Patrik Schumacher: Formalism and Formal Research

Patrik Schumacher in front of a crowded auditorium
Architect Patrick Schumacher being introduced by Associate Professor of Architecture Mark Morris. William Staffeld / AAP
Concrete mezzanine in open hall with lights overhead
Dongdaemun Design Plaza by Zaha Hadid. photo / provided
Grey, rounded walls frame blue sky
Dongdaemun Design Plaza by Zaha Hadid. photo / Virgil Simon Bertrand
Patrik Schumacher sitting at a podium in front of a screen
Patrik Schumacher presenting his work in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium. William Staffeld / AAP
A crowd of people standing on the steps of an auditorium
A near capacity crowd gathered in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium for Patrik Schumacher's lecture. William Staffeld / AAP

Edgar A. Tafel Lecture Series

Patrik Schumacher is principal of Zaha Hadid Architects and has led the firm since Hadid's passing in March 2016. He joined Zaha Hadid in 1988, has been a coauthor on most projects, and was seminal in developing Zaha Hadid Architects to become a 400-person strong global architecture and design brand. In 1996 he founded the Design Research Laboratory at the Architectural Association where he continues to teach. He has lectured worldwide and recently held the John Portman Chair in Architecture at Harvard GSD. Over the last 20 years, he has contributed more than 100 articles to architectural journals and anthologies. In 2008 he coined the phrase parametricism and has since published a series of manifestos promoting parametricism as the new epochal style for the 21st century. In 2010 and 2012 he published his two-volume theoretical opus magnum, The Autopoiesis of Architecture. He recently guest-edited an issue of Architectural Design titled "Parametricism 2.0," setting architecture's agenda for the 21st century with a new emphasis on the societal relevance of parametricism.


The formal innovations from the 1980s and 90s owe much to the radical formal iconoclast innovations delivered by the early work of Zaha Hadid. These innovations have been largely misunderstood and thus confined to the avant-garde. 'Formalism' and its derivative 'formalist' (as noun or adjective) remain potent derogatory terms within architectural discourse. It is taken for granted that the creative investment into the elaboration of forms detracts from the concern for function. A moment's reflection reveals that all concern for a design's functioning must be achieved by working on its form. Schumacher's formula for this truism: form delivers function. The functionality designers (in contrast to engineers) should be concerned with is social (rather than technical) functionality. In most general terms the societal function of architecture and the design disciplines is the spatio-morphological ordering and framing of all social interaction processes.

Schumacher's lecture is being held in conjunction with an exhibition in John Hartell Gallery titled Up Close: The Models of Zaha Hadid.