Misha's Blog

Politics of Parametricism

Posted in Miscellaneous by Misha on December 8, 2013

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Parametricism (parametric design) encompasses computer aided design approaches that let you endlessly tweak models by changing variables and generate new iterations of structures.  A two day conference on the politics of parametricism was sponsored by Autodesk—the company behind 3D modeling programs and Building Information System management tools.  There was an ideological divide between the speakers: some designers and architects were on the “right” and spoke of top-down design approaches being the answer to humanity’s problems.  Others were on the “left” because they were more concerned with issues of access to these design methodologies and how they may marginalize whole swaths of people.

One of my favorite speakers was Teddy Cruz.  He gave examples of kids who started using a crappy lot under a highway overpass as a skate park.  They were told to stop by the city and county, but they kept at it and eventually formed a non profit organization, did fund raising, and finally made over the underpass as a really cool skate park.  I was energized by this story which was optimistic about dealing with state bureaucracy .  I’ve heard this idea in the parametric design circles of reconfigurable buildings which would physically readjust their structure based on human desires.  Cruz overwrote this mechanistic vision with video of Tijuana street vendors who retracted their ultra light sales kiosks to make room for a passing train.  As the train cleared the railroad the vendors unfolded their awnings in rapid succession, closing behind the train in a wave.

The question and answer period resulted in a heated exchange between and the panelists and Patrik Schumacher with demands being made to disclose political affiliations and rebukes of etiquette flying back and fourth with the audience caught in a sort of awkward rapture in between.  It was truly worthwhile to be part of a real confrontational smack down between parametricism apologists led by Schumacher and the opposition led by Cruz.  They said the conference was going to be streamed and archived on the site, but I can’t find the racy video anywhere!  All I have is this lousy pic.

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