A Parametric Devotion: Patrik Schumacher Discusses “Architecture and Freedom” at the Royal Academy

For its fall season of architecture events, the Royal Academy’s working theme is “Architecture and Freedom: a changing connection,” in a program conceived and organized by Architecture Programme Curator, Owen Hopkins. One of these events was a recent lecture by Patrik Schumacher, Director of Zaha Hadid Architects, and ardent promoter of Parametricism. In his lecture, what starts out with a brief exercise in damage control over the barrage of criticism recently endured by the firm, emerges as an impassioned discussion of architectural politics, design philosophies, and social imperatives.

Dominion Tower, Moscow, Russia. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu Dominion Tower, Moscow, Russia. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Summarizing the event in a subsequent article for The Architectural Review, program organizer Owen Hopkins wonders: “If our governments shy away from criticizing the human rights of countries, why should architects take the moral high ground?” In his oration, Schumacher posits that completing work in countries like China, Azerbaijan, Mubarak’s Egypt and Gaddafi’s Libya, especially if it’s a cultural project, should be viewed as a potential boon to human rights and not overt support of injustice. But speaking more generally, Schumacher believes that the “politicization of architecture,” arriving in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, has prevented the medium from confronting the necessities of designing for life in the twenty-first century.

Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan. Image © Iwan Baan Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan. Image © Iwan Baan

While Schumacher occasionally comes across as strong headed or affected, his eloquent and informed positions add currency to his beliefs, and, in particular, his unfettered promotion of parametricism. As he explains in this lecture, Schumacher believes that the style makes sense for a “Post Fordist network society,” allowing architects to focus on “organization and articulation of the spatial visual field: of appearances, legibility, structurations, semiologies… styling an engine and machine for social communication.” Schumacher is a staunch libertarian, and in his article Hopkins makes light of the irony that “despite [his] protestations for architecture’s autonomy, he is in fact developing the tools to create buildings and cities that have the capacity to be more public and to further social progress to a greater extent than any architect has yet imagined might be possible.”

Read Owen Hopkins’s full review of the discussion on The Architectural Review here.

Galaxy SOHO, Beijing, China. Image © Hufton+Crow Galaxy SOHO, Beijing, China. Image © Hufton+Crow

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