How to be a Parametric Revolutionary and pretend you are saving the planet.  

There was a time when I was right into suing new technologies to do things. I was enamoured with various techniques of reprographics and representation. I was right into all of the architectural making machines of the late 80s. I loved the bromide machine, the dyeline (I loved the smell of the ammonia), Pantone paper, reverse bromides and of course that greatest of all devices the PHOTOCOPIER.


Of course, I had no illusions about using these technologies to save the world. It didn’t need saving then, but it did need fucking up. At that time, in my tiny architectural brain, the principal means to achieve this was through the critical commentary enabled by collage. As a result, my modus operandi was the comic. And it was always fun to see the grand poo-poo-bah of my architecture school totally flip whenever he saw my seemingly insane comics.

Nowadays, all of the old reprographic techniques that I had some expertise in have disappeared. Even the long studio nights in dimly lit rooms where we suffered under the light of oh so long architectural slide shows have gone.

All of the above has been replaced with graphical interfaces, Kuka robots, 3D printers and non-existent supply chain drones. For some, these new technologies will save us from climate catastrophe. Why will these things save us? Because, apparently through these technologies and processes, we are going to save the world by producing less waste and emitting less carbon. Sadly, I don’t believe that.

However, if you believe in simple fixes and bad architectural science, and you want to get onto the parametric revolutionary bandwagon, then jump on board; and you might then enjoy the ride with all of its naïvety, good intentions and the curious know-all vanity that goes with those intentions. So, what follows is all you need to do to be a Parametric revolutionary.

 1. Talk about revolution 

Yep, that’s right the revolution is going to happen. It’s a technological revolution and its coming tomorrow. And all you have to do to partake in it is to learn how to code and make stuff. You don’t have to think about revolutionary politics or even think about the sophisticated software development cycles of the tech giants. Nup, all you have to say is that a ‘revolution’ is on its way. Even better put another word in front of the word revolution.

2. Talk about the planet.

Yep, talk about the planet as if it’s something you can fix and engineer with some new really cool technologies. Geo-engineering maybe? Floating cities? Beautiful little orange tables and nick-nacks made with robots and ‘new’ materials?


3. Use some fabulous words.

Here are a few: prototypical, performative, materiality, speculative, trajectory, distributed, integrated, deployment, customised, networks, generative, elasticity, composite, non-linearity and of course the word that makes me think of an abattoir’s conveyor belt: machinic.

Wow, that word, ‘machinic’, really sums it up. Its diction is so precise when it comes out of the mouth in speech. It sounds like its got a bit of philosophy behind it ( Deleuze and Guattari) and it implies an ability to control things. To control elements in an objective, rational and seemingly engineered way, to control shit that might otherwise get out of control.

4. Chuck in some systems theory. 

Yes, mention the word systems a lot as it will give the impression that a wholistic, organic and multi-layered approach is being pursued. Add the word systems after other words. For example, ‘Foam systems’ is one thing I read recently. But hey, what was actually meant by this was making stuff with polyethylene styrofoam.

But all the systems theory in the world doesn’t help us untangle the complexities of our current modes of carbon production and rampant carbon emissions. Just saying the word systems doesn’t account for a complex understanding of ecological science or a dismantling of anthropocentrism.

In the 1920s, even Bertalannfy, the founder of General Systems Theory, was to contrast the mechanistic, or machinic, approach to biological disciplines and he consequently advocated:

 ‘an organismic conception in biology which emphasises consideration for the organism as a whole or system, and sees the main objective of biological sciences in the discovery of the principles of organisation at its various levels.’


5. Sustainable

How many times have we heard that word? Don’t you love it? As a word, sustainable has certainly been misused.

But for the Parametric Revolutionaries, it can be used to make it all seem ok. It doesn’t matter that all of this technology and verbiage is half-arsed because it is ‘sustainable’

6. Argue for the holiness of BIM.


Invoke the sacred name of BIM. But ignore its dreary and banal impact on our suburbs and cities.

Our suburbs are becoming multi-residential BIM libraries. We all know the look. It’s a charcoal grey orthogonally articulated off-site concrete panel kind of architecture. Streets jammed with buildings with lots of frames and framing, volumetric blocks, rectangular slit windows, little black steel window reveals and striated timber slats on steel frames that you know are going to fall apart in a year and glazed balconies you could vape on.

7. Stop talking about architects as architects. 

So old hat to even call ourselves architects. Lest call architects: building engineers, design technologists or better still superusers.

8. Be Male 

Yes, much harder to be a Parametric Revolutionary if your female or non-binary. The parametric revolution is a predominantly male discourse and hey where would we be without all those Zuckerberg dudes in the Silicon Valley incubators.

As I write in my forthcoming book, in the back office of every Warlord or star architect, there is the ‘BIM guy.’ Who is more often than not rubbing shoulders and linked to the other guys making the new generation of AI armaments.

Parametricism is like Pornography 

The entire Parametric discourse the obsession with revolutionary fever, the big dick geo-solutions, the spitting diction of parametric words, the fleshy appeals to organic systems, the feigned softness of sustainability, the eroticism of BIM, the fetishised names and power of remotely operated drones all evoke the technologies, genres, scenes, scripts, words and objectification that we might find in pornography.

There are too many parallels. But that’s ok because all of the new materials and technologies are just around the corner and it’s all going to be ok. When the planet warms by two or maybe three or even four degrees, the Parametric Revolutionaries can hose it down with parametric spunk and that will save us from extinction.

Surviving the Design Studio: 4 Ways to make sure you become a BIM monkey.

Feature Image: ‘Concrete[I]Land’ (Photograph courtesy of New_territories with Ann-Arbor)

Getting older in architecture sucks. Along with all the other forms of discrimination, profiling, appalling labour practices and lack of diversity once you get to certain age you become invisible. Worse still you become really really invisible to those architects above you adept at exploiting the talent. Much easier to exploit the interns and the recent graduates than the old hands.

A friend of mine, an architect with about 25 years of experience working with the very best architects in town, as well as the worst, bemoaned the early career architectural graduates she had to work with. In a nutshell she said there was

“sometimes a staggering gulf between “confidence level and knowledge-experience-skill.”

Another friend, who came through the same cruel archi-school regime I also suffered under, wondered out loud:

“why would you go to architecture school just to learn BIM and not much else?”

Someone else I know in NYC, was aghast in a design meeting where one early career architect proclaimed:

  “I’ve done some research and Brooklyn has a lot of old buildings with arches so we should do a building with arches.”


Someone else said to me:

Whenever I go to those large practices full of young architects on computers don’t they realise in a few years all these computers will be gone? What will they do then?

This of course is not to stereotype a whole generation of early career architects as dumbed down, dullards who think doing BIM is what architecture is and thus have no need for history and theory. Many of this generation are going to be great architects and help to transform the profession. Perhaps even save the profession from itself.

But there are nonetheless a few gentle warnings in the above litanies of architectural senility and cynicism. So, if you do want to be BIM monkey this is what you need to do:

  1. Actually think that BIM is Architecture.

Of course BIM is just a bundle of software programs and processes. I won’t bore you with the definitions. But in this is not the same as architecture. You will only be able to spend so much of your life doing the CAD or BIM monkey seated jigs. In fact jigging on the computer jigs has a limited life-span as documentation becomes increasingly more commodified.

  1. Know in your heart that Parametric Modelling makes the best architecture.

Listen to and channel Schumakkker.


schumakkers ear

The Parametric types like to push the idea that every Parametric model is a unique and customised product or object. Our digital feeds have since the early 2000s been swamped  with completely dysfunctional and useless Parametric “art” objects; conceptual objects that claim to increase our haptic awareness. Hit me up with a another geomorphic iceberg skeletor thing. Another adornment or folly to cleanse our souls and “transport” us to a natural environment. At least Francois Roche is brave enough to explore the scatological and organic forms in a way that isn’t just pap.


‘Robotic Processes’ (Photograph courtesy of New_territories

I am not sure Parametric Design has really moved on in the last 15 years. It certainly hasn’t engaged with politics nor does it seem to have a sense of its own irony.

  1. Forget about wild and crazy design thinking.

Wild and crazy Design Thinking is central to architecture. But if you want to be a great BIM Monkey just go for that linear problem solving, get it done one quickly, jam that round problem into square hole type of thinking. Get excited about the efficiency of the CNC code. Love that little laser cut model that looks like a plywood skeleton.

If you are at architecture school just to learn BIM and hot-shot oversaturated realistic rendering then maybe you are better off somewhere else. I really don’t want you in the profession. You are only hastening the commodification of architecture as a domain of knowledge.

No wonder the 30,00 strong REVIT group on Linked-In told me to only post “relevant” pieces to their group page.

  1. Love and consume the tasteful.

Yep, just eat up the tasteful. Wear the clothes and subscribe to the mags. Follow the Insta influencers. The best way to become a BIM jockey is to keep thinking the best architects are the ones that the real estate marketers, middle brow property developers and the lifestyle magazine editors love. Who can blame architects for getting in with this crowd?

The above people are obviously the gatekeepers who see architecture as a narrow canon of taste and fashionista profiling. Best to stay on side with them. Ignore anyone different.

Abandoning theory 

Architecture has a complex social politics and history. Abandoning theory in favour of fashionable consumption is your choice. But it will just leave you ceaselessly jigging in the BIM jig money chair.

I made the worst models and did the worst drawings at architecture school. But I did learn how to think and that is what is most important. So my advice is, from an older invisible architect verging on senility, if you want to have an enduring architectural career see if you can get through the whole of architecture school without learning BIM. Otherwise, you will end up jigging with the software jigs for the rest of your life.

You be a robot architect and then the real robots will take over and you will be out of a job. If don’t learn how to think at architecture school this will be your fate.

Architects and weird robots: Architects and Disruptive Innovation.

Disruptive Innovation has become a bit of a fashionable phrase to bandy about in polite conversation. As an idea it has its intellectual sources in the work of Schumpeter and of course the more recent work of Clayton Christensen whose classic book the Innovators Dilemma is a must read for all architects and even academics no matter what discipline they are from. Of course, Schumpeter’s notion of creative destruction and Christensen’s work point to the economic horrors of late capitalism and the need for constant unsustainable growth. Be that as it may, understanding innovation theories, models and frameworks, is essential if  architects are to understand how technology can be managed both within and outside of the firm.

The Innovator’s Dilemma

As Christensen argues in the Innovators Dilemma firm’s are often adept at responding to evolutionary changes in their markets but they may not be capable at either initiating or managing market changes that are the result of what Christensen calls “disruptive innovation.”  Christensen defines “sustaining technologies” as innovations that make a product or service perform better in ways that customers in the market already value. In contrast “disruptive technologies create an entirely new market through the introduction of a new kind of product or service.” Christensen suggests that initially, at least, that these types of innovations may actually appear to be less effective in performance terms as judged by mainstream and traditional clients. As Christensen states “Disruptive innovations create an entirely new market through the introduction of a new kind of product or service”.

The S-Curve

Christensen’s original research was based on the technological history of the disk drive industry . This has given us a useful framework for considering how technologies evolve and this evolution is not necessarily predictable and this is why I am a technology skeptic (remember when VR studios were going to replace the face to face design studio).

The S-Curve model of technological evolution maps  product performance against time or engineering effort to effect this performance. In this model technologies follow a S-Curve pattern of improvement but there are often alternatives and other technologies that can be switched to as a technology matures and it becomes more difficult for it to achieve particular gains. This is true of most technologies but if we regard particular bundle of business processes or workflows as a technology then then the S-Curve model can be viewed in broader light.  In other words the S-Curve model may be applied to either technological components or a new technological architecture or platform or a nexus of organisational processes and technologies. I think that even cities can be regarded as and conceptualised as global technology.


The next big thing and things 

Arguably BIM allied digital fabrication is a disruptive technology that provides the possibility that new markets and services within the construction and property industry will emerge. These new markets might include a market for 3 dimensional modelling services directly connected to digital fabrication and industrialised construction methods. The parametric design and lean construction movements have forecast and predicted that disruptive technologies will change design and construction markets. Artificial Intelligence and robotics are also emerging technologies that some pundits also see as being disruptive in the foreseeable future. Certainly the emergence of coding as a competency in architectural practices is something that is now becoming increasingly necessary. This is evident for example when one looks at the business model of Design to Production  who intercede, using coding expertise, between architectural and fabrication and installation. One future scenario is that as a result of these changes design decisions and design knowledge creation will be made directly within at  the level of new digitised supply and construction chains.

The rise of new mobile applications may also have implications for how architects work on site and relate to clients. The implication of these forecast is that this will lead to architects, who have traditionally been upstream controlling and overlooking supply chains, no longer being needed at all. To what extent all of these technologies are disruptive and to what extent they might change the market, or the way architects practice is debatable.

As Christensen’s mapping of memory technology in the disk drive industry indicates industry innovation and competition is less predictable and more chaotic than one might suppose. The next big thing or disruption may not be the next big thing. Emerging technologies or innovations may overlap or intersect and not neccesarily follow each other in lockstep.


It may sound strange but when I look at the above diagram and the phenomena it represents I think: This is reason why it is more important to teach architecture students how to think about technology strategically rather than to teach them the technology itself. Very few architecture schools teach anything about the strategic management of IT. We can fill our architecture schools full of subjects that teach digital skills. All over the globe there is always someone on an accreditation or visiting panel who says the architecture school isn’t teaching the right things for employability or CAD monkey utility. But if that is the case, and thats all architects do,  we might as well all go home and forget about architecture as a social, cultural and political practice.

Architects and weird robots 

Some technologies and innovations will create new markets and it is in the nature of capitalism that old markets destroy old ones. Given this there are two schools of thought about the impact on architecture. Will architecture as a discipline survive and adapt to the continuing onslaught of new technologies or will it disappear as a domain of knowledge and a practice and be replaced by weird AI robots? Architects are already pretty weird. Certainly, for architects in Australia the emergence of the project managers in the 1980s with a different and associated set of skills and technologies could be regarded as a disruptive innovation. IN Project managers were able to “create an entirely new market through the introduction of a new kind of product or service.” I personally think that apps will help to create new markets for architectural services and change the way architects do their business.

Architects, both in firms and as a profession, need to scan the horizon in order to anticipate the emergence and impact of disruptive technologies within the design, property and construction industry. But overscanning the firm’s event horizon as new technologies emerge can also be a danger. Skepticism is required. Not all new technologies or innovations will be the next big thing. Architects need to distinguish between disruptive as well as sustaining, or incremental innovations or technologies.  Not all new technologies or innovations are going to be disruptive and not all incremental technologies and innovations are going to be effective. It could be year’s before the latest app, fabrication or manufacturing process or new super nanomaterial changes the market for architectural services. Similarly, the next big thing may only be the next incremental innovation rather than what its proponents and marketers claim it to be.

Given the artisanal and seemingly primitive nature of most construction processes it is all too easy to latch onto the next big technological thing and see it as being disruptive. The contrast between new technologies and the chaos of manual labour and the scatalogical nature of building sites is an easy one to be seduced by. Architects managing firms need to assess emerging technologies and decide if they either pose a potential threat to a firm’s competitive advantage or business model or if they should be part of the firms strategic infrastructure. This assessment is important if architectural firms are to decide if a new technology is simply evolutionary, in other words an incremental improvement, or in fact is disruptive. Such an assessment will also determine the kinds of alliances a firm might take up or pursue in order to remain competitive. Architects also need to understand how emerging and disruptive technologies are changing the markets and landscape in which there clients exist in.

Architects need to debate how emerging technologies will effect their traditional markets of creating and selling design knowledge. These debates need to go beyond simplistic arguments about the employability of recent graduates and what they need to learn. How might market and industry structures change and what kind of technologies will the architectural firm of the future contain? I don’t really know the answer to these questions but I do know that Architects, architectural researchers and architectural educators need to be skeptical about the next big thing.