Marcela Delgado Velasco
Alongside the rise of the interactive Web 2.0, and the growing malleability of truth, the development of parametric design tools emancipated architects from the restricted vocabulary of Modernism, giving voice to formal ambitions that predated these tools. The potential of the machine to be far more than a drawing tool has been harnessed, allowing us to model and execute complex and continuously differentiated relationships at no extra cost.1 The use of parametric tools, now ubiquitous, promotes a certain open-endedness and versioning of design that eludes binary definitions, such as right and wrong.
In her book The Architecture of Error: Matter, Measure, and the Misadventures of Precision, Francesca Hughes argues that redundant precision in our digital design process is fueled by a fear of possible error in a design’s materialization: “The concept sketch is the only drawing that has zero precision and consequently zero margin for error. It is pure form, intention before matter, reserving for itself all priority, because it is matterless… Standing for pure form, it needs no precision.”2
The concept sketch, however, is a relic of past design processes in which too much faith was placed in the eureka moment and the scribble on the back of a cocktail napkin that would later be developed into a building. The use of parametric design tools, in many cases, has replaced the handdrawn concept sketch. They are introduced in the initial conceptual design phase, in which various parameters and forces are put into play. The fear of error that would normally be deferred to later design stages is now creeping in and taking hold of the designer early on.
In comes the design process, taking center stage. As designers, are we asking the right questions? Are we establishing the rules or following rules conceived by someone else? Are we identifying, analyzing and integrating dynamic forces in our design process? Are we aware of and in control of our critical design thinking? Are we formulating intelligent design concepts?
- Antoine Picon, Digital Culture in Architecture: An Introduction for the Design Professions (Basel: Birkhauser, 2010) 60.
- Francesca Hughes, The Architecture of Error. Matter, Measure, and the Misadventures of Precision (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2014) 41.
- Mario Carpo, The Alphabet and the Algorithm (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2011), 114-115.
Marcela Delgado Velasco
School of Architecture
National Autonomous University of Mexico