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  In the Media  
  ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW - November 2011  
  BEYOND 007 August 2011




Your Views

To P or lower case p? That's the question.

Thank you Farshid Moussavi for the elaboration of the universality of parametric thinking and its promise for intelligent designs that embrace the full complexity of our environment' (Viewpoint, AR October 2011). Given the difficulty in bridging the gap between form-finding and material architecture, perhaps this should be an educators' call to arms. Although engineers have successfully applied parametric software for several decades, architectural designers have been slow to employ the true capability for anything more than pure form generation, as you aptly indicate.

Much of this has to do with the inability of architecture schools to provide a schema that focuses parametricism on form created from 'parametric thinking as a way to integrate formal experimentation with performative concerns'. In lower case, parametricism is both a technique and a mode of thinking that employs the empowerment provided by software for performative design, as applied by the designer's creativity. It is time to dispense with the capital 'P'. As a style or classification it will not survive the decade.

Bridging this educational gap will be fraught with obstacles. Although the world is certainly different from what you describe in the 1990s, the problems of creating a relevant studio experience in an industry unaccustomed to change remain. The overwhelming majority of studio instructors insufficiently understand how one might progress from the assignment of external parameters, whether they be environmental, physical, social or cultural, to engage in a feedback loop with form.

This presents a major stumbling block. If we do not grasp this moment, the opportunity for designers to employ parametricism to inspire performative design might be lost : left to the engineers. It will be displaced by the next plaything to shape form, as well as the progressive dumbing of existing software. Each year, in the name of the 'user-friendly', the handful of companies that control AEC software tend to reduce itemised control. It will not be long before the parametric programmes geared for architectural designers will severely restrict parametric thinking in favour of push button design solutions.

This is the crucial time to realise parametric thinking for architects. Its future lies in the hands of our educators. We must not let this empowering opportunity slip away.

Bill Caplan,
ShortList_0 Design Group, New York