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Human Essence of Parametrics

As technology continues to advance, architecture inevitably moves toward parametric pattern generators for design. Whether our societal propensity for algorithmic design is valid or simply trendy remains to be seen. However, it is a curious thought to understand why the profession seems to be moving in this direction. Why have patterns always been such a driving force in design strategy?

Josef Albers, City, 1928-1936, Tempera on Masonite. Courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery.

As we approach this new and complex process of generating patterns, it is vital to understand our natural predisposition to using patterns, else it would be pointless to go through the process of learning how to use parametric software. Patterns are something that, as humans, we naturally look for. In a Psychology Today article, “What’s the Pattern?” written by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstien, they state that “People are, in fact, pattern-recognizing and pattern-forming creatures. In order to make sense of the world, we look for repeating qualities in phenomena around us…” They go on to explain that the recognition of patterns causes people to become more curious about the object and increases discovery and experimentation through life. Therefore, generating design through patterns is far more significant than many would assume.

Nanhai Cultural Center, Pei Partnership Architects, in collaboration with Guangzhou HSArchitects, courtesy of

Perhaps Pei Partnership Architects had this idea in mind when designing the competition winning design for the Nanhai Cultural Center, published in Archdaily. The design seems to be highly pattern driven in both form and concept. This concept generates an urban fabric connecting back to the city and its culture, through an algorithmic process articulating all elevations.

Nanhai Cultural Center, Pei Partnership Architects, in collaboration with Guangzhou HSArchitects, courtesy of

When observing the patterns in this design, the clarity of their intentions becomes relatively obvious. Parametrics allow patterns, such as the ones used in this design, to be generated and quickly manipulated to adapt and respond to human responses. In such cases, it becomes obvious why parametrics as pattern generators are becoming popular in the world of Architectural design.