Parametricism is probably one of the most redundant and abused words in architecture schools today. In this issue we ask, “What is Parametricism?” Read through its actions, it is the process by which we organize information, approximate the world and visualize its measurements. The parameter, as a variable of differentiation, defines the limits of a system and the conditions for its operation. It is through parameters that we are able to produce certain logical relationships between parts. Fundamental to this, however, is the assumption that the object or phenomena we are modeling is in fact quantifiable.
Advances in computational processing have promoted our capacity, and thus faith in the ability, to systematically classify and itemize the world around us. But this increased level of complexity has been hijacked by formal exhibitionism. The “Parametricist Manifesto” concerns itself solely with appearance.
“Negative heuristics: avoid familiar typologies, avoid platonic/hermetic objects, avoid clear-cut zones/territories, avoid repetition, avoid straight lines, avoid right angles, avoid corners, …, and most importantly: do not add or subtract without elaborate interarticulations.
Positive heuristics: interarticulate, hyberdize, morph, deterritorialize, deform, iterate, use splines, nurbs, generative components, script rather than model, …”1
Under the guise of form, Parametricism has removed itself completely from political discourse. However, objectivity is its biggest misconception. It is not only embedded in a long history of technocratic methods of control, from the theories of cybernetics proposed by Jay Forrester to the network systems by the RAND corporation, but it is also predicated on exclusion—every selection involves a rejection. In this bracketing of information, the author of the parametric system assumes an active, subjective role in emphasizing intentional decisions over accidental ones.
A rejection of the term Parametricism is clearly visible within the contemporary discourse. Alternate terms such as “digitally intelligent design,” “algorithmic design,” “object oriented design,” and even “post-parametric design” have arisen to describe this vastly differentiated field. What these design theories do share, however, is a predilection and belief in the tool. The basis of this belief is the faith in numbers to represent our world.
In this issue we address indoctrination with Mark Wigley, debate the digitality of ground with Mario Carpo and Peter Eisenman, contextualize Parametricism’s historical past with Reinhold Martin, move beyond the term with David Benjamin, concern ourselves with the interaction of objects with Biayna Bogosian and Maider Llaguno, and delimit the limits of optimization with Daniel Davis.
1 Schumacher, Patrik. “Parametricism as a Style - Parametricist Manifesto.” 2008. www.patrikschumacher.com