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Architecture in a digital world

The marriage of architecture with digital world started with the advent of CAD. This simple integration has further led to BIM (Building Information Modeling). It is interesting to see that the architecture industry is keeping up with the advancement of digital technologies. The integration of architecture and digital realms offers endless possibilities and opportunities. Buildotech explores the generative and evolutionary aspects of parametric design that play an important role in the generation of creative designs.

Parametric design, as definition goes, is a process based on algorithmic thinking that enables the expression of parameters and rules that, together, define, encode and clarify the relationship between design intent and design response. Parametric design is a paradigm in design where the relationship between elements are used to manipulate and inform the design of complex geometries and structures. The advent of the industrial revolution, mass production and large-scale manufacturing industries during the last two centuries has had a revolutionary effect on architecture. The fathers of modern architecture, such as Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe and Walter Gropius were inspired by the automobile factories and methods of the era; this gave birth to the computer as a design tool.

The architecture industry is attracted to parametric design as a resource with which it is possible to achieve efficiency and fidelity between the design concept and result of a project. Through geometric and algorithmic relations, it also forms a bridge between traditional architectural production and new technological possibilities. Parametric design is a method of intelligently designing architectural objects based on relationships and rules using the computer. These are defined in parametric software and are easily manipulated to quickly generate multiple iterations of the design in 3D. The use of this tool has allowed for more complex free form shapes as well as multiple reactive yet repeating elements to be created.

Exemplary projects in parametric design include the Serpentine Gallery, UK pavilion for the Shanghai Expo and interior design for Starbucks Coffee Dazaifu. The Serpentine Gallery by Sou Fujimoto produces different volumetric and spatial experiences using only two materials: acrylic and steel. Kengo Kuma’s design for Starbucks Coffee is an excellent example of how one can use low-tech resources yet obtain a sophisticated image.

How to most effectively utilise emerging Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technologies so as to better serve the needs of digital design in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) domain has been a significant area of research. Parametric design has attracted a strong interest from designers and design students alike specifically for the “creativity” it supports, as evidenced in the unique forms or styles it generates. Parametric design potentially offers an innovative way of generating new design solutions. Despite this potential, design strategies associated with algorithmic scripting are not well understood. There needs to be a comprehensive understanding of individual design strategies supporting creative solutions in parametric design, using the combined application of protocol analysis and Consensual Assessment Technique (CAT).

Parametric design is a new approach to designing. The understanding of its unique method for generating design solutions & alternatives and the understanding of its impact on the design processes & design outcomes are critical for its adaption in both design industries & design schools.

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