Parametricism: Style of the 21st Century?

Patrik Schumacher, a partner in the office of Zaha Hadid, and Co-director of London’s A.A. Design Research Lab, has been steadily making a case that “Parametricism” is the most important theoretical position in architecture since modernism.   Espousing many of the same ideas that Thom Mayne talked to us about, Schumacher proposed a Parametricist Manifesto in 2008 that states:

“[Parametric design is] penetrating into all corners of the discipline. Systematic, adaptive variation, continuous differentiation (rather than mere variety), and dynamic, parametric figuration concerns all design tasks from urbanism to the level of tectonic detail, interior furnishings and the world of products… 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 post-fordism. The mass society that was characterized by a single, nearly universal consumption standard has evolved into the heterogenous society of the multitude.  The key issues that avant-garde architecture and urbanism should be addressing can be summarized in the slogan: organising and articulating the increased complexity of post-fordist society. The task is to develop an architectural and urban repertoire that is geared up to create complex, polycentric urban and architectural fields which are densely layered and continuously differentiated.”

This week, he continues his argument in The Architect’s Journal:

“In my Parametricist Manifesto of 2008 I first communicated that a new, profound style has been maturing within the avant-garde segment of architecture during the last 10 years.  The term ‘parametricism’ has since been gathering momentum within architectural discourse and its critical questioning has strengthened it.  So far, knowledge of the new style has remained largely confined within architecture, but I suspect news will spread quickly once it is picked up by the mass media.  Outside architectural circles, ‘style’ is virtually the only category through which architecture is observed and recognized. A named style needs to be put forward in order to stake its claim to act in the name of architecture.”

Parametricism, he claims,  “finally offers a credible, sustainable answer to the drawn-out crisis of modernism that resulted in 25 years of stylistic searching.”

Do you agree?   Can we ignore parametricism?  What are legitimate alternatives to parametric design we ought to be working with?  Why?

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