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  • 20 Revolutionary Parametric Architecture Projects Shaping Urban Landscapes

    Parametric Architecture is becoming a common term in the world of architects, which explores concepts that can be designed and simulated through algorithms. These digital tools are game-changing and are being used to build landmark projects. It has allowed designers to rethink their approach and allow free-flowing and organic forms. The parametric architecture enables the imagination of the architect to not be limited to the challenges posed on the site and allows them to step out of the conventional techniques that are time-consuming and complex. 

    “As a style, parametricism is marked by its aims, ambitions, methodological principles, and evaluative criteria, as well as by its characteristic formal repertoire.” – Patrik Schumacker

    The term parametric architecture or parametricism was first coined by architect Patrik Schumacker in his book “Parametric Manifesto”, who is considered the Father of Parametric Architecture.

    Parametric Architecture can find solutions to several urban issues and can further aid sustainable development rather than pure aesthetics. It increases the urban footprint and cultivates tourism in the city. From large urban redevelopment to adaptive reuse and site-restricted residences, parametric architecture is adaptable to a wide range of scales, which is worth exploring.

    1. The Sage Gateshead | UK | Foster + Partners

    Norman Foster’s Sage Gateshead, an iconic regional music centre, was part of an ambitious urban regeneration project alongside the River Tyne to utilise its frontage.

    The need arose from the slum development in the mediaeval, Georgian, and Victorian streets of Gateshead. Notoriously known as the “Secret Streets”, the waste-piled riverfront was causing health hazards, thus making the intervention a necessity. The slum clearance from the 1930s to the 1950s provided a bare canvas for urban waterfront development.

    The armadillo-shaped steel grid shell encompassing the building is a reflection of the arched Tyne Bridge. The parametric-aided design allows for redirecting the prevalent wind aerodynamically into the building. The roof is independent of the form and supported by just four steel arches, hovering over three isolated auditoriums promoting folk, jazz, and blues performances.

    Over time, the Sage Gateshead became an “urban living room”, attracting half a million visitors each year and becoming the city’s most popular social space. Standing alongside the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, it filled the gap for music venues in the region.

    2. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminus 2| India | Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    The second terminus of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai is the finest instance of parametric architecture utilised in response to the existing site constraints. Even though it is the second-largest city in the world, one-tenth of the world’s urban population resides in a 438 sq. m. area, making it one of the densest megalopolises in the world. Utilising a site in close proximity to the existing terminal while catering to a large population was a major challenge.

    Parametric design not only incorporated regional architecture; it also facilitated optimised construction costs, efficient material management, and modular construction, speeding up construction. The mega columns were used to hoist the roof without using tower cranes.

    The coffered ceiling and the jali windows are regional patterns incorporated into the structure. Thus, the design explored the possibility of incorporating traditionality into modern airports.

    The terminus positively contributed to the surrounding districts by being a catalyst for further strengthening the transportation network and the development of new road networks to the airport.

    3. National Museum of Qatar | Qatar | Jean Nouvel

    The National Museum of Qatar is an immersive space that flaunts the rich heritage and culture of Qatar. Known widely as Desert Rose, the museum takes inspiration from a mineral by the same name with intricate rose-like crystal formations found in the Gulf’s desert region.

    Since the past two decades, Qatar has continued to focus on urban sustainability by adopting transit-oriented development. Identity and placement attributes were lacking as rapid urbanisation leaned towards the western model. Thus, the TOD planning model has helped address these challenges by enhancing livability and promoting active public spheres through pedestrian-friendly designs while not losing sight of its cultural identity.

    The setting of the museum is at a pivotal intersection of heavy traffic and an accessible route. It faces the corniche, which is a waterfront promenade that runs along the Doha Bay and is a popular destination for joggers, cyclists, and tourists.

    The architecture echoes the historic, climatic, and geographic context of the nation. The thin discs, placed in a structurally stable manner, are designed using parametric modelling. The beige tone, which is a characteristic of buildings in the region, not only complements the sand on which they stand but also keeps the internal temperature low during the summer.

    The design of the museum evolved around an old palace, which is carefully conserved, thus tying the historic character and the urban fabric into an intangible knot.

    4. Chongqing Lijia Smart Hall | China | Gensler

    Situated in the Lijia Intelligent Park in Chongqing, it is the venue for the annual Smart China Expo, an event to encourage the exchange of smart technologies and industries on a global scale.

    Chongqing is the most densely populated city on the Chinese mainland. It became the first inland region to be open to trade with regions outside China, thus becoming an important economic centre. The intelligent park is a microcosm of Chongqing, with a griddled city to the north and a lush park to the south. The hall is in a strategic position at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers, which provides scenic beauty in the backdrop of the hills while providing connectivity via the cruise and other water transportation, thus generating tourism.

    The design takes inspiration from the mesmerising hills of Chongqing. It is a subtropical city with a humid, misty climate along the Yangtze basin, hence the nickname the Fog Capital of China. Therefore, the building seems like a white cloud floating over the horizon in the mist, perfectly integrated into the lavish landscape. The elegance is achieved by Y-Bars, which are flexible systems that generate a harmonious aesthetic.

    5. Pathé Foundation Headquarters | Paris | Renzo Piano

    The Pathé Foundation was established to preserve the historic film archives while fostering the future cinematographic art of Pathé. The organic form is plugged into the existing historic urban block and responds to the restrictions posed on the site. The design using parametric software was such that it didn’t cause any hindrance to the existing site. 

    The historic structures date back to the Hausmann era. It required the demolition of two dilapidated structures while attaching itself to surrounding buildings at four points. The restoration of the facade attached to the glass roof as the main entrance features Auguste Rodin sculptures. The roofline can be seen peeking over the historic structure.

    Although the design has a minimal footprint, it incorporates maximum daylight into the space. The uppermost floor has office space, where the organic roof allows soft light and a vibrant atmosphere. Apart from the office, there are silent rooms, theatres, and exhibition spaces.

    The project is a landmark, encouraging an open dialogue with the local people, thus considering their feedback and involvement. It sparked a conversation regarding its unexpected presence.

    6. The Golden Terraces | Poland | Jerde Partnership

    The Golden Terraces (Zlote Tarasy) are a multi-level mixed-use project in the city centre of Warsaw. It is near the Central Railway Station and the Palace of Culture and Science. The project realised the site’s potential as the centre of a large urban system. The Nazis destroyed the city, except for the historical parks. Thus, the iconic concept takes inspiration from the historical parks of Warsaw.

    The architect Jerde metaphorically reinterpreted the park as an indoor and outdoor urban environment that opens into a retail and entertainment plaza, where the organic glass roof hovers. The transparency of the roof creates a visual illusion of being outdoors by creating a mild distinction between interior and exterior spaces. Subsequently, it creates a microcosm of Warsaw by recreating the planning of Warsaw while creating a model for further redevelopment and expansion in the city.

    7. Dongdaemun Design Plaza | South Korea | Zaha Hadid

    Dongdaemun Design Plaza is Korea’s first public building that makes use of 3D BIM software and other parametric tools. The design reconnects the past with the newly discovered history.

    Dongdaemun, which translates to East Gate, was built in the 14th century and was one of the eight gates of Seoul that served as the main gate where government buildings were protected. The conservation of the remains of Igansumun floodgate is also a part of the project. The floodgates had an impact on the Seoul City wall as the water from the inner mountains flowed outside the wall complex.

    Several years later, the Dongdaemun stadium was built in 1925 on the site on which DDP now stands. It was the first modern stadium in Korea. Unfortunately, the stadium had to be demolished in 2007 as it had become deteriorated and shabby while the surrounding areas were becoming breeding grounds for slum development. Thus, the site was reclaimed seven years later, linking the park, plaza, and city.

    8. Soumaya Museum | Mexico | Fernando Romero Enterprise

    The Soumaya Museum in Plaza Carso is a contemporary art museum situated in Polanco, which is a neighbourhood in Miguel Hidalgo Borough, popularly known as “The Beverly Hills of Mexico” due to its abundance of shopping sprees and luxurious lifestyle.

    Polanco lies north of Chapultepec, which is the largest park in Mexico. It was once a neighbourhood for middle-class expatriates from Lebanese, Jewish, and Spanish communities. It was designed to imitate European downtown areas rather than develop into suburbs. In the 1990s, Polanco started to attract wealthy buyers by offering an urban lifestyle. Restaurants, bars, museums, and galleries started to bloom due to its close proximity to Chapultepec.

    The Soumaya Museum is at the heart of a new commercial and cultural district called Plaza Carso. It reflects the eclectic taste of art collector Carlos Slim. The eclecticism is incorporated in the iconic architecture as well; the rotated rhomboid form with hexagonal tiles gives the illusion of detachment from the form, which both stands out from the rest of the architecture and blends into the region’s culture. It is home to nearly 70,000 works, from Michelangelo’s David to Salvador Dali’s The Triumphant Angel; it is an art lover’s favourite destination.

    9. Terra – Sustainability Pavilion – Dubai Expo 2020 | UAE | Grimshaw Architects

    Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion of Dubai Expo 2020, demonstrates a new way of sustainable living in desert conditions. It aims to be a catalyst for collective action and a possibility for future sustainable development.

    Inspired by the process of photosynthesis, the organic forms, or “energy trees,” are solar panels that generate energy. Meanwhile, its form resembles the desert Socotra Dragon Tree, which is a drought-tolerant tree that could withstand the harshest of weathers. The project also explores water harvesting and the use of innovative and local materials. Thus, it makes use of sustainable technologies so as to achieve net zero.

    The site was a barren desert in 2016. Thus, the plan was conceptualised on a Tabula Rasa (clean slate). But over time, it became one of the busiest areas in Dubai. After Expo 2020, the site became a neighbourhood and is now a residential area. There are proposals for an Expo Mall, which would further develop the city.

    10. Beijing National Stadium | China | Herzog & de Meuron

    The Beijing National Stadium is an Olympic stadium that was used for the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2022 Winter Olympics. Popularly known as “Bird’s Nest”, the stadium is one of the largest steel structures in the world. The design of the stadium takes inspiration from crazed pottery, an ancient pottery technique in China.

    The National Stadium is located south of Olympic Green, which is an Olympic Park where the multi-sport event took place. It faces the Qinghe River to the south and the largest forest park in Beijing to the north.

    The Olympics are important for the people of China, thus proving the relevance of this project. An interesting fact about Chinese planning is that they have a tendency to place prominent public buildings along the main axis, indicating the importance of infrastructure gets in the country. In order to challenge the existing urban fabric, the stadium is shifted slightly to the east of the project, making the design more people-centric. Moreover, the stadium is located in one of the most active seismic zones in the world. For this reason, advanced seismic analysis was used to test the stadium under various earthquake conditions.

    11. Tanatap Canopy Garden | Indonesia | RAD+ar

    Tanatap Canopy Garden Cafe and Restaurant is situated in a compact residential area. The buildings surrounding the cafe trap heat on the site, thus increasing the temperature in the area. Thus, a prototype called Tanatap was developed by the Indonesian group of architects to design multi-level urban gardens in site-restricted scenarios. There are several experiments tried out using this prototype in tropical climates, which attempt to create a unique microclimate irrespective of the climate. The floating red roof is conceptualised from the canopies of the existing almond trees. The playful harmony of different levels, tones, and natural light brings a unique experience to the visitor.

    12. Sienna Apartments | India | sP+a

    The Sienna Apartments in Hyderabad are a unique project that incorporated traditional architecture techniques into parametric forms. The apartment is in a suburban neighbourhood with residential and commercial establishments, thus having limited areas for construction and high density. Thus, cross ventilation becomes an absolute necessity and is facilitated through terraces and balconies.

    Designed by the team of architect Sameep Padora, the design explores ways to utilise the site restriction to offer spectacular vantage points of the city and the adjacent park. In order to tackle the intense heat, a wall system was developed using nine-inch bricks that are corbelled to carry the load of the lintels, or Chajjas, thus giving rise to its unique envelope design. The project required highly skilled labour and had a larger vision to build the expertise of the local craftsmen and help evolve the craft with technology.

    13. Oasis Hotel Downtown | Singapore | WOHA

    The Oasis Hotel Downtown is in the heart of Singapore’s dense Central Business District (CBD). It is a tropical living tower with vast gardens facing the sky. It explores tropical and functional spaces that are open and spacious instead of enclosed, air-conditioned spaces. The vegetation planted onto the red aluminium mesh cladding overhangs organically, which gives a natural touch unlike the wall-bound green walls that require constant maintenance. 

    The 21 different creeper species provide food for birds and insects. The bright colour stands out from the monochrome grey highrise buildings of Singapore, which attract birds and animals, making it a haven for lifeforms by reintroducing biodiversity into a metropolitan city. 

    14. BAD Cafe | India | Nuru Karim

    BAD Cafe in Mumbai is in a historical urban settlement in West Bandra, Mumbai. The locality, amidst heavy traffic, snarls with high air and noise pollution. The buzzing city life called for a quiet space that was insulated from the outside world. Like a skin that protects the body from germs and diseases, a building needs a skin too.

    The skin of the cafe reinterprets the concept of yoga, a spiritual discipline originated in ancient India that could sum up the connectedness of the activities of mind, speech, and body. Thus, it intends to bring a sensory-gastronomical experience to the visitors. The black PVC pipes grafted onto CNC aluminium composite box panels to give a fluid-like illusion take inspiration from the taste buds of the tongue or the sweat glands on the skin. 

    15. One Kleomenous | Athens | Omniview

    One Kleomenous is a multi-story private residence in the heart of Athens. The skin is inspired by the topographic contour lines of the hills, and its colour theme matches the soil. The structure stands on the threshold between a heavily built urbanscape and a lush natural environment against the backdrop of the alluring Lycabettus hills. 

    Thus, the side with greenery should not have hard forms or use earthy tones in an urban context. As a result, the CNC-cut marble-clad fluid exterior faces the forest, while the plain exterior faces the city end. Architecture understands the importance of using the right materials by incorporating stucco, which is the most commonly used material in the region. The glass is made reflective to capture the scenic beauty of Athens.

    16. Auriga Restaurant | India | Sanjay Puri

    The Auriga restaurant is an interior adaptive reuse project of a forty-year-old warehouse in an affluent neighbourhood with a dense urban fabric in Mumbai. The building includes a restaurant and nightclub that intend to encourage human connectedness and interaction through an immersive experience. 

    The restaurant’s interior strips down its solid wall to use leftover plywood from the site or other projects, thus reducing material waste. The exterior comprises a web of aluminium fins folded in an angular manner. The nightclub interiors have a black palette, and ambient lighting is used. Thus, there is a contrast between the restaurant and the nightclub, which sets the right ambience for the space.

    17. Metropol Parasol | Spain | J. Mayer H + Arup

    The Metropol Parasol in Seville is one of the largest timber structures ever built, towering over four levels. It is popularly known as Las Setas of Seville for its resemblance to mushrooms. Although the design seems unconventional, the six interconnected parasols take inspiration from the vaulted ceilings of Seville Cathedral, which could be spotted from the walkway.

    Plaza de la Encarnación, the capital square, dates back to the Romans. It was destroyed in the 19th century by Napoleon’s army, which created a void in the city centre. The rich history remained buried deep until the city council proposed revamping the square to restore its urban character.

    The historic artefacts brought up from the site’s excavation are exhibited in the basement museum, the Antiquarium. The street level has a supermarket, while the central parasol has a restaurant, and the spacious areas below are used for events. The upper floors are walkways and viewpoints, providing a panoramic view of the city and prominent landmarks. Metropol Parasol stirred up tourism by drawing people back into the centre, thus restoring the historic urban fabric through architecture and becoming one of the most established city centres.

    18. Xianmo Flower Field Landscape Park| China | Atelier CnS + School Of Architecture, South China University Of Technology

    Xianmo Flower Field is part of the Urban Park Micro Renovation in Foshan, China. The public project aims to uplift the public space by introducing structures that reflect the rhythm of the existing landscape. It is a flower-themed civic park with a vision to catalyse public interactions in an urban environment. Seasonal, fragrant flowers bloom in this park, which is a breath of fresh air and serenity far from the buzzing city.

    The park has two pavilions: Embrace and Flower. The design explores the possibilities of bamboo structures, which are proven to enhance ventilation and heat dissipation. A shaded space in a park extended the time of use by the public. Thus, intervention allowed the active occupation of these spaces, which further stresses the need for more such projects in urban areas.

    19. Atyrau Bridge | Kazakhstan | New Moon Architects

    Located in the capital city of Nur Sultan, Atyrau Bridge is a landmark project at the core of a melting pot of cultures. Being a developing city, Nur Sultan has plenty of room for urban and demographic growth. 

    Atyrau Bridge is a pedestrian and cycling bridge over the Ishim River, which connects the old city on the right and the new city on the left. Thus, the design of the bridge is an amalgamation of traditional symbols and contemporary techniques. The building takes inspiration from the Caspian Sturgeon, a local fish found in the Atyrau region. The fluid form is a reflection of the ripples and waves of the sea.

    20. Mediopadana Station | Italy | Santiago Calatrava

    Mediopadana Station is a high-speed station connecting Milan and Bologna. The River Po flows in close proximity in the mid-Po valley. Situated in the peri-urban area, the region around the station continues to develop due to ongoing projects. The transit architecture project originated as part of the urban development of the northern part of the city. The large undulated form consists of 457 steel frames with one-metre spacing. Each steel frame has translucent glass panels placed such that they give a fluid-like appearance. Being Santiago Calatrava’s signature style, the white tone adds simplicity and delicateness to the station’s design.

    Parametric Architecture is increasingly being used to achieve sustainable designs that question the traditional construction paradigm. As with many iconic technological inventions, it is, unfortunately, being misused by less-experienced designers to build forms that are not sustainable or community-centred.

    Thus, such tourism-generating structures require complete understanding and upskilling while staying up-to-date with the latest updates and software. Yet, the benefits of parametric architecture surpass its constraints, and young architects with plenty of time and zeal are exploring its possibilities, which could change the face of future architecture and set up landmark projects.

    Text By: Gopika Pramod

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