What can buildings learn from nature?

Parametric design considers various parameters that influence the final form. When used in architecture, what you get is fun with function

Parametric design is a paradigm in design where the relationship between elements is used to manipulate and inform the design of complex geometries and structures.  It refers to the use of certain parameters or variables that can be edited to manipulate or alter the end result of a system.

When a process is as information-driven as parametric design, it can almost be characterised as the anti-Jugaad. We spoke to the folks at Studio Emergence; Seeja Sudhakaran and Khushbu Davda, architects with a Masters degree in Advanced Design and Digital Architecture(ADDA) from Barcelona to understand the concept.

 Khushbu_Photo Seeja_Photo

Is parametric design new? Why haven’t we heard about it earlier?

Parametric design is not a new concept. It has always formed a part of architecture and design. The consideration of changing forces such as climate, setting, culture, and use has always formed part of the design process. It channelises this process into a rather formal set-up and makes all the elements work like a mathematical equation. Here, each variable can be manipulated according to the required end result.

Tell us about the process you follow.

The process always acts like a feedback loop where the variables which are the ‘parameters’ we input can be constantly changing to adapt to the ever changing requirement of architecture and make it adaptive to environment, people and many more factors.

It sounds clinical. How is that similar to nature?

Parametric Architecture derives many principles from nature like the study of biomimetics, emergence in nature, animal architecture etc. Natural forms are the most stable so they help draw a clear idea as to how structures could be self-organising, stable and have the forces distributed evenly. Many such experiments are carried out around the world to understand the process through which architecture is not driven but can emerge when different elements work together. Think of these elements coming uniting for the best structure, space and beauty in nature and try to see how we can emulate that behaviour in man-made structures.

These studies have explored how the patterns that emerge in nature can be used not just for standalone architectural marvels but also in urban planning and on a design level.

Various principles like Minimal paths drawn from a network of ants or Magnetic fields in nature shows how these can and has been for years applied to different design strategies and planning.  


So you use software to replicate this process?

Architects have always used these principles and knowledge in everyday designing, coupled with our own design intuitions we always try make the designs formal and structured.

What parametric design does is restructure this process, organize it to a level that the design becomes a system which is self-sustaining, adaptive and has a life in the form of information exchanging loops.

This can be done at a huge scale only with tools that support such innovative and visionary strategies. The computing tools used today only enhance our ability to streamline this process to redefine architectural design.


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