Joachim Clauss, associate director at Bates Smart, has over 10 years experience in the architecture and building industry in Australia, Germany and South Africa.

He has extensive knowledge in architectural design technology and parametric 3D modelling and is a regular guest lecturer at RMIT and the University of Melbourne.

Architecture and Design spoke to him about parametric design and its future, working on large-scale projects, and his ties to academia.

You have extensive knowledge in parametric design and spoke last year about form finding and optimisation at the University of Melbourne. Where does this interest come from?

Some of the projects I have been involved in to date and some of my current projects have a certain level of complexity on a geometric level. Finding a way to generate, control and hence being able to deliver complex forms and patterns – like facades – became more and more important as part of the design process.

A parametric or scripted process is based on chain-linked elements that are using a single or multiple source parameter, like a surface that might represent a facade. If we now amend this surface the facade breakup we have applied to it will update automatically.

A script is something one has to design just as much as we would in a traditional design process – the parametric process is to me therefore simple and n extension to our design abilities – a method and tool we can call on.

What is the biggest influence at the moment on parametric design?

Some of the parametric design tools are basically generated in an open source fashion. A very large number and variety of those tools are therefore available to us. This open source nature allows the design industry to be connected with software developers, academia, and the broader design industry as a whole in a way that we haven’t seen before; hence we have the opportunity to have much more exposure. 

What impact will technology have on the future of parametric design?

Our ability to harness technology as part of the design and construction industry is obvious. The development that I have had the opportunity to observe and influence over just the last 15 years is enormous.

The ever increasing computing power will allow us to design even more instantly and communicate or designs more fluently from a process perspective, as most of the design and documentation is in 3D. Our 3D models are now intelligent – components are not blocks and surfaces anymore. They are walls and windows and we can use this information to deliver projects and fabricate.

A step we are currently exploring further at Bates Smart is how we can be part of the fabrication process. Our parametric models are absolutely accurate and can be used directly for an industrial fabrication or pre-fabrication process. Going to this next step will open up new opportunities to design, generate and deliver projects – a very exciting prospect.   

You also enjoy working on large-scale projects. What is it about large-scale buildings that interests you?

All projects, independent of their typology, have a level of complexity to them. Large scale projects tend to require a broader, multi-disciplinary group to be involved. I see working and developing a design in such an multi disciplinary environment as a challenging invitation to look beyond the immediate issues of my own profession.

You have strong connections to academia. Why is it important for you maintain these types of connections as an architect?

I enjoy the conversations and discussions – the exchange that involvement with universities can generate. Academia can offer a platform, an environment that allows for ideas and different approaches that can be explored and tested. I am always very happy to be part of such explorations where possible and can bring aspects of the day-to-day issues in practice to the conversation.