Learning Curve: Parametric Design

There are various ways to approach a new design. From hand sketches, to model building, collages, photography, 3D modeling, etc. Architects learn to become inspired and use various medias to convey their ideas. One growing example of an approach is parametric modeling. With computer technology gaining speed, parametric design features parameters within a program, such as Grasshopper, to clarify and encode relationships between elements.

Designing with many iterative shapes makes parametric modeling a useful tool. It allows for quick manipulation to a specific design. Factors that may call for change and response include zoning heights and setbacks, natural daylight, shading, structural frame, floor areas, etc. All this can be instantly manipulated with a change of a number in the code script. With many factors having an impact on several iterations until coming up with the product of a final design, parametric modelling uses time efficiently to make these changes to the interior, exterior, and detailing. Therefore, designers can go through more options with a client in an efficient time period.

As a student, what fascinates me the most with parametric modeling is the form you’re able to achieve. While most modern architecture is represented with flat planes or rectangular forms, parametric modeling can create curved, manipulated, and twisting shapes appealing to speculate by the eye.  A studied example in which parametric modeling was utilized are the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi. Aedas Architects were able to utilize parametric script to design the towers’ responsive façade screens. With the location’s direct sunlight, a sustainable approach was taken to create kinetic screens to self-move and respond to the sun exposure at various times/days of the year.  In return, this provides more shade to cool the interior and eliminate unnecessary HVAC use. The individual iterative shape of the screens themselves were derived from the “mashrabiya” which is a local traditional Islamic lattice. Here, parametric modeling became a solution to combine culture with sustainability and design.

Learning Curve is an ongoing series from the perspective of our interning students who are currently in school to become the world’s next generation of designers.  

This edition is by Anastasia Spassennikova who is in her first year of the Master of Architecture program at the University of Washington. With a love for both math and art, architecture felt like the obvious path that would meld the two into one exciting career. Her passion for the profession grew when she realized it was a gateway to learning about people and locations in various contexts. Designing a building for a specific client allows the designer to learn more about that individual’s background and interests which makes every project unique. With the rare extra time outside of her studies, Anastasia enjoys exploring the world around her through drawing, painting and actively travelling to see things first hand