Parametric Architecture - Softwares, Materials, and Examples

Have you ever come across a parametric form and wondered how the architect developed fluidic and complex geometry? Let’s look into how these designs are ideated and implemented with various software and materials.

What is Parametric Architecture?

  • The beginning stages and the coining of the term ‘parametric architecture’ was first set in motion by Antoni Gaudi’s upside-down model of the Sagrada Familia - each piece of the model was a catenary arch, suspended by strings to create the form of the church.
  • The parametric architecture includes exploring a complex variety of forms - a combination of geometry and mathematical equations - in order to manipulate a shape into a given set of parameters.
  • ‘Parameters,’ which are the design dimensions, are introduced into an algorithm to shape various elements in a building design. These parameters refer to the limits that are specified to define the shape or form of a design.
Use of parametric architecture in Bullring Shopping Centre, United Kingdom
Use of parametric architecture in Bullring Shopping Centre, United Kingdom

Why is Parametric Design Implemented in Architecture?

1. Implements both efficiency and complexity in design

  • Parametric design is said to be efficient because various building elements can be designed to accommodate active and passive design strategies. 
  • For example, exterior facades can be designed according to the sun path of a given site to avoid direct sunlight and improve thermal comfort and daylighting in a building.
Responsive Parametric Architecture in Al Bahar Towers, Abu Dhabi
Responsive Parametric Architecture in Al Bahar Towers, Abu Dhabi

2. Helps to explore and improve design ideas

  • While exploring parametric software, one comes across various options to manipulate a form into an intricate shape.
  • In a concept such as parametric architecture, it is difficult to exactly replicate designs - they can be redesigned, because alterations of algorithms will cause changes to the end product. 

3. Execution of complex and unique designs

  • Different input parameters give rise to different designs - each one authentic due to its defining boundaries. 
  • Parametric architecture allows the detailed development of a structure - whereas direct modelling has restrictions in terms of exploring fluid and organic forms. 

Softwares Used for Parametric Designing in Architecture

1. Rhino with Grasshopper

User Interface of Rhino + Grasshopper
User Interface of Rhino + Grasshopper
  • Grasshopper works in combination with Rhino as a pre-installed plug-in. It uses ‘NURBS’ (Non Uniform Rational B-Splines) to manipulate models and create designs. 
  • Grasshopper does not require any pre-requisite programming knowledge and is fairly easy to learn.
  • The combination of Rhino + Grasshopper is not restricted to architectural modelling - it can be applied to a wide range of professionals.

2. Solidworks

User Interface of Solidworks
User Interface of Solidworks
  • Better known among engineers, Solidworks is parametric modelling software that can be used to fabricate models of automotive components. 
  • Solidworks has an easy-to-use interface, which makes it straightforward for beginners to learn.
  • A feature that is popular in Solidworks is its CAD viewport - which is known to be comfortable for its users. 


  • Most popularly used for product designing - in automobile and aeromodelling industries and is known as a 3D Product Lifecycle Management Suite software.
  • CATIA was used by Frank Gehry to design some of his most popular buildings - and later used by Gehry Technologies to develop digital models.
  • It also delves into virtual reality and allows detailed development of models including electrical, mechanical and piping components.

4. Fusion 360

  • Developed by Autodesk - Fusion 360 is a well-known software among product designers as a 3D modelling software. It comprises of both - parametric and non-parametric design development tools.
  • Offers various rendering, simulation and animation options within the software.
  • 3D models can be extracted as 2D drawings - allowing various professionals to work on a single centralised file. 
User Interface of Fusion 360 by Autodesk
User Interface of Fusion 360 by Autodesk

Materials Used to Construct Parametric Designs in Architecture

1. Brick

Brick and Parametric Design - Pirouette House by Vinu Daniel in Trivandrum, Kerala

2. Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete

GFRC in Broad Museum, Los Angeles, California

3. Wood

GC Prostho Museum, Japan

4. Metals

Walt Disney Concert Hall by Gehry in Los Angeles, California

Sienna Apartment at Hyderabad

Sienna Apartment at Hyderabad by sP+a

Catching the architectural eye with its parametric brick facade and unusual design, this project by Sameep Padora and Architects is located in Hyderabad, Telangana. 

  • The design for the brick envelope originated majorly based on sun protection and other climatic factors to improve thermal comfort. 
  • Brick masons from Pondicherry worked to bring this idea to life - by corbelling 9-inch bricks to thoroughly distribute the load from the lintels to the walls. 
  • For the corbelling of the bricks to minute accuracy, simple L-shaped wooden templates were designed for the masons - bringing the final output to look like fluid brick curtains that encompass a bay window.

It can be discerned that a simple material such as brick, when used to its full potential, can be used to execute complex parametric designs - creating a small awestruck moment among passersby.

The parametric design may be the future of architecture, due to architects currently exploring its full extent and potential. This style of design combines efficiency and creativity along with various materials to implement such organic designs, rather than being restricted to rigid geometrical forms - which may be the factors that make it popular among flourishing architects.

Parametric Architecture - Softwares, Materials, and Examples