Digital Delusions: Fear and loathing of the Parametric Utopia

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearchpeer-review


‘Resist any idea that contains the word algorithm’ Lebbeus Woods

Like International Modernism previously, Parametric Design is considered by its most ardent proponents to be the one and only direction going forward in architecture. Fortunately, as with the alternatives to International Modernism previously, there is always more nuanced opposition to such dogmatic directions, that invariably proves to be more interesting and enduringly significant. In clear contrast to an International Style architecture of industrialised uniformity, devoid of poetic reference and remote from human experience, stand the expressively sculptural and highly narrative works of Le Corbusier; the idealised mythology of America in the late works of Frank Lloyd Wright; the sublime abstractions of nature in the work of Luis Barragan and Louis Kahn’s poetic re-interpretations of archetypal architectural elements and the inspiration of the ruins of antiquity.
While in the Nordic countries there was a distinct movement, led by Alvar Aalto to moderate and humanise modern industrialised architecture, by reference to nature, vernacular tradition, sense of place, and concern for community and national cultural identity. Colin St John Wilson argues that Aalto was the leading pioneer of what he calls ‘the other tradition of modern architecture’, which he considers to be ‘the uncompleted project’ (St John Wilson, 1995), suggesting an alternative continuing tradition of the modern. The humane poetic modernism of Aalto – who famously stated that he worked within a modular system of 1mm or less - found subsequent expression in work of Reima Pietilä, Sverre Fehn and Jørn Utzon amongst others. Certainly, digital design and fabrication tools would have greatly assisted the realisation of the Sydney Opera House and avoided many of the tribulations that Utzon faced; and he would certainly have embraced such technological assistance. However, no parametric design process alone could have replicated Utzon’s unique design thinking and have created such a profoundly poetic and humanely monumental work of architecture, as the Sydney Opera House.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2020
EventThe Place and Parametricism Project Symposium - University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 11 Aug 202019 Aug 2020


ConferenceThe Place and Parametricism Project Symposium
OtherCan place be adequately encompassed by the quantitative methods of digital and parametric design? Though what methods can collective research, where the design studio is the founding mode of enquiry, aid in clarifying the nature of place and of parametricism, as well as enabling a rethinking of what design itself might be?
Place and Parametricism: Provocations for the Rethinking of Design Symposium 2020 brings a diverse group of thinkers and creators together into a working dialogue to discuss these questions.

The project, incubated through a series of design studio provocations based in the fictional places of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, further expanded into experiments in place-based situations including historical and contemporary architectures, interiors, and landscapes. From this experimental approach into various environments real and imagined, everyday and extraordinary, arise manifestationts informed by Peake's worlds and an interpretation of the narratives contained within them.
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Digital Delusions: Fear and loathing of the Parametric Utopia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this