13: POLITICS OF Parametricism



For in Schumacher the hyper-managerialist, the systems-theorist, and the archi-entrepreneur, we have in pseudo-inverted fashion, the necessary seeds for the kind of thinking, or rather, for the kind of moral beliefs and illogical operations, that allow for something like Trump to awaken and thrust its roots into the soil of society - Manuel Shvartzberg Carrio (1.)

'The politics of Parametricism' is the book form for the eponymous conference: Politics of Parametricism that that took place in REDCAT (Roy & Edna Disney Calarts Theater) in Los Angeles, California in November of 2013. A conference with wonderful intellectuals poising their interrogations intended to rebuke Patrik Schumacher's book and theory: the Autopoiesis of Architecture.
The book opens accordingly having Schumacher's initial essay: "The historical pertinence of parametricism". Patrik, always on the precipice of saying something totalizing, writes a terrifyingly cold text, with a metric imposed by Wittgenstein's tractatus logico-philosophicus, a text that delineates the parametric movement often finding himself and Zaha Hadid Architects conveniently at its epicenter. 
Parametricism in a nutshell, is the use of parametric software (where all geometrical entities on a model are inteconnected and can vary according to parameters) to increase the formal repertoire of whats possible to build and orchestrate spatially, given the new-found potential of computation as a design tool. Not only pretends to be a unifying theory but it is supposed to be biggest movement after Modernism citing clearly: International style, Post-modernism, Deconstructivism and the Metabolists as intermediate 'transitional' styles.

Parametricism entails an unprecedented expansion of architecture's compositional freedom and versatility and an unprecedented leap in architecture's ordering capacity through the deployment of algorithms and associative logics - Patrik Schumacher

One should immediately concede that the ouvre of work coming from the office of Zaha Hadid is is aesthetically formidable, yet the approach of stating a total comprehension of the world's Neo-Liberal dynamics and possessing the appropriate response architects should have to the Post-Fordist patterns strikes simultaneously as naive and arrogant, as Mark Wigley put it best : The main problem is the ideological one, the overtly fascistic dimension of such a totalizing ambition. (2.)
Categorizing methodically architecture as a mere autopoetic (3.) material communicative language of semiotic forms. The writing elicits erroneous conclusions. No, humans are not agent based models and architects are not only capable of organizing space through an algorithmic, associative and digital logic.

Spaces are theorized as framing communications that function as invitation and premises for all interactions that take place within them. - Patrik Schumacher
Thus, the built environment's communicative capacity is enhanced the more the employed architectural order and morphology is designed as a coherent system of signification - Patrik Schumacher

What follows after the initial essay is a concerted and pugnacious reproach with illustrated authors using theory as a weapon to elaborate on their individual views about the fallacies and problematics of Parametricism. Explaining eloquently the political spectrum that contemporary architecture must react to, from the classic ideas and discussions of Fordism, Post-Fordism, Taylorism, global capitalism and the network society, as well as exciting younger theories such as the Accelerationist manifesto, Feminism and  Italian Operaismo, passing by the more frequently used Foucalt's politics of use, Jaques Ranciere philosophy, Jean-Francois Lyotard´s post-modern writings and Gilles Deleuze and Guattari´s social theories.

Political content does not reside in architectural form. It is merely grafted onto it by a process that is strictly allegorical - Neil Leach
The liberty of men is never assured by the institutions and laws that are intended to guarantee them - Neil Leach

This book stands firmly as a collection of oppositional views and well-meaning articulated breakdowns. Some of its authors, like Neil Leach go as far as to express dismissive provocations: architecture is neither political nor digital (surprising position if one follows the title of the book), others like Teddy Cruz expose brilliantly the overt alignment of Parametricism with neoliberalism and the free market, and the dire consequences of an apolitical and immoral architecture of beautification. 

This is probably the main complaint I have about this seemingly new-avant-garde architectural agenda today: its overt indifference to the societal and urban conflicts that could in fact be the critical content to investigate and deploy new architectural parameters that can problematize the politics of aesthetics and close the gap between social responsibility and artistic experimentation - a fundamental tenet of the historic avant-garde - Teddy Cruz

For this reason, I consider Parametricism the official architectural face-lift of neoliberalism, as it unifies and materializes the universalist consensus politics of neoliberal global capital, into an apolitical formalist project of beautification, whose relentless homogeneity hides any vestige of difference, and the conflicts that are at the basis of today's urban crisis. Teddy Cruz

In essence, parametricism's focus on material systems in such self-referential ways today amounts to yet another of those a-historical moments when the pendulum of architectural ideology shamelessly tilts to the narcissism of an aesthetics-for-aesthetics-sake agenda at the expense of a mutating world around it. Teddy Cruz

Others, like Christina Cogdell take on the misinterpretation by contemporary practices that pretend to understand evolutionary principles as particularly damaging, and some others, like Benjamin H. Bratton write a high-level ridiculing, defining conclusively parametricism as a contradictory and self-defeating point of departure. 

In the ensuing decades, theories of self-organizing complex systems and evolutionary computation have become the foundation for evolutionary economics and neoliberal globalization. Today's iconic structures of parametricist architecture are not publicly accessible affordable structures but instead are those that predominantly exist within privatized contexts of neoliberal economic development, owing to the high costs of engineering and constructing morphologically complex "starchitecture" - Christina Cogdell

indeed the very idea of style in design is becoming anachronistic, because the final shape, form and function of designed materials is determined by and contingent upon the dynamic parameters of the information flows that both inform and form the design process. Matthew Poole 

1. Complexity and contradiction in infrastructure on schumacher-trump hegemony

2. autopoiesis, A term coined by Humberto Maturana signifying a system that is self-generated and self-sufficient

3. COLON publication, Volume 2:Belief, Issue 4


the politics of parametricism

matthew poole, manuel shvartzberg

bloomsbury publishing

ISBN 9781472581662