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Parametricism is a style within contemporary avant-garde architecture, promoted as a successor to post-modern architecture and modern architecture. The term was coined in 2008 by Patrik Schumacher, an architectural partner of Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). Parametricism has its origin in parametric design, which is based on the constraints in a parametric equation. Parametricism relies on programs, algorithms, and computers to manipulate equations for design purposes.

Aspects of parametricism have been used in urban design, architectural design, interior design and furniture design. Proponents of parametricism have declared that one of the defining features is that "Parametricism implies that all elements of the design become parametrically variable and mutually adaptive." According to Schumacher, parametricism is an autopoiesis, or a self-referential system, in which all the elements are interlinked and an outside influence that changes one alters all the others."

Parametricism rejects both homogenization (serial repetition) and pure difference (agglomeration of unrelated elements) in favor of differentiation and correlation as key compositional values. The aim is to build up more spatial complexity while maintaining legibility, i.e. to intensify relations between spaces (or elements of a composition) and to adapt to contexts in ways that establish legible connections. This allows architecture to translate the complexity of contemporary life processes in the global Post-Fordist network society.

Parametricism emerged as a theory-driven avant-garde design movement in the early 1990s, with its earliest practitioners - Greg Lynn, Jesse Reiser, Lars Spuybroek, Kas Oosterhuis among many others – harnessing and adapting the then new digital animation software and other advanced computational processes that had been introduced within architecture much earlier by pioneers like John Frazer and Paul Coates, but that only spread to make an impact within avant-garde architecture in the last 10–15 years. Schumaker has said that he believes the work of Frei Otto (1925 - 2015) is a precursor of Parametricism, as Frei "used physical processes as simulations and design engines to 'find' form rather than to draw conventional or invented forms. The inherent lawfulness of the engaged physical processes produced a combination of complexity, rigor and elegance that was otherwise unattainable. The power and beauty of this approach was striking."

  • Schumacher, Patrik. "11. Parametricism - The Parametric Paradigm and the Formation of a New Style." In The Autopoiesis of Architecture, Volume II A New Agenda for Architecture. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
  • Lynn, Greg. "CCA - Archeology of the Digital." CCA RSS. Accessed April 13, 2015.
  • Parametricism - A New Global Style for Architecture and Urban Design. Patrik Schumacher, London 2008. Published in: AD Architectural Design - Digital Cities, Vol 79, No 4, July/August 2009, guest editor: Neil Leach, general editor: Helen Castle.
  • Lynn, Greg. "Animate Form." 1999. Accessed April 13, 2015.


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