A Vision for Parametric Design
by Kevin Rotheroe
For many years, software tools for mechanical engineers and industrial designers have enabled them to with work with computers in ways not available to architects. Using parametric design software, they have been able to quickly manipulate their designs and study many alternative solutions — including those with complex organic shapes — by simply changing the variables, or parameters, defining the geometry of an object or assembly.
Architectural software companies have made significant progress in developing parametric tools for building design, but the tools produced tend to suffer from several limitations. They tend to work with standardized design vocabularies and construction techniques, so they cannot accommodate building designs with complex shapes beyond those directly supported by the software developers.
Architects working "outside the box" may prefer parametric software that not only accommodates any geometry, but permits the designers to circumvent standard toolbars and work directly with the software's underlying geometric functionality in customized, project-specific ways.
Until now, such architects have sought solutions in modeling software intended for other design professions. However, those systems have their own limitations in accommodating the project configuration, workflow, and communication needs of the building design and construction industry. Many of those programs can't handle detailed 3D representations of assemblies as large as buildings. >>>
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The Waterloo International Rail Terminal required a complex series of asymmetrical "banana" trusses. Because they varied in size along the terminals length, they provide a good example for use of parametric design software.
Photo: Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners
RMIT professor Mark Burry has been working on the completion of the Sagrada Familia of Antonio Gaudi. His parametric modeling techniques parallel the one-tenth-size plaster "data base" that Gaudi built.
Image: Mark Burry
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