Parametrics and Provocation

This is from April last year (but I’ve only just found it). It’s quite amazing how many lines intersect in it:

Both Schumacher’s and Hadid’s language propose an architecture that’s “above” trivial moral and political hand-wringing, like worker’s rights. Peggy Dreamer, in a recent CalArts panel, described Schumacher’s style as “über-form,” meaning that it takes on the aesthetic of the universal and inevitable in order to create icons of an imaginary future. And that is what China and the Emirates are buying — the Seoul Design Park, Galaxy SOHO, Guangzhou Opera House, the 2022 Qatar World Cup Stadium. These are icons of future cities, not current ones.

The reason it’s here, now, though is to add some framing for this Patrik Schumacher talk, which I was politely asked (on Twitter) to trigger a Xenosystems conversation about it. While I’m in no position to directly wire-head XS readers, it looks stimulating to me. (There isn’t much capitalistic historical materialism about.)

November 22, 2015admin 7 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy


7 Responses to this entry

  • Parametrics and Provocation | Neoreactive Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on November 22nd, 2015 at 3:40 am Reply | Quote
  • S.C. Hickman Says:

    There exists a single, unified system of communications that calls itself architecture: World Architecture

    Schumacher, Patrik (2011-04-20). The Autopoiesis of Architecture: A New Framework for Architecture: 1 (p. 29). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

    His architecture is heavily influenced by the sociologist Nicklaus Luhmann. A partner with Zaha Hadid and parametricism, authoring its manifesto –

    I did a little background on him a while back (2013):


    Erebus Reply:

    Isn’t it the case that most of what Schumacher is (poorly) trying to convey about architecture has already been said, over fifty years ago, by Frank Lloyd Wright? There are many parallels between Schumacher’s statements and Wright’s. See, for instance, this fascinating interview.

    …Both men seem to have the same aim: An organic and communicative architecture. But whereas Wright was aggressively individualistic, Schumacher seeks “hegemony“. Of course it follows that Parametricism is aggressively holistic — and nakedly universalist.

    Is there anything Platonic about this? Are the Parametricists truly on a quest for an archetypal “über-form”? Or is it merely hubris & repackaged Wright, along with some industrial-strength jargon to impress the Chinese and Gulf Arabs into more commissions?

    It’s interesting that Schumacher appears to be incapable of defending himself from criticism. See the comments section at the link under “hegemony”. His responses to the many criticisms of Parametricism were evasive and puerile.


    S.C. Hickman Reply:

    To say someone “sounds” like someone from one’s historical pool of resources is just to remark that all influence is just that – an influx from elsewhere. As if the ghosts keep on speaking, and are more alive than those mouths that spout and transform their ideas. You’re not saying much new, here. So what? To point out criticisms is just to formulate a secondary attack rather than stating your own conclusions. Do you yourself have any? Or is your attack just another critique of influence by proxy? Humberto Maturana and Niklas Luhmann are the two main influences philosophically. Closer to Umberto Eco and his semiosis of art and architecture Schumacher is far from a two-world theorist of form and function, etc. As he said recently: “I have written about the instrumentality of appearances, information-rich environments, the built environment as semiological system and about the inevitability of navigating the environment (and indeed the social world in general) on the basis of aesthetic appeal and repulsion. Iconicity plays a role in all these aspects.” In this sense he’s closer to a baroque art than the simplicity of formalism of Platonic or Renaissance form, etc. Embellishment and aesthetic navigation of movement and communication is what his work aligns too. The life of the body in movement, rather than the stasis of the mind in contemplation.


    Erebus Reply:

    I was just pointing out that Schumacher, who is rather new to me, sounds a heck of a lot like Frank Lloyd Wright, who isn’t new to anybody. If Wright had stopped speaking plainly — if he had started tarting-up his language with jargon and buzzwords — many of his quotes would be indistinguishable from those I’ve seen from Schumacher. And that includes the one you just posted.

    Hell, Schumacher is even taking Wright’s advice — “study nature, seriously, intelligently, and with feeling, and appreciation” — and is modelling buildings after “blobs and shells which resemble certain constructions from the nature”. (If the Guggenheim were to be re-designed for the early 21st Century, I’m sure that Schumacher would be the man for the job.)

    As for criticism of my own: He does not appear to have a truly original voice. He says that “Any serious professional has to give a principled account of his/her values and methods.” Fair enough. He’s given a public account of his own values and methods. The trouble is that this seems to be:

    -One part Wright. (Form follows function, recognizable aesthetics in soft forms and gradients, biomimeticism, a holistic approach which extends to urban planning and interior design, etc.)

    -One part zealotry. (“Parametricism is by now manifestly superior to all other styles that are still pandered and pursued. This implies that parametricism should sweep the market and put an end to a pluralism of styles (that resulted from modernism’s crisis and) that has been going on for far too long due to ideological inertia.” “…parametricism is the only contemporary style that can adequately address the new societal tasks posed to architecture by the new social dynamics engendered by the information age.” [Italics added.])

    -One part software reliance.

    That really does seem to be all there is to it. To me, it is less “influenced” than derivative. And its universalist-style zeal is misplaced, and almost farcical, as for obvious reasons Parametricism is not going to sweep away all other new forms and styles. I doubt they’ll even make much of a dent. Every artist wants to speak with a unique voice, and new construction materials are going to enable a lot of experimentation and innovation over the coming decades. How much of it is going to be under the banner of Parametricism?

    I’d only add that Schumacher is an exceedingly poor writer. He goes off on tangents, repeats his arguments, and uses language as though he’s actually trying to obfuscate his point and mislead and confuse his readers. Given the foggy-minded way he writes, I have a hard time taking him seriously as a thinker.

    Posted on November 22nd, 2015 at 1:39 pm Reply | Quote
  • SmailsHat Says:

    For more on the political pwning of art and other aesthetic and civilational concerns, my new pet thinker…


    Posted on November 22nd, 2015 at 7:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    Peggy Dreamer, in a recent CalArts panel, described Schumacher’s style as “über-form,” meaning that it takes on the aesthetic of the universal and inevitable in order to create icons of an imaginary future.

    Progress in different clothing. Everyone wants a vision of a positive future, however, and often flashy buildings and theory substitute for the necessary goal, which is a qualitative improvement.


    Posted on November 22nd, 2015 at 8:41 pm Reply | Quote

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