Anyone who follows me on twitter would know I’m no fan of Parametricism. I don’t really see much point in engaging with the designs or the (read, P Schumacher’s) awesomely facile verbiage on its own terms. Even the arguments opposing it can be infuriating. And no doubt, I’m saying nothing new here. I just need to get it off my chest.
The over-riding dislike – nay, the spasms of disgust the work causes in me – comes from what the plasticity of the work suggests, or to look at it another way, what it does not address. No material is as smooth, nor as jointless, nor able to repel water and not stain, as their glossy renders suggest. This in itself is a cause of annoyance, though it isn’t a charge one should level at parametricism alone – unrealistic visions abound in the industry, whether in overestimating or predetermining the number of people likely to use a space, or the finesse of details (often of glass) that when built, are bulky. On the contrary, we should be thankful such work is often awfully realised, for the triumph of entropy over design.
I just find the work lacking, and lacking at an enormous scale. This is down to a fundamental fight I’d like to have with parametricism, were it a person about my size. There is something obnoxious about the will to connect everything together and conceive that it were all the same stuff, if that were what it is all about. In the parametric worldview everything (EVERYTHING) can be rendered the same, to be reconstituted into new forms that, without fail, look like great wobbly strands of taffy, or phlegm.
I like difference. Among other things, it is real. Schumacher sounds cultish because he talks about things we cannot see, as though they exist just out of sight – Platonic forms pulsating – and influence everything we see: behind all the perceived differences and conflicts is a higher reality of formless, characterless information constantly re-connecting in some higher order. What bollocks. (This is my argument). Because in truth, the parametric only accommodates changes in input up to a point – after which the thing must be converted to working drawings and finally built, at which point it is just another building falling apart.
But at another, more prosaic level, the chief irritant in the parametric is that it achieves so little at such great cost. For my money, you can’t be a great architect if you haven’t built a great building on a modest budget at least once. The best thing about a modest budget is that priorities must be asserted – priorities often banal. For it seems, and I may be wrong, parametricism resists this quotient of the real; it won’t use it, it can’t use it, and as a result, every small ‘paramentric’ thing made for a modest budget must look like a blob assembled from CNCed plywood. How dull.
Schumacher says Parametricism is the style of the 21st century. Isn’t this absurd? Surely, he is announcing a tyranny of style - a sea of information – of different images, of opposing meanings, of conflicting interests – from which all meanings are expunged. That is worrying indeed. Relativising everything, one can build follies for despots, and still claim to be avante-garde.
If Parametricism could accommodate difference- without simulating it, or destroying it, or remaking it – it’d probably look exactly like the world we live in.