Zaha Hadid was first among a cohort of international architects who embraced the tools of parametric architecture, giving shape to a concept of design that was fundamentally informed by the principles and tools of artificial intelligence.

Parametric design starts from simple suppositions: a building has height, width and depth; it has walls, floors and a roof; there are doors and windows. These are basic parameters that can be expressed in numbers and forms. There are infinite possibilities for the relations between these parameters, and the many more parameters that can be introduced. When parameters are expressed as algorithms—a recipe or list of instructions that produce a limited series of correlated operations—they can then be combined to generate an infinite variety of forms or permutations. At its very heart, parametric design is fundamentally relational, and finds its closest and most influential models in the world of nature, the organic, the biological and the genetic.

Building on techniques devised by digital animators in the mid-1990s, technologists, architects and software engineers developed advanced parametric design systems that allowed architects to use algorithms to produce complex, intricately interwoven designs, as well as innovative fabrication technologies to build those radical designs.

To design the Morpheus Hotel, Hadid, working closely with Patrik Schumacher (a principal at her firm), began with a simple constraint: they would use the existing foundation of an abandoned condominium project as the starting point for an extrusion that would rise up forty storeys with two internal circulation cores connected at street level and roof level. This large rectangular block was then “carved” with three voids that pierce the rectangle, creating a unique surface and extraordinary light inside and outside the building.

The building’s program of use is complex, involving an intricate interplay of public and private spaces as is typical of most hotels. The interior design follows many of the parameters used for the external structure, exploiting the capacity of parametric design to accommodate dramatic shifts in scale. Because the building is primarily supported with its unique exoskeleton, the interior spaces—largely freed from traditional structural constraints—are given an open and organic latticework treatment.

“Morpheus draws on ZHA’s 40 years of research into the integration of interior and exterior, civic and private, solid and void, Cartesian and Einsteinian. Space is woven within structure to tie disparate programmes together and constantly make connections.”—Zaha Hadid Architects

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Zaha Hadid Architects, Morpheus Hotel, 2013–18, Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid Architects, Morpheus Hotel, 2013–18, digital slideshow, Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects