge of a simple language called Scripting which makes them much more accessible. With easier access to programming environments, the use of algorithms as a design method spreads worldwide.