Territories made by measure: The parametric as a way of teaching urban design theory

Matteo Fraschini, Julian Raxworthy

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

Design tools like Grasshopper are often used to either generate novel forms, to automate certain design processes or to incorporate scientific factors. However, any Grasshopper definition has certain assumptions about design and space built into it from its earliest genesis, when the initial algorithm is set out. Correspondingly, implicit theoretical positions are built into definitions, and therefore its results. Approaching parametric design as a question of architectural, landscape architectural or urban design theory allows the breaking down of traditional boundaries between the technical and the historical or theoretical, and the way parametric design, and urban design history & theory, can be conveyed in the teaching environment. Once the boundaries between software and history & theory are transgressed, Grasshopper can be a way of testing the principles embedded in historical designs and thus these two disciplines can be joined. In urban design, there is an inherent clash between an ideal model and existing urban geography or morphology, and also between formal (qualitative) and numerical (quantitative) aspects. If a model provides a necessary vision for future development, an existing topography then results from the continuous human and natural modifications of a territory. To explore this hypothesis, the “Urban Design Representation” subject in the Master of Urban Design program at the University of Cape Town taught in 2017 & 2018 was approached “parametrically” from these two opposite, albeit convergent, starting points: the conceptual/rational versus the physical/empiric representations of a territory. In this framework, Grasshopper was used to represent typical standards and parameters of modern urban planning (for example, Floor/Area Ratio, height and distance between buildings, site coverage, etc), and a typological approach was adopted to study and “decode” the relationship between public and private space, between the street, the block and topography, between solids and voids.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 9th International Conference of the Arab Society for Computer Aided Architectural Design (ASCAAD 2021)
Subtitle of host publicationArchitecture in the Age of Distruptive Technologies
EditorsSherif Abdelmohsen, Tamer El-Khouly, Zaki Mallasi, Amar Bennadji
Place of PublicationScotland
PublisherRobert Gordon University
Pages494-506
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781907349201
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
EventThe 9th International Conference of the Arab Society for Computer Aided Architectural Design (ASCAAD 2021): Architecture in the Age of Disruptive Technology: Tranformation and Challenges - Egypt (virtual Conference), Cairo, Egypt
Duration: 2 Mar 20214 Mar 2021

Conference

ConferenceThe 9th International Conference of the Arab Society for Computer Aided Architectural Design (ASCAAD 2021)
Abbreviated titleASCAAD 2021
CountryEgypt
CityCairo
Period2/03/214/03/21

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