Paths formed by livestock over time are an example of the natural formation of optimised detour path networks.

Paths formed by livestock over time are an example of the natural formation of optimised detour path networks.

Schumachers’ Parametricism – A new global style for Architecture & Urban Design (2008) is an interesting text covering many of the broader topics of Parametricism. It provides the reader with a brief insight into the world of parametricism, it’s history, and it’s real world feasibility & applications.  The initial paragraph deals with the lead up to Parametricism, claiming that it “closes the transitional period of uncertainty that was engendered by the crisis of modernism”. This introduction provides us with an insight as to the role Schumacher envisions for parametricism in the 21st century. He talks of parametricism as the new style, to follow from post-modernism.

Parametricism is the great new style after modernism

From here, Schumacher talks about the benefits afforded by Parametricism in the post-fordism age. The ability to customise every object at the same price of mass production and repetition has lead to a “heterogenous society of the multitude, marked by proliferating life-style and career differentiation.” The following definition of parametric sensibility leaves the reader with an insight as to the fundamentals of parametric design being employed to agglomerate complex features into a uniformed solution.

Aesthetically it is the elegance of ordered complexity and the sense of seamless fluidity.

The various taboos (rigid geometry; simple repition; juxtapositions of unrelated elements or systems) are explored, and compared to the  dogmas of parametricism (malleable forms; differentiation; inflections and correlations). From this comparison we begin to see that Schumacher stresses the point of parametricism being not about spaces themselves, but about the laws surrounding spaces. This is emplified by the tests undertaken by Frei Otto – tests that can be applied to any space and project, with an infinite number of outcomes and solutions. The next topic covered is the relationship between modernist urbanism and parametricism. The comparison made is between Le Corbusier’s  limitation of only seeing order in strict geometry, as opposed to that of Frei Otto, whom sees order in natural complexity through the laws that govern the spacial qualities and forms.

Le Corbusier’s limitation is not his insistence upon order but his limited concept of order in terms of classical geometry. Complexity theory in general, and the research of Frei Otto in particular, have since taught us to recognize, measure and simulate the complex patterns that emerge from processes of self organization.

Schumacher provides numerous examples of Otto’s work, including the Magnet and Polystyrene chip test, and the wool thread model test. The latter test provides us with an brief explanation of optimised detour path networks, one of three fundamental types of  network configuration in Otto’s experiments –

Direct Path Networks; Minimal Path Networks; Minimizing Detour Networks.

From here, we are given an introduction into the laws controlling the relationships in design. Schumacher talks of Relational Fields, and the subsidiary layers creating these fields. The conclusive notion here is that patterns of occupation directly correlate to patterns of connection, and it is the relationship between these two patterns which can define a design. To conclude his text, Schumacher provides us with the case study of a project being developed by his firm, ZHA. The Kartal-Pendick Masterplan, in Turky (2006), is an excellent example of the optimisation of path networks, and the habitation of the space provided by these networks. The seemingly complex masterplan is grounded by deep relationality. ”Ordered complexity here replaces the monotony of older planned developments and the disorienting visual chaos that marks virtually all unregulated contemporary city expansions.” ANALYSIS Schumacher deals well with the idea of Parametricism as a style which governs the laws of object, spacial and network design. He makes a strong comparison between Le Corbusier and Frei Otto, and their very different opinions of order and structure. Firstly Le Corbusier is used an example to the forces against parametricism. However, Schumacher provides us with a limit to this implied ignorance, by quoting Le Corbusier:

Nature presents itself to us a chaos… the spirit which animates nature is a spirit of order.

A major theme explored  is the adaptability of parametric design laws to any project. This theme however is limited in that once a project is constructed, the form cannot be changed, and hence a design must be layed out to accommodate various uses over a projects lifecycle. The use of variations of path networks, and their relationships to the final form, are incredibly important in this text and evidently in Schumacher’s work. Although the text provides us with a strong insight into parametricism, Schumacher attempts to explore and define too many topics in too little space. The result is that the text is very inconsistent in its exploration of the themes, and finally appears to be very broad and lacking of depth.