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Parametricism is a style within contemporary avant-garde architecture. Its influence has been spreading globally in recent years and the style now addresses all scales and disciplines of the built environment, including urban design, architectural design, interior design, and furniture design. Its impact is now also witnessed in product design and fashion design. Parametricism implies that all elements of the design become parametrically variable and mutually adaptive. "Its most conspicuous outward characteristic is a complex and dynamic curvilinearity accentuated by a swarm-like proliferation of continuously differentiated components. Beyond such obvious surface features one can identify a series of new concepts and methods that are so different from the repertoire of both traditional and modern architecture that one is justified in speaking of the emergence of a new paradigm within architecture. The shared concepts, formal repertoires, tectonic logics and computational techniques that characterize this work are indeed engendering the formation of a new style."[1]

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.[2] "The work of Frei Otto is the only true precursor of Parametricism. He used physical processes as simulaitons 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, rigour and elegance that was otherwise unattainable. The power and beauty of this approach was striking."[3]

Early instances of proto-Parametricism, as manifest through the prolific generation of innovative designs and radical experiments within the transitional styles of Deconstructivism and Folding[disambiguation needed] - including the work of the discipline’s discourse leaders such as Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Wolf D. Prix, Bernard Tschumi, and Daniel Libeskind[4] - were later radicalized by younger practitioners who matured in the context of these early practices, and stabilized the discipline around prolonged research programmes thriving on emerging digital technologies, and culminating in the emergence of Parametricism.

Parametricism co-evolved with the global shift from the Modernist era of Fordism (mass production) to the Post-Fordist era (mass customization) of contemporary global society, and continues to evolve in an increasingly complex and fluid network of global societal communication systems. Parametricism offers advantages over styles that cannot (because they were never intended to) resonate and respond to the complexity and rapid fluidity of today’s society. Despite the persistence of styles such as modernism, minimalism, postmodernism, historicism and deconstructivism, a hard core of continuous innovation in research and building has stabilized around the new heuristics of Parametricism, and is continuing to proliferate the new style in academic and practice domains worldwide.


Parametricism offers functional and formal heuristics based on set of general abstract rules distilled from a very complex ecosystem of sustained avant-garde design research that spans over twenty five years of continuous innovative communication. Parametricism achieves elegance in both senses of the word – it is unified (compact) and beautiful (vital).

Functional heuristics[edit]

Negative principles:

  • avoid functional stereotypes
  • avoid segregative functional zoning

Positive principles:

  • all functions are parametric activity/event scenarios
  • all spaces/activities/events communicate with each other

Formal heuristics[edit]

Negative principles:

  • avoid rigid forms (lack of malleability)
  • avoid simple repetition (lack of variety)
  • avoid collage of isolated, unrelated elements (lack of order)

Positive principles:

  • all forms must be soft (intelligent deformation=information)
  • all systems must be differentiated (gradients, thresholds, singularities)
  • all systems must be interdependent (correlations)[5]


Parametricism is a global architectural style that has converged rather than being invented. Parametricism is architecture's answer to our computationally powered network society, representing a paradigmatic shift in architecture after the collapse of the hegemonic style of Modernism, in response to the global shift from the Modernist era of Fordism (mass production) to the Post-Fordist era (mass customization). The style continues to evolve in an increasingly complex and fluid network of global communications. Parametricism evolves with the advancing computational design and fabrication technologies. e.g. multi-agent computational systems, genetic algorithms and robotic fabrication. However, it is imperative to state that the emergence of a new style does not occur solely as the outcome of innovation in the technological arena. "The intelligence that is able to invent and think through such correlations is prior to its computational implementation. And, to a limited extend there can be "computation without computers".[6] Despite the radical paradigmatic shift that Parametricism achieved in architecture, older styles of architecture continue to persist in the mainstream. However, it is the implicit (and in some cases explicit) aim of those working within the style of Parametricism to conquer the mainstream arena and see Parametricism evolve into a global best practice standard for architecture and the design disciplines.


  1. ^ 1. Schumacher, Patrik, Parametricism - The Parametric Paradigm and the Formation of a New Style.
  2. ^ 2. Lynn, Greg. "CCA - Archeology of the Digital."
  3. ^ 3.Schumacher, Patrik. "11. Parametricism - The Parametric Paradigm and the Formation of a New Style." p.619
  4. ^ 4.Johnson, Phillip. "Deconstructivist Architecture - Museum of Modern Art - Fact Sheet."
  5. ^ 6. Schumacher, Patrik. "11. Parametricism - The Parametric Paradigm and the Formation of a New Style." p.657
  6. ^ 7. (ref missing)
  • 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.

External links[edit]