An Enquiry into the Future

For most of us, the word “parametricism” brings the image of Heydar Aliyev Center to our brain. Isn’t that what we think – elaborate poetry of curves twisting and turning into an unimaginable shape? But is that all what parametricism is?

Parametricism is nothing but assigning parameters to your structures in form of a non-linear causality such that the process of interaction between the effect and the cause is always dynamic. Think of that and you will realize that the entire freaking world is parametric. From the recursive pattern in plant growth to the cracked patterns on the sun-scorched Earth (Voronoi cells), from the pattern on a Cheetah’s torso (Reaction-diffusion) to the movement of ants (Ant space optimization algorithm), everything in our nature is bound by a set of dynamic interacting rules. It is the deterministic nature of the parameters that allow the morphology of creation to be so non-deterministic and complex.

Parametricism combined with AI, material intelligence, fabrication methodologies, generative and morphogenetic design techniques harnesses a plethora of computational power, and this approach, also known as computational design embedded along with the creative prowess of the architect empowers one to view architecture from a whole different perspective where the debate is not on what architecture was or what it is but what architecture can be – the realization of creation in its absolute essence starting from a basic elementary point. Architecture ceases to be merely about creating buildings, instead, a system is envisioned – an ecology whereas Neri Oxman puts it “a transformation from nature-inspired design to a design inspired nature “happens.

What we as students do is not computation, it’s mere computerization of our ideas – just an alternate medium, we use instead of our A2 sheets. A computer-aided approach assumes an object-based strategy for encapsulating the information into symbolic representations – methods of organizing information that has already been formulated in the designer’s mind. In contrast, a computational approach enables specific data to be realized out of initial abstraction.

“In developing computer programs one is forced to question how people think and how the design evolves. In other words, computers must be acknowledged not only as machines for imitating what is understood but also as vehicles for exploring what is not understood.”  – Kostas Terzidis

With the advent of Computational Design, the ever debatable topic of whether “function follows form” or “form follows function” finally comes to an end. In fact, this field may be perceived as a system where both form and function operates in total harmony. It is a cyclical process of constant interaction where sometimes the form precedes the function and sometimes the other way round.

The computational design opens up infinite possibilities for envisioning architecture. From otherwise inconceivable forms to evolutionary algorithms that optimize the fitness of your structure amongst thousands of possible permutations, from AI-driven methodologies to understand the urban fabric to advanced robotics for fabrication, the computational design has brought about a certain inter-disciplinarity in the field of architecture. Hell, they even have biologists and architects working together at top design research labs.

It however must be remembered that, contrary to the popular belief, computation does not function with the explicit description of form or finality. It is a tool to enhance our capabilities. It is the designer who is posited as the author of the rules as implicit descriptions for the development of the form. Computation doesn’t restrict the essence of design or take away the “human touch”. It molds the human touch with technology, catalyzes your creative psyches, and transforms your abstract out-of-the-world imagination into a rock-solid buildable reality.

In conclusion, though I must confess that the title of this essay is not entirely justified, for the “future” that we have been trying to “enquire” into is the “present”. This is what is happening around us.  Design, Computation, and Technology have taken the world by storm. Cutting-edge researches are being conducted every day as humanity strives to understand and comprehend that one pestering question “What is Creation?”

 “There is only one revolution tolerable to all men, all societies, all political systems, the revolution by design and invention.”- Buckminster Fuller

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