Parametric Architecture in the Urban Space

Parametric Architecture in the Urban Space

Krystyna Januszkiewicz1, Karol G. Kowalski 1
1 50 Piastów Ave., 70-311 Szczecin West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin, Poland

Figure 1a-b-c. Nicolas Grimshaw, Waterloo International Terminal, London, 1989-1993

The paper deals with the parametric architecture which is trying to introduce a new spatial language in the context for urban tissue that correspond to the artistic consciousness and the attitude of information and digital technologies era. The first part of the paper defines the main features of parametric architecture (such as: folding, continuity and curvilinearity) which are are characteristic of the new style of named the “parametricism”.

This architecture is a strong emphasis on geometry, materiality, feasibility and sustainability, what emerges is an explicit agenda promoting material ornamentation, spatial spectacle and formal theatricality. The second part presents result of case study, especially parametric public use buildings, within the tissue of city. The analyzed objects are: The Sage Gateshead (1998-2004) in Gateshead, Kunsthaus in Graz (2000-2003), the Weltstadthaus (2003-2005) in Cologne, The Golden Terraces in Warsaw (2000-2007), the Metropol Parasol in Seville (2005-2011) the King Cross Station (2005-2012) in London, the headquarters of the Pathé Foundation (2006-2014) in Paris.

Each of the enumerated examples shows a diverse approach to designing in the urban space, which reflect the age of digital technologies and the information society. In conclusion emphasizes, that new concept of the spatialization of architecture is the equivalent of the democratization of the political system, the liberalization of the economy, among other examples.

Figure 2a-b-c. Foster&Partners, Sage Gateshead, Gateshead, 1998-2004

In the twenty-first century the digital design tools, which coupled with the computer technology production, have opened new possibilities, not just in shaping the architectural structures, but also interferencing with the existing urban and building structures. Contemporary avant-garde architecture and urbanism is addressing this societal demand via a rich panoply of parametric design techniques.

This kind of design is able to increase the information density of the built environment. Employing associative logics correlates the different urban and architectural subsystems in ways that make them representations of each other. In recent years, parametric architecture has, as digital possibilities are explosively increasing, made up ground in the design industry, replacing the traditional architecture which cherishes the purpose of traditional shapes of building.

Therefore, the process can easily result in a number of different spatial solutions by replacing parameters. Parametric architecture finds itself at the mid-point of an ongoing cycle of innovative adaptation – retooling the discipline and adapting the architectural and urban environment to the socio-economic era of information society.

Figure 3a-b. Renzo Piano, Weltstadthaus, Cologne 2003-2005

The parametric design, three-dimensional modelling techniques and rapid-prototyping technologies, four-dimensional animation and simulation protocols, as well as synchronized multimove robotic systems lie at the core of the theorization and manifestation of post digital architectural production – in academia as well as in practice.

Although there is a strong emphasis on geometry, materiality, feasibility and sustainability, what emerges is an explicit agenda promoting material ornamentation, spatial spectacle and formal theatricality. Assuming that architecture is cultural production, it’s talk discusses the intrinsic parametricism or neo-baroqueness of the present-day architectural debate with a critical eye directed at the engagement of technology and emotion on various scales (from micro to macro).

Figure 4a-b-c. Jerde Partnership International, the Golden Terraces, Warsaw, 2000-2007

Parametricism as a phenomenon in the history of architecture has defined many rules for the current designers and for the future practitioners to follow. In the style of parametric architecture, geometry has played and is continuing to play an integral role. Descartes’ geometry and the conventional Euclidean language are rejected.

The old boxes and straight lines Schumacher calls “primitive shapes” and explains why we no longer feel comfortable inside spaces divided into isolated square-shaped compartments, connected by empty corridors and sitting on square-shaped chairs because of an architecture should increase interaction and information exchange, and can no longer insist on physical separation as it did until now.

Figure 5a-b-c. Jurgen Mayer H. Architects, Metropol Parasol, Seville, 2005-2011

The digital design tools based on the NURBS curves and surfaces have released the architects’ imagination from the simply drown curvilinear forms. The new language of non-linear forms, or language called “morphic” is talking about the tough substances and liquids, replaces them. In the realm of architectural form, some professionals, from “signature” architects to environmental and organic designers, are strong advocates of free-flowing curvilinear forms.

They assume that the use of curvilinear forms is sympathetic to the body, mind and spirit, although there is little empirical research to confirm this claim. The new forms have been already visible even in the historical area of cities.

Figure 6a-b-c. John McAslan + Partners, Arup, Western Range King’s Cross Station, London, 2005-2012

Over the last decade of the 20th century, contradictions in form and urban space were represented with the development of complex design. We observed two typically taken paths: conflict/contradiction and unity/reconstruction. For example, Frank O. Gehry using CATIA software designed “Dancing House” (1992-1996) in Prague. This corner building was set on a property of historical significance. Its site was the location of a house destroyed by the U.S. bombing of city in 1945. The plot and structure lay decrepit until 1960 when the area was cleared.

The neighbouring plot was co-owned by family of Václav Havel who spent most of his life there. This very non-traditional design was controversial at the time because the house stood out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings which Prague was famous for, and in the opinion of some, it did not accord well with these architectural styles. “Dancing House” is different, in a dialogue with the existing pre-formed matter it picks the main points of its design to express its own complex opinion.

Figure 7a-b-c. Renzo Piano, The Pathé Foundation, Paris, 2006-2014

At the second decade of 21st century the new shapes and forms are created by IT processes based on the concepts such as the topological space, the surface isomorphic, dynamic and animation systems, parametric design and genetic algorithms. Parametric architecture is the first global style for architecture, urbanism and the design disciplines since the crisis and demise of Modernism 35 years ago.

It has recorded and interpreted the spirit of the times with vivid documentary precision, fostering and often anticipating crucial architectural and theoretical developments. It opened into the new territories for the study of the cognitive form, its tectonics and space, changing the existing axioms design. The new concept of the specialization of architecture is the equivalent of the democratization of the political system, the liberalization of the economy, among other examples.

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