Parametric architecture: what is it

Parametric design, arising from completely technological considerations, has penetrated into all spheres of our life so much that it has created a new aesthetic. Industrial designer Patrick Schumacher from the famous architectural bureau Zaha Hadid, one of the leading ideologists of parametrism, is sure that in the near future we will be surrounded by things and works of art, the co-authors of which were computers along with people. Because it is natural.

Algorithms around us

The expression "algorithmic design", "digital design" in most people cause associations with something inanimate, artificial, contrary to human nature, and to nature in general. This error, however, is dispelled without a trace, it is worth at least once to see the work of designers using parametrism. Sometimes one does not even believe that living, as if breathing buildings or reminiscent of complex coral jewelry was created using soulless computers. But the bottom line is that it was they who allowed us to create such natural forms.

Beauty of Justice Zaha Hadid Architectural Bureau is considered the most authoritative in the world of parametric design. One of the most famous works of the bureau is the Campus of Justice civil court building in Madrid. Its floor plans and sections are now being studied by students all over the world.

To explain the essence of parametric design, you will have to make a small mathematical digression. To begin with, almost all natural processes - especially living ones - are more or less random. Or, which is almost the same thing, depend on such a large number of external and internal factors that they can be considered random. The search for dependencies in constructing algorithmic systems that are repelled by a chaotic set of primary conditions has given rise to a whole direction in topology - a branch of mathematics that studies, in particular, the properties of spaces that remain unchanged under continuous deformations. The most important works in this area belong to Russian and Soviet mathematicians - George Voronoi (1868−1908) and his student Boris Delaunay (1890−1989).

One of the most visually striking ways to use parametric design is based on the Voronoi diagram (the annual International Symposium dedicated to it will be held this year for the 15th time!). For a finite set of points, the Voronoi diagram represents a partition of space or a plane in which each region of this partition forms a set of points closer to one of the elements of the set than to any other element of the set.

Translated into everyday language, this is what it is about. Imagine crystal grains lying in a laboratory cup that grow at a constant rate in all directions. Suppose that their growth continues until two or more grains meet. After some time, each grown grain will be a cell of a crystalline mosaic that completely covers the bottom of the cup. This mosaic is the Voronoi diagram. We see it in veins of leaves or wings of a butterfly, cracked car enamel, spreading over a coffee table.

In the 1930s, Delaunay developed Voronoi’s ideas by introducing the concept of Delaunay triangulation for a given set of points on a plane such that for any triangle all points of the set, except for its vertices, lie outside the circle circumscribed around the triangle. Using Delaunay triangulation, one can describe almost any "natural" algorithm, for example, the famous "Euclidean minimal spanning tree". This is a construction that connects “branches” all points of a given set in such a way that the sum of the “weights” of these branches is minimal. The “spanning tree” is being built, in particular, by solving the popular “traveling salesman problem”, which needs to travel around all its customers in different cities at the lowest cost. The areas of application of the Voronoi diagram and Delaunay triangulation can be enumerated endlessly. Anthropologists build maps of the influence of various ethnic groups, biologists and physiologists study the growth of living tissues, epidemiologists look for centers of disease spread, builders design the location of orphanages and schools, metallurgists study the effect of impurities in alloys. And even producers of special effects in the cinema pay tribute to the work of our compatriots, without whom the waves in the digital seas would hardly have looked so natural.

Perhaps you, the reader, have come across a Voronoi diagram. Some time ago, an application was popular on social networks that allowed you to turn photos into a mosaic image. Moreover, as a mosaic element, you could choose any pattern. If you had fun with this thing, then consider that you also indirectly touched the world of parametric design.

Create without repeating

Over the past few years, topological optimization has been very actively used by designers and engineers. The power of modern computers is already sufficient to use the so-called genetic algorithms, when millions of possible combinations of parameters with a given final result, for example, the minimum weight with sufficient rigidity, vary. The resulting designs are not similar to anything previously created by man, but they resemble the eye-pleasing creations of nature.

Despite the fact that the parametric design is in a sense of Russian origin, in our country so far there are not enough objects created on its basis. An example is perhaps the benches installed on Novy Arbat, as well as the interiors of the small office complex Dominion Tower on Dubrovka, designed by Zaha Hadid. But nothing similar to the magnificent civil court building in Madrid authorship of the same Hadid or amazing beauty to the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in Abu Dhabi, neither Moscow nor other Russian cities can boast yet.

But some achievements have been outlined in the field of art. Young Russian jewelry company “iou design & research. lab »decided to make parametric design the main motive for creating their collections. “Before creating the first jewelry, we studied the work of the best specialists for about a year, read scientific articles about the Voronoi diagram. We were amazed at what incredible shapes and lines a computer helps to create, acting as a full-fledged co-author of a creative solution, ”says Alexandra Grishina, designer and jeweler of the iou brand. For the implementation of particularly striking projects, the material was chosen appropriate - titanium, which, when electrochemically processed, can be coated without any dusting with patterns shimmering with all shades of the rainbow.

The first Russian building by Zaha Hadid - the Dominion Tower on Dubrovka - is not too striking from the side, but it strikes with the internal spaces.

“The new aesthetics that Schumacher speaks about in his policy statement is ideal for the creators of jewelry and other art objects, ” says co-author of the brand “iou design & research. lab »Tatyana Bortnik. - Unlike industrial design, art is far behind progress. Classical jewelry art, in fact, uses the same ideas that the ancient Egyptians still had. ”

Throughout the history of mankind, Bortnik continues, artists used two types of objects - “pure” geometric shapes and, to a lesser extent, the creatures of animate and inanimate nature. In the latter case, it was a simple copy. “Today, the development of information technology has given the artist two new, great tools. Firstly, computers allow you to generate random numbers, which the human mind is not capable of. Secondly, the computing power of modern computers is sufficient to simulate truly complex processes that do not differ from natural ones, ”Tatyana explains.

New aesthetics Jewelry from iou design & research. lab ”, created using Voronoi’s algorithms, is not only pleasant to consider, it’s also nice to touch them. Even on the neck or arm they look completely new, as if “adjusting” to the human body.

“This is a new but natural reality. Parametric design makes it possible to simulate the logic of thinking of nature. An artist can create his own leaf of birch without copying an existing one, but arranged in the same way as a real one. Similar objects excite the imagination. They are not only pleasant to consider, it is pleasant to touch them. Even on the neck or arm they look completely different, as if “adjusting” to your body, ”supports colleague Alexander Grishin.

Now “iou design & research. lab ”is preparing a joint project with one of the most popular designers working in the style of parametrism, Hamid Khasanzadey. He is sure that a new aesthetic will enter our life for a much longer time than, for example, minimalism. “I think that in the near future, one of the topics that will be heavily influenced by parametric design will be household design. We will see changes in such things as jewelry, watches, cars, mobile phones, clothes. For example, imagine a bracelet that can easily change its shape to suit your mood, weather or clothing color. Today’s technologies do not allow this yet, but in the future it will certainly happen, ”he says.

Unprecedented freedom for creativity is one of the most enjoyable properties of parametric design. This approach responds remarkably to criteria or many criteria that influence each other. It is simply indispensable for the rapid creation of supercomplex forms, which is not easy to do using standard design methods.

Developers of parametric plug-ins for various graphic modeling packages - such as 3D Max, Autodesk or Rhinoceros - work closely with designers. Sometimes new programs appear on the market without any accompanying and educational documentation - so the authors rush to share new ideas. “All this resembles a student rally at which young people discuss how to turn the world, ” Grishina smiles. “Network forums dedicated to parametric design and parametric design software just gush with inventions and suggestions.”

Cultural Center Heydar Aliyev in Baku, built in 2012, Zaha Hadid herself called "the experience of pure creativity." There is not a single straight line in the building.

Patrick Schumacher, in his article Parametrizism, predicted a “war of styles” for our society, the winner of which will be a new natural style. Postmodernism has almost disappeared, the same thing happened with deconstructivism. And this is not accidental - because there was too little randomness in them.

The article “What is natural is wonderful” was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 5, May 2017).

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