Rhea| (/ˈriː.ə/; ancient Greek Ῥέα) was the Titaness daughter of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth, in Greek mythology. She was known as "the mother of gods."
Parametricism | 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.
“The new style poses many new, systematically connected design problems that are being worked on competitively within a global network of design researchers.” - Patrik Schumacher
This random quote from Schumacher is taken from a sort of “parametric manifesto” that was taken from an interview with the architect. Schumacher is possibly the strongest voice, right now, in the new era of architecture. His ideas for the manifestation of architecture lie in a data driven and ever connected system of architecture. He consistently argues this new era in design is a new “style” in the same way we have described post-modernism, modernism, classical, neo-classical, baroque, gothic etc. What does he really mean by this? and where did it all come from?
If we take a step back to the last post in this series, I claimed that Zaha Hadid (Patrik Schumacher is her partner at ZHD) was in fact a Deconstructivist. Her original designs feature a large fragmented style of disconnect, near, misses, collisions, just like the rest of the architects of the time. But even in her early work, there is something different and strange. I think that maybe her inclusion in the Decon family is actually a fallacy. Yes her style matched that of Morphosis and Coop etc, and yes she is a baby Rem, but in fact her previous and first work is always in a slightly different and unfamiliar approach. This difference leads to the beginning of the digital project and the eventual death of Deconstructivism.
We start with Zaha’s transformation from angle to curve. Now, she begun her career with a much similar approach to decon. The Peak Hotel and Vitra Fire Station are both signifiers of this original train of thought. Angular Zaha was inspired by the Supremism techniques in art but this was short lived. In her art and designs, there was always a flow, always a system of elements that had directionality. Lets put it this way: if modernism was a straight line, always going from point A to point B in the shortest way possible, then post-modernism was a zig-zag line, confusing and disorienting, and maybe not even ending in a predefined location. Zaha took those zig-zag lines and collected them into systems and streams of movement and eventually smoothed those streams into 3 degree curves trying to get back to that simple modernist line.
Philosophically the reason behind this is Gilles Deleuze, but the fact of the matter is that the computer was the true thing influencing architecture and life in a way that took all information and linked it together. This move to the digital made the style revolution of Deconstructivism too easy to achieve. The complexity of decon began as an interesting take on semiotics and a breakdown of elements but ended as a confluence and exuberance of material and form. What was happening was the reproduction of the aesthetic of decon was beginning to become more important than its philosophical stance. It became too aesthetic in a way and now had lost its meaning in the architecture world. In my mind once a movement in architecture (philosophical, political, etc.) becomes a style, it is now purely aesthetic and can be pronounced dead. The meaning behind that aesthetic is lost, and the original train of thought is gone and becomes repetitive. But this is just the beginning.
The computer brought on a new concept: Mass data. Before the computer, all calculations had to be done on paper and in your mind. Now you can simply draw something in the digital space, and mathematically, the computer figures it out. The power of the computer exploded and gave every designer and architect the power to create the most complex and incredible structures with extreme ease. The words loft, extrude, curve, sweep, fillet, smooth, all became added to our language. Architects such as Zaha Hadid, Ben van Berkel, and Greg Lynn all started this movement but plenty of Deconstructivist architects joined in, such as Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry, and Wolf Prix.
So looking back to Zaha, why did she turn to the curve? Why this new look at architecture, this new “style”? Because of flows, the internet, the computer, the insane connectivity that is the world today. Here we see the influence of society back into architecture and if we then connect that back into philosophy, we see the influence in the work of Gilles Deleuze. The idea of a part to whole relationships relying solely on the ebbs and flows of the world. The idea that all of the elements that make up this world are connected, and we need to judge them based on their relationship to one another through difference and similarities. The digital realm killed the post-modern thought and placed it right back into the modernist machine. But this time, the machine was huge, enormous, ever powerful, breathing, pulsing and seemed to be invincible. This new movement of Parametricism in architecture is basically a huge brain, a large connected mass where the evaluation of elements is held in their relationship to the whole. Parametricism is data driven as a mass collection of ideas, forms, objects, etc. and indeed has become a new style. Which is meant to be a positive thing when Schumacher says it, but when I am saying it, I mean it as a negative.
So if we take a step back and organize this mess of thoughts, we begin to understand how we got to today. Architecture movements are dead when they become styles. This is because of the major repetition and aestheticizing of the architecture instead of evaluating architecture based on original philosophies and ideas. Parametricism is created by letting the computer mathematically create for you without any thought. Mathematics are applied and used to create everything in the architecture world, but with Parametricism, the computer creates and solves equations for you. This first destroys Deconstructivism by making the focus of the movement aesthetic and thus creating a style. Then the parametric revolution begins at the hands of architects such as Zaha Hadid, Ben van Berkel, and Greg Lynn. And with Patrik Schumacher beginning to stylize the revolution through mass repetition, he has now divorced the movement from its roots with Gilles Deleuze and begun a new style.
So what is next? Where do we go from here? Can we begin to predict and push forward ideas of architecture into the future? I believe that the key to unlocking the next big thing in architecture is to analyze the current world. What are the key ingredients that make up today’s society? Where are the newest and brightest people gathering? What inventions are revolutionizing the way we think and act?
These are questions that need to asked in order to understand where to go next.