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Parametric Modelling: Investigating New Perspectives for Urban Design

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Paul Curry
University of Queensland | Australia
Quite often town planning constraints consists as a series of complex formulas and mathematic rules to quantitatively restrict a building's size and sometimes form. These constraints often require days to understand and process before a designer is able to concentrate on the many other important aspects of a building's design.

The dissertations tracks a research task that began with an aim to develop and test new parametric tools using newly available parametric design software. These tools could assist designers through processing quantitative planning restrictions and indicating optimal or maximum building envelopes for a given site. As the investigations progressed the complexities of the design process limited the parametric tools to finding only near optimal envelopes as an infinite number of design solutions is always possible. However, further development of the parametric design tools began to demonstrate how parametric software can assist designers through quickly modelling guided solutions under defined constraints such as town planning legislation. Using these solutions on larger city wide scales designers could focus on the more important aspects of their cities and their design through the ability to test and better visualise the impacts of new planning constraints prior to their implementation.

The path of the research task is tracked through researching the history of parametric design and computer technology used within the design process and then testing and continually reflecting on the design process and the development of new design tools.

Paul Curry

The student’s proposition started with the aim of developing a software tool that could generate as close to an optimum massing solution for any site based on tight planning algorithms alongside contextual, material and construction constraints. Through the development of the tool it became evident that perfection was impossible and instead the student created a city modelling tool that could accept a wide variety of data inputs to generate formal studies that respond to changing circumstance and legislation. The tool has the potential to allow urban designers to visualise and assess ramifications of quite abstract data sets and planning tools.
The merit in the dissertation does not lie solely in the outcome but the rigour of the research process. Conceptual thinking was tested through empirical studies conducted with the student's peers that compared the way the software tool worked in comparison to the way designers find solutions. Working outside the paradigm of the tool itself the student was able to interrogate the functionality of the tool in order to make improvements to it. During the reiterative process the student kept one eye focused on the nature of design itself and along with attention to detail and technical ability the student created something that exceeded the ambition of the initial proposition.

Mr Michael Dickson
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