The Challenges of Parametric Design in Architecture Today:Mapping the Design Practice

  • Yasser Zarei

Student thesis: Master of Philosophy


Parametric design is a new approach to architectural design based on the concept ofparameters. It utilises parameters to set relations between design elements in order todefine a range of formal alternatives. In this sense, parametric design provides greatopportunities for architects to engineer the design process more efficiently; yet itsnovelty generates some challenges for architectural practitioners. The aim of thisresearch is to explore the position of parametric design in contemporary architecturalpractices, identifying its advantages and disadvantages in comparison with traditionalcomputer-aided design (CAD). Specifically, the research will compare the theoreticalknowledge and the statements made by theorists and scholars of parametric design tothe statements of practicing architects benefitting from the parametric approach.This aim is achieved through three thematic parts. The first part investigatesthe design process through two points of view, focusing on the notions of 'role' and'driver'. The second part identifies the position of parametric design in practice,specifically focusing on whether it is a style or just a set of techniques. Finally, the thirdpart explores the advantages and disadvantages of parametric design and itsdistinctions in comparison to traditional CAD and Building Information Modelling (BIM).The research uses the qualitative method based on semi-structured interviews withpracticing architects. It also benefits from a two-page questionnaire, which is carriedout to get some detailed and specific data regarding the parametric realm.The outcome of this research shows that, in spite of theoretical statementssuggesting otherwise, parametric design can be undertaken without the use ofcomputer programs. Software packages facilitate the process of design. Furthermore,the interviews conducted with architects in practice show that they believe inparametric design as a set of techniques. They do not recognise the new style'parametricism'.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlbena Yaneva (Supervisor) & Isabelle Doucet (Supervisor)


  • Parametric Design
  • Challenges

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