Benjamin Dillenburger, University of Toronto
Parametric design has become one of the most significant evolutions in architecture, and some of the brightest minds in the field also teach it. Benjamin Dillenburger is one such leader. Last year, he and Michael Hansmeyer created Digital Grotesque, the world’s first 3D-printed human-scale interior, made from grains of sand. When it first appeared in Basel, Switzerland, the oddly Gaudí-esque space, which consists of 260 million tectonic surfaces, went viral on design blogs.
Dillenburger, an ETH Zürich alumnus, has since landed at the University of Toronto, to instruct a second-year master’s class in computer applications, and to supervise postgraduate -theses. “Information technology is evolving at a dramatic pace,” he says, as are the skills needed to keep up. “A deeper knowledge of CAD’s potential allows for precise control,” he adds. “It also allows for more freedom to fabricate.” The takeaway from Dillenburger’s instruction: an “emancipated criticality” toward digital tools that encourages wildly abstract thinking without losing sight of architecture’s rational and humanistic goals.
Another leading figure in algorithmic fabrication is Patrik Schumacher. As director of Zaha Hadid Architects, he has had a hand in some of the firm’s biggest successes, including the recently completed Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. Currently a guest professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, he has also channelled years of experience into the Design Research Lab, a studio-based program he co-founded in 1997 at the Architectural Association School in London, which offers a 16-month post-professional master’s of architecture and urbanism. AADRL’s goal is to push computational design to ever-higher degrees of complexity.
“Parametric design’s importance lies in its unique capacity to combine versatility with complexity,” says Schumacher. In self-organized groups, students pursue year-long projects where they come to see all designed objects and spaces as interactive patterns. They are then tasked to apply their explorations to purpose-built environments, such as campuses for Apple or Google. Schumacher is emphatic that parametric design is where the future lies. “We have to win the argument about the societal importance of parametricism. Its value is often not recognized as an inescapable component of contemporary architecture.”