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Parametric design: Everything you need to know before designing

Parametric shape

The term Parametric evolves from Mathematics & refers to the uses of certain parameters or variables that can be edited or altered or manipulated in the end result of an equation or system. Hence, Parametric Shapes are those shapes & forms that have a curving nature & usually defined by a single entity

What is a parametric design?

The design has certain guidelines to be followed, Parametric design on the other hand is rebelling against these set rules and going beyond limitations. Parametric Shapes are those shapes & forms that have a curving nature & usually defined by a single entity. the term Parametric evolves from Mathematics & refers to the uses of certain parameters or variables Ex: Circle, Parabola are defined by a single entity i.e., the radius

Emergence: Although there’s a lot of debate as to who & when started using parametric designs but it became quite evident since the early ’80s.

Practitioners: Luigi Moretti invented the term Parametric Architecture. Amongst others are Antoni Gaudi, Greg Lynn, Patrik Schumacher, Frank gehry, Zaha Hadid

Parametric design:

Where can it be used?

• Designing facade of a building

• Landscapes

• Interiors

• Furniture

• Sculptures

• Fabrication etc

• Tourist & commercial places

• Exhibitions

• Jewellery

Which materials could be used?


• timber

• Vinyl

• plastic

• polyurethane

• non-ferrous metal blocks etc.

How can it be designed?

Modern designers are only limited by their mastery of these design tools & their imagination. With the help of software like Maya, grasshopper, Rhino, Dynamo, Nodebox, Solidworks, & Inventors etc; there are endless design possibilities to help us make products of any scale for any industry.

How can it be executed?

To bring these Parametric forms to life with the help of computer-controlled manufacturing techniques, also known as digital fabrication, which includes 3D printing, laser cutting & CNC routing.

What are the basic computational design typologies?

Waffle - They allow a designer to quickly build small and large firms that are inherently structural

Wood Fins - Allows the expression of organic forms in a quick way along with a very elegant wall finish

Perforation Perforation is a meta-group, as every type is different, yet they all have one thing in common they’re all made by cutting holes into a Gradients surface - based on attractors and detractors in the form of a point or curve which is pulling or pushing information.

Tessellation - The most important thing when working on a tessellated surface is to ensure you are producing “planar” cells.

Why use it?

  • The technical evolution of shape & style in a modern & organic way

  • Sustainable approach through reuse

  • Easy for design adjustments, options & variations

  • One advantage to parametric design in future fabrication is the ability to stress test before leaving the 3D design software.

  • Another advantage being able to recognise flaws.

  • 3D templates can provide detailed visualisation of the product, which allows for new parameters & metric revisions.

  • Eliminating physical prototypes saves materials which in turn reduces associated costs.

  • It combines aesthetics with efficiency

  • It accelerates design ideas


Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport -


Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) was the architectural designer of the project. The design evolved out of necessity; The design is essentially an X shape plan this eventually resulted in an X shape terminal with an asymmetrical aerial view

Wulai Parking Structure by Q-Lab, Taipei-

photograph courtesy of Q-Lab Design

Taiwan -it congregates in a way to express a sense of motion for anyone driving on the garages ramp, the angle of few façade elements help to block the sun at late-afternoon angles, improving visibility and safety for drivers.

Guggenheim Museum, Spain by Frank Gehry -

Images courtesy of Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Because of their mathematical complications, the twisting curve is designed using a 3D design software named CATIA, which allows for complex design and calculation that would not have been possible a few years ago.

Heydar Aliyev Centre, Azerbaijan by Zaha Hadid -

Clad in reinforced concrete and polyester, the structure is 619,000-square-foot Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan is known for its extravagant façade. Architectural view practice in the Indian context has become more globalised today, Like any other country or environment, there are challenges in the practice.


Parametric design although asymmetric and unconventional, there are rules to be followed. The lessons for these designs come from nature itself. Just like our city’s nature has its own way of supporting and sustaining thousands of organisms. Taking inspiration from these natural structures parametric designers come up with their own take on designing.

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