Bill Caplan Architecture Home Bill Caplan Architecture Bio Bill Caplan Forms Architecture Competitions Models Renderings In the Media Portfolio Bill Caplan Architecture Software Email Bill Caplan Prior Media Page Next Media Page
  In the Media  
  The Architectural Review - March 2011  
  The Architectural Review March 2011

COPYRIGHT 2011 EMAP Architecture


Comment on: "The Autopoiesis of Architecture dissected, discussed and decoded" 4 March 2011 | By Peter Buchanan

Bill Caplan's comment 28 March 2011

The declaration of "Parametricism" renders unfortunate disservice to the mastering of parametric design for eco-sustainable and programmatic use. Your statement, "Perhaps the most intelligent use of parametric modelling is to explore new formal disciplines to bring a wide range of increased efficiencies, in terms of structure, energy, constructional assembly, shaping of flows of people, air and so on", deserves plaudits. But please leave off "Perhaps".

Parametricism is not about style, but rather about relationships; relationships that can be manifest in a multitude of styles yet to be imagined. It is the technique of input parameter informing output, which in turn may comprise a new input - in simple terms, algorithmic formation. In the rarified world of academic architecture, where AEC profession and building constraints receive little attention, exploration of parametric software capability tends toward form-finding and flirtation with futuristic concepts of dynamic architecture, sometimes parametrically tied to social and sustainable inputs. We have barely begun to grasp the true capabilities of parametric design, to redefine the architectural envelope as a function of interrelationships between sustainable eco-practice and technology, site, program and stylistic creation. If we must coin the word "parametricism" from parametric design, it can only mean the process of parametric design. To imply that parametric modeling is merely a new form of form, currently described by tessellation divisions, or as Mr. Shumacher puts it, the "new primitives of parametricism are animate (dynamic, adaptive, interactive) geometrical entities - splines, nurbs, and subdivs"*, merely glorifies an organic style that has existed for at least two decades and does not require the use of parametrics.

This leads to your point "... even architects tackling sustainability have not fully grasped the challenges it raises. Their approach is objective, technological and ecological, ignoring the cultural and psychological dimensions, thus exemplifying modernity’s limiting paradigm." We live in a world of tack-on technology, rarely fully exploiting the opportunity for true interdisciplinary design from inception. Hence, tremendous inefficiency and waste occur, much of it involving purported Sustainable Design that does not perform as advertised. Parametric design is essential to meaningful sustainability, forming a building envelope in harmony with the environmental resource vectors emerging from a site. The design of a building envelope must be generated so that its integration provides a substantive benefit rather than a gratuitous gesture. True unification of architecture, environmental resource vectors, envelope and program might define the way toward a new architectural idiom, call it what you will - but not Parametricism.

By "environmental resource vectors" we encompass the full spectrum of resources that surround a building. These include obtainable energy transmitted by radiation, conduction and convection; light; air to breathe; water to consume or utilize - whether in the form of solar rays, wind, fluid, gas or thermal mass; solar for direct electrical conversion or solar thermal, air flow for circulation and ventilation, thermal mass for heat and cooling, and even ambient light. The envelope, its complete volumetric enclosure, whose shape and orientation must be influenced by the vectors of these resources, maximizing the value of the sustainable design features to integrate sustainable technology as one with the design, to maximize the harvest of surrounding energy resources. For this we need parametrics; stylistic Parametricism is gratuitous form usually faking function.

The path to more sustainable design is through "relevant" sustainable design. The path to relevant sustainable design begins with architectural form emerging from a site's environmental vectors, sense of place, and use. Parametric design as a process tool offers phenomenal promise. It affords the opportunity to incorporate sustainable technology and eco-practice as one with the building envelope - harvesting, conserving and generating energy in a substantive way. This benefits the client, the public and the planet. Let us use parametric design to create form with relevant substance; perhaps we can call the result "parametricism".

Note *. The Parametricist Epoch: Let the Style Wars Begin, Patrik Schumacher, London 2010, Published in: AJ - The Architects’ Journal, No 16, Volume 231, 06. May 2010.

Peter Buchanan's article is available at

Bill Caplan
Managing Member
ShortList_0 Design Group LLC

COPYRIGHT 2011 EMAP Architecture