Parametricism: A New Global Style in Design and Art

For the last 20 years global architecture has been at the stage safely called the era of parametricism that replaced modernism. This advanced direction arose at the intersection of architecture, sculpture, biology, mathematics and computer technology. It has long gone beyond the avant-garde, becoming a large-scale and unprecedented phenomenon in the architecture of modern cities, in industrial design, in interior and furniture design.

Galaxy Soho building in central Beijing, Zaha Hadid Architects

The main ideologists of this direction are world known architects such as Zaha Hadid and Patrick Schuhmacher (Zaha Hadid Architects), Shigeru Ban, Santiago Calatrava, Jürgen Hermann Mayer, and others. The very term “parametricism” was first used by Patrick Schumacher in 2008 in his report “Parametricist Manifesto”. According to him, the conceptual definition of parametricism shows that “the new primitives are animate, dynamic, and interactive entities — splines, nurbs, and subdivs — that act as building blocks for dynamic systems”. These principles are very similar to what was followed by Antoni Gaudi in his work.

Metropol Parasol: The World's Largest Wooden Structure Created By Jürgen Mayer-Hermann

The development of computer technology and the increase in the computing power and capacity of computers open up enormous opportunities for the further development of parametricism in design and architecture. With their help, architects, designers, sculptors, and artists gain more freedom in creating complex shapes.

Heydar Aliyev Center / Zaha Hadid Architects

“Algorithm design” or “digital design” as parametric design is also called, should not be perceived as something alien to nature or adverse to living beings. On the contrary, it was due to computers that it became possible to create forms as close as possible to what we used to observe in nature.

A pattern of cracked soil, a pattern of ice crystals or veins of a green leaf ⎯ these seemingly simple things are actually the result of complex, multifactorial processes.

One of the ways to describe these processes was suggested by Ukrainian mathematician Georgy Voronoï His method is known as the Voronoі diagram or the Voronoi’s cells. In mathematical language it sounds like this:

In mathematics, a Voronoi diagram is a partitioning of a plane into regions based on distance to points in a specific subset of the plane. That set of points (called seeds, sites, or generators) is specified beforehand, and for each seed there is a corresponding region consisting of all points closer to that seed than to any other. These regions are called Voronoi cells.

As a simple illustration, consider a group of shops in a city. Suppose we want to estimate the number of customers of a given shop. With all else being equal (price, products, quality of service, etc.), it is reasonable to assume that customers choose their preferred shop simply by distance considerations: they will go to the shop located nearest to them. In this case the Voronoi cell of a given shop can be used for giving a rough estimate on the number of potential customers going to this shop (which is modelled by a point in our city).

The Voronoi method was improved by Boris Delaunay, who introduced the concept of triangulation. With the help of the Delaunay triangulation, almost any “natural” algorithm can be described.

Modern computers are already powerful enough to use the so-called genetic algorithms with millions of possible parameter combinations. What is produced at the output, rather, resembles the miraculous creations of nature.
What is produced at the output, rather, resembles the miraculous creations of nature.

Civil Court for Madrid from Zaha Hadid

Jockey Club Innovation Tower of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Zaha HadidMuseum of Tomorrow by Santiago Calatrava in Rio de Janeiro

Aesthetics of parametricism has penetrated into modern interiors. Smooth lines, curved geometric patterns create a sense of surrealism. The walls and ceilings cease to be flat and static. They open the portal to other dimensions, exposing the curvature of space and time in which we live.

Blitz Music Club by Studio Knack And Simon Vorhammer

Office in Dnipro city, Ukraine by Kate KuzmenkoAuriga restaurant by Sanjay Puri Architects

P-Wall (2009) by Matsys

Guangzhou Opera House, 2010, Guangzhou / China by Zaha Hadid
Hookah Bar Nargile by KMAN Studio

Rest hole in the University of Seoul / UTAA