A summarized version of my thesis that appeared in ENR.
I introduce the central issue of my thesis: parametric flexibility. I outline the research method and the structure of the thesis.
I expand upon the challenges associated with parametric modelling that I have outlined in this introduction. I first examine the various definitions of parametric modelling and consider how these frame an understanding of what a parametric model is. I go on to reveal the numerous challenges architects have faced when using parametric models in practice. Aggregated together, these accounts reveal an array of problems that tend to be overlooked in many of the discussions around parametric modelling.
I contrast the challenges of parametric modelling to the challenges associated with software engineering. I introduce the body of knowledge associated with software engineering and hypothesise about which knowledge areas may also help the practice of parametric modelling.
I discuss a research method for applying aspects of the software engineering body of knowledge to the creation of various parametric models. I outline criteria for selecting the case studies and I discuss how a variety of quantitative and qualitative metrics can be used to observe parametric flexibility.
I explore the differences between creating a parametric model with a logic programming paradigm compared to creating a model with a more conventional dataflow paradigm. The logic programming paradigm enables the reversal of the parametric process by turning static geometry into a parametric model. However, outside this niche application, logic programming proves to be a difficult modelling interface.
I consider how the principles of structured programming apply to the organisation of parametric models. Splitting models into hierarchies of modules appears to increase the legibility of the models and improve model reuse. Perhaps more importantly, the structure seemed to allow ordinarily pivotal decisions to be made much later in the design process – in some cases, moments prior to construction.
Drawing upon innovations in software engineering Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) to create an interactive programming interface for architects. The interface enables designers to modify their code and immediately see the geometry of the model change. This case study positions the scripting environment itself as a important site of innovation, a site where many programmers have already provided numerous useful innovations.
There is a close relationship between software engineering and parametric modelling. This relationship has implications for how parametric modelling is taught, for how parametric modelling is integrated in practice, and for how we discuss parametric modelling.
In many ways the conclusion to this thesis is simple: software engineers creating computer programs and architects designing with parametric models share similar challenges, which can often be addressed with similar research methods and similar design practices.