Parametricist Manifesto / Patrik Schumacher

Zaha Hadid Alpenzoo Station

We have seen a growing interest in parametric design as it offers a new approach to architecture based on  advanced computational design techniques.   As parametricism becomes a tool more designers are turning toward, is this method beginning to define the style of our time?  In an effort to identify our architectural style to allow it to be recognized, , a partner at Zaha Hadid, has communicated his beliefs in his . “As a style, parametricism is marked by its aims, ambitions, methodological principles, and evaluative criteria, as well as by its characteristic formal repertoire.”

More about the manifesto after the break.

While some disagree with the notion of categorizing work to fit into a style, Schumacher calls for a conceptual reconstruction, meaning that we must disregard style as a matter of appearance, and move to understand style as “a design research program conceived in the way that paradigms frame scientific research programs.”

“Although aesthetic appearance matters enormously in architecture and design, neither architecture as a whole nor its styles can be reduced to mere matters of appearance…The new style poses many new, systematically connected design problems that are being worked on competitively within a global network of design researchers. Over and above aesthetic comparability, it is this widespread, long-term consistency of shared design ambitions and problems that justifies declaring a style in the sense of an epochal phenomenon,” explains Schumacher.

Schumacher points out that the architecture of today is more of a world architecture, where every work is quickly compared or contrasted to other projects.  We experience this constantly as we compare a project to something another firm would have created and argue over which was more successful.  Schumacher explains that this “merely implies a consistency of principles, ambitions, and values to build upon so that different efforts compete constructively with each other and can establish the conditions for cumulative progress rather than pursue contradictory efforts.”

What is exciting about this new style is that parametricism offers a flexible set of components to manipulate, which leads to an infinite amount of variation.  While in the past, there was a strong allegiance for rigid geometrical figures, now, a conceptual definition of parametricism shows that “the new primitives are animate, dynamic, and interactive entities—splines, nurbs, and subdivs—that act as building blocks for dynamic systems.”

“Parametricism is ready to go mainstream. The style war has begun,” concludes Schumacher.

As seen on The Architect’s Newspaper

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "Parametricist Manifesto / Patrik Schumacher" 16 Jun 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • rodger

    this guys manifesto gives this new development in architecture a bad name.
    its more notable for its dogmatic writing style and for what it forgets to mention about architecture than being a compelling reasons to adopt this new software.
    personally, i love where this new technology is taking us however,
    dynamic form manipulation doesn’t make dynamic architecture, as schumacher would like to proclaim, dynamic space makes dynamic architecture and this is a way more sophisticated a concept than graphic manipulation of forms so commonly seen in the works of people embracing this software.
    Please, no more press for this guy.

    • ping

      you seem to be implying that dynamic forms don’t represent dynamic architecture, but a dynamic space and space planning will, regardless of the form, altho it will only be apparent and visible upon looking at the floor plans.

      a ‘dynamic’ space planning of ‘dynamic spaces’ will, more often than not, arrive at ‘dynamic forms’, which is really the skin covering the building’s functional interiors, which describes the functioning of the building as per.

      in reality, arent ‘dynamic forms’ really ‘dynamic spaces’?
      arent the spaces that were enveloped by these ‘dynamic form/skin’ potentially ‘dynamic’? or ultimately, what is your definition of ‘dynamicism’?

      parametricism allows for better simulation of forms, allows for easier tweaking of parameters to streamline, exagerate and even exploit possibilities, while at the same time maintain that certain constraints/requirements be met.

      it is true that this is graphic manipulation, but whats at the core of the principles that go into the design, will be the guiding forces of the manipulation. this is graphic manipulation for the BEST effect of the intended design.

      • nofutureachitects

        you imply that dynamic form/space=continuous and smooth variation of form/space which is not true if you check Mies (courtyard houses) Loos’s raumplans, Scharoun, Corb’s villas.
        besides the parameters involved are sometimes discreet (one ceiling height for one activity, one type of filter for one direction) sometimes continuous ( wind/water constraints -”streamline”!).
        So you can’t just decide there’s just one set of geometry to go with everything.
        in the end parametricism is just associanting constraints with dimensional, material and geometric features – also known as design.
        this parametricism thing still lacks a good architect to prove everybody wrong.

      • ping

        i never said CONTINUOUS n SMOOTH VARIATION of SPACES is dynamic.
        “dynamic” the origin of the word is from greek, dynamikos – powerful.

        in contemporary language, it has come to mean probably something like this: powerful, with the ability, or apparent ability to change with relation to time.

        time – what time? the (duration of) transition between 2 different locations, the start, the progress and the end of which will offer u “changing” views of the building.

        it need not be continuous, it need not be smooth. it needs to be powerful, maybe sudden, maybe emotional. then, it is dynamic.

        powerful? the ability to influence one’s mindset and/or emotion (or to simply inspire, in lesser terms).

        i did not mean to imply what u thought i had implied.

        i am saying that, more often than not, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, when u plan spaces within a building, with powerful spatial effects intended, or powerful transitions between spaces intended, u tend to have a building skin that encloses, envelopes, contains, forms, perpetuates, enhances, and even shows off the intended dynamism of the interior spaces.

        adolf loos, mies van der rohe, le corbusier and hans scharoun – these are great architects from a great era in the transition between the classicism of old to the contemporary era that we now live in.
        and so yes, they lived in the past. they started, and in a way influenced and led to what we now have.
        their buildings: our revered n much-loved(sometimes loathed) relics of the modernism n po-mo era.
        their theories: inspired and became the basis for newer theories/theses and anti-theses.
        their treatise: now a much studied literature, and those points now irrelevant was thrown rite out the window. those ideas that remained, had been refined and carried out to fruition, and then those ideas spawned scores more theses n anti-theses.
        their names: a common noun among architects.

        well look at their work. are their works not the best examples of what i mentioned?

        dynamic form/space DOES NOT EQUAL continuous n smooth variation of form/space.
        dynamic forms: they COULD, more often than not, imply the nature of spaces contained within a ‘dynamic’ form.

        “We pursue the parametric design paradigm all the way, 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.” -taken from

        i am not deciding to do stuff with JUST one set of geometry. i never did, did i? “just nurbs?”

        NURBS – Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines, are mathematical representations of 3-D geometry that can accurately describe any shape from a simple 2-D line, circle, arc, or curve to the most complex 3-D organic free-form surface or solid. Because of their flexibility and accuracy, NURBS models can be used in any process from illustration and animation to manufacturing.

        i didnt say nothing bout “JUST NURBS”. nor did the extract from parametricism. in reality, a cube is, in effect, just a very rigid looking, very specific, very regularly shaped “nurb object” add in points on to the cube, with which u can manipulate its shape/form, then it is a “nurb object” as we know it. add in dimensional data, material properties, etc, u get a parametric object – the basis of BIM.

        with BIM systems u can add in more detail, but simplify the process at the same time, so to better simulate a project from start till end. parametricism – aids in fabrication of ur individual components, despite its customized, irregular, “difficult” nature, especially when coupled with CAM software. gehry’s bilbao is one such example. kieran & timberlake’s loblolly house is another such example.
        when we mention “strealine” in the context of parametricism, it is usually not to the form but to the process: the design, planning, acquisition, production, logistics, pre-assembly, assembly, construction, management, disassembly etc etc.

        ps. when u chose mies as ur example. pls bear in mind that mies, while intending to create some spatial quality with his projects, chose to be “good, not exciting” hence it is understandable that he didn’t come up with dramatic forms which we all see very often nowadays. so mies van der rohe: spatially dynamic? u tell me. appearance? elegant, but not dramatic.

  • Florian Schwegel

    unflexible, rigid, scultural, still difficult and expensive to built, unfamiliar – so appearance not appealing to a wide public;
    form follows function, might be an unpopular verdict nowadays, but was a great leap to a scientific architecture.
    parametric design might be good for creating a new form of interior design. I don’t like this whole landscape approche to architecture (especially upside down on the ceiling). In my opinion most people doing this stuff are stuck to theire computer.

    Nevertheless, i suppose Zahas forms are really something like sientific since she studied mathematics and she is a genius handling non-Euclidean geometry. I just don’t think that parametric design solves any problems in modern architecture but creating loads.

  • jp

    “Parametricism is ready to go mainstream. The style war has begun,”

    Let’s design funky “parametric” forms just because it looks cool! Um, no. Architecture shouldn’t be about style, and it shouldn’t be about any type of “world architecture.” It should be about site, space, context, function, program, etc. I believe the greatest architects design spaces, not forms. It would be a shame to live in a future where everything built looks the same.

  • rupalauste

    In the practice, I’ve seen those guys going out of mind while trying to do a shape generated by parametric design, just to satisfy their idea of “estetic”. no benefit in economical, social, architectural terms. and expecially no benefit in the world of “permaculture” “sustainability” “enviromental friendly”, while they often try to justify their “parametric” work in the name of a better “sustainability”. Most of the time this is just a pretext.
    By the way I prefer much more parametricism when it is applyied to “urban design” it works really good when you need to manipulate territorial data

  • james

    ‘parametricism’ or whatever he calls it is a total cop out. computer programers with limited design capability themselves get their computers to do it for them.

    the solution, ignore it and it will go away like every other fad.

  • comitant

    In today’s version, Parametricism, as Schumacher calls it, is nothing more than a luxury of being sculptural. Parametricism is nothing without the translating help of a computer. It isn’t about efficient fabrication or the manipulation of design elements but just a better translation of imagined shape into real matter.

    Consider how many custom wooden forms had to be cut to make the undulating concrete of the Rolex Center (thousands). Consider how many custom glu-lams had to be made for I.M. PEI’s ‘chinese hat’ mediatheque. Consider how much custom steel had to be cut and welded to form up Ghery’s Experience Music Project. These are not parametric projects but sculptural ones.

    Parametricism isn’t a material discipline but a sculptural art, which requires a computer for translations, high-end engineering, and expensive material processes. The thought process is top-down, where the shape is manipulated, finalized with a program, and sent off to the black box gods, aka the fabricators. Mr. Schumacher is fishing for a coining in the history books, but it ain’t gonna happen.

    True Parametricism happened 700 years ago with Gothic, and nothing has come close since.

  • eric

    Maya is not parametric

    • jp

      actually, maya’s history and instancing tools are parametric.

      • sivad bop

        And here’s the problem. Especially at PennDesign. People shout about the parametric future, and all they actually do is use blend-shape and subdivs in maya, while pressing “3″. It’s really easy, really simple, and they get to fake having really complex buildings. More than once I have overheard “make it look like a lobster.”

        Meanwhile those of us who are ACTUALLY parametric–using grasshopper to import Excel data, or analog inputs from sensors on the fly, or actually generating form from environmental factors, are overlooked because we don’t have exploding metallic blob renderings to gawk at. It is so stupid and I cannot wait to get away from these idiots.

  • Nicholas Patten

    Parametricist Manifesto.

  • WPstudios

    RT @nicholaspatten Parametricist Manifesto.

  • archi

    “Parametricism” is as useless as the rhetoric employed to justify it.

  • oqd

    we all agree

  • d

    Parametrics are an outstanding tool. Style is besides the point. Expression is not. We will start to see architects with ethics as well as talent adopting these tools, your minds will change. And these tools are phenomenal – Patrik is incidental. The problem with AADRL is a lack of political engagement with problems. The problem is not the facility with computers.

  • billy toast

    Lost up his own parametric morphosis

    Is the environment not current the driving aesthetic?

    • ping

      environment is a responsibility, which shud not be a driving force, but one concern that s embedded into our subconscious as architects and designers.
      aesthetics is an expression, a language described thru visual repertoire to stimulate and to inspire.
      both will go hand-0in-hand, but will not impede the other’s operation. if there is conflict between the 2, the scheme is not good enough, needs revision. if the conflict is not solved, or failed to be solved, then it is the lack of commitment by the designer.

  • san

    Most of the commentators above don´t seem to understand what parametricism is about. Above all it´s not about a certain aestehtic, software or the use of computers as a design tool in general. However it remains a fact that this kind of architecture produces complexity (in terms of geometry) which can only be dealt with by the assistance of computers and scripting.
    But this is just the tools employed and not the main idea – as modernism wasn´t about the pen architects used to draw plans with (the tool used at that time) but about the underlying theory (compare le corbusier´s 5 points in architecture or CIAM).
    Schumacher even points out that parametricism is not about parametric software. According to him there is a difference between parametrics (software/ tools like revit) and parametricism (theory).Above all parametricism means the shift from rigid geometries to soft elements which are linked associatively. The famous german philosopher Peter Sloterdijk spoke of this as the architecture of foam or soapbubbles: all elements are interlinked and behave according to a given set of rules. In opposite to what some of the commentators above fear I would claim that parametricism is a highly scientific approach to architecture which enables the designer to develop performative systems which are interlinked and are able to adapt through exchange with the environment to deal with the urban context, solar energy, wind, infrastructure etc.

    • archi

      In that case, the quote in the story above: “Parametricism is ready to go mainstream. The style war has begun,” would suggest that Schumacher doesn’t seem to understand what it’s about either.

    • ping

      yes, agreed.

      ppl shud really read n UNDERSTAND n COMPREHEND the article and the man’s intention before posting comments. a powerful tool will change the result of things, but the underlying ideas that drive the architecture and the design will ultimately be in control of the tool, powerful or archaic.
      forms may or may not imply transcendence, but the ideas, the stories behind the built form will continue to be a testament and a story teller of the process from which it was conceived and ultimately built upon.
      having a powerful tool in our arsenal will help by quickening the processes, predicting outcomes and SIMPLIFYING COMPLEXITIES rather than making things more complicated and troublesome.
      with cad/cam softwares capable of streamlining the design, fabrication, construction, management and running of a building/project, grand cathedrals of old would take significantly less time to build, with FAR lesser casualty and probably even less wastages of material than those from the past.
      parametricism opens up better, wider, wilder possibilities for designers, allowing us to explore the various approaches with which to undertake to best complete a project. that was the main idea of this article.

  • ASphere

    why all parametricism architects not design thier own house with thier parametric things??

  • noway

    Parametricism reached its height 700 years ago with Gothic.

    Mr. Schumacher’s ‘parametricism’ is a circular discussion about how architects started using the tools for Toy Story and a Boeing 777.

  • nofutureachitects

    OK for the broad parametric apporach but:
    “the new primitives are animate, dynamic, and interactive entities—splines, nurbs, and subdivs”. So dynamic constraints equals continuous constraints… to which I can’t agree.

    There’s a threshold where a surface you can sit on is not good for sitting anymore. You can or you cant’t walk on something etc.
    So you are more often dealing with discreet constraints than with continuously smooth ones.

    By all means: deciding whether there is threshold or not IS architecture. Deciding beforehand never to have a threshold IS NOT.
    This looks pretty much like marketed streamline revival.

    • Packe

      I agree with you. I think Shumacher just wants to add a pseudo-philosophical apologetic for using subdivisins surfaces as a main modeling tool. So he can proclaim the their continuous forms are somehow superior to whats been done before.

  • Packe

    The problem with the whole “parametricism” of Mr. Shumacher is that he wants to proclaim it a style bu itself- and so he can be a guru of that “brave new” wave in architecture. I find it absurd, because, it should be just another tool for us architects to use it if we need it.
    Shumacher is more concerned on the parametricism of FORMS, and not the benefits it culd give us by reducing building costs, using parametrics for optimisation; for example, sun panels around the sustainable house, or any need that will not over-complicate the form itslef. There are people that do not want to live in an abstract geometrical shape of a house, – in a spectacle architecture for the sake of spectacle.
    Just look at all Zaha’s latest work, for her, the same nurbs-y looking object can be fire station, children’s hospital, bus station or a museum. It’s preposterous.
    I think the main motiv behing Shumacher is that he want to go down in the history as the originator of something new, and not just Zaha’s right arm – not to mention delivering a huge profits for companies like McNeel, Autodesk (Maya and Mel), Next Limit, Gehry’s tehnologies, BEntley’s generative components….etc…

    • ping

      are u saying that the same nurbs-y looking object CAN’T be a fire station, a children’s hospital, a bus station or a museum??

      • nofuturearchitects

        of course it SOMETIMES can. The parametric argument pretends that it ALWAYS can. But when you buid with that belief chances are that SOMETIMES the result is useless complication and decorum.
        The problem is not the nurb, nor the tool, but the thinking behind. Believing that a powerful tool + a determined set of geometry has all the good answers is naive.
        Now you have naive (and rather more sophisticated) beliefs that gave good architecture (modern, post podern, hi-tech whatever). I beleieve that was thanks to the architects, not to the style.
        Parametricsm lacks good architects to last (I’m sorry but I feel Zaha falls short of it and UN Studio could have done better)

      • ping

        now then. what is nurbs?

        NURBS – Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines, are mathematical representations of 3-D geometry that can accurately describe any shape from a simple 2-D line, circle, arc, or curve to the most complex 3-D organic free-form surface or solid. Because of their flexibility and accuracy, NURBS models can be used in any process from illustration and animation to manufacturing. -definition taken from rhino.

        so, this way, a CUBE is basically a NURBS object, isnt it? just that the way its defined results in a rigid-looking object, regularly-shaped object. is that not right?

        are you saying that no thinking was going on in the minds of the architects?? of the designers? of the person using the tools? thats a very unfair assumption. it wasnt a determined set of geometry. it is one system of geometry that can define any shape, any form efficiently, even in yrs to come. the answer is always in urself, in the architect. the computer dont tell u that its right. when u control the tool, when u experiment with it. is it not u deciding how it will end up looking? is that not thinking? and who are u to judge the quality of these ppl’s thinking? from what little i can tell, u seem to be launching ur debate from a very narrow street.

  • Adam

    I have a written a response to Schumacher’s article on my blog:

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  • sam

    any meaningful gain from parametric process is independent of schumachers great new “style” based on exciting and dynamic “splines, nurbs, and subdivs”. Starts off good and well intentioned with the methodological principles and evaluative process; however a successfull project based on a parametric process could be a great box just as well as a great still expensive to build blob.

    The crazed talk of a new style the world over starts to sound like those modernist international style fanatics like philip johnson who eventually ended up pasting colonial cabinetry on skyscrapers along with the rest of them.

    • ping

      it is a streamlining of the processes. to be able to predict, and in turn, gain more control of the projects construction etc. splines n NURBS are the same items actually. just that one is more complex than the other.

      and remember this (which i’m sure none of us here are unaware of) : our ordinary cure, our cuboids, our cylinders, are also nurbs object. its just the way we define it, the format we use to describe it in our computer programs.

  • thomas

    Parametricism, and Hadid, will only be a shall footnote in a history of architecture. His arrogance is short lived, I don’t see a future in this, only a momentary lapse in style that is discovering itself.

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