ince the unveiling of Frank Gehry’s titanium-skinned Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1997, we’ve grown accustomed to eye-popping architectural statements, whether in the complex geometry of Herzog & de Meuron’s Beijing National Stadium (also known as the “Bird’s Nest”) or in the precarious cantilevering of Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI National Museum in Rome. If it seems there’s some immensely complicated system being used to engineer these gravity-defying arcs, ramps, and curves, that’s because there is. But that technology, known as parametric modeling, can do much more than facilitate the fantastic creations of Gehry, Hadid, and their ilk. Increasingly, parametric design is being used not just to make buildings more visually compelling but to precisely tune nearly every aspect of their performance, from acoustics to energy efficiency. It’s not as sexy an application, but it will become far more valuable to architecture and the way we live and work.
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