Shape Computation Lab

The Six Vitruvian Principles Reframed



The Six Vitruvian Principles of Architectural Design Reframed within Contemporary Computational Design Discourse


Athanassios Economou


Kim Williams and Marco Giorgio Bevilaqua


Nexus 2018 Architecture and Mathematics




Kim Williams Books

Publication date:



Design theory, Algorithms, Shape grammars, Philosophy, Vitruvius


The asymptotic relation between the three Vitruvian prerequisites of design (firmness, utility, and delight) and the six principles of design (order, arrangement, eurythmy, symmetry, propriety and economy) has been one of the most striking and unresolved characteristics of the foundations of architectural theory from Vitruvius’ text onwards. The conundrum is even more exacerbated because of the convoluted and/or obscure nature of the six principles of design. This work here builds on an attractive proposition that recasts the six principles of design in three dyads, but significantly extends it by critically relating it with key ideas in contemporary computational design discourse. It is furthermore suggested that the emergent tripartite scheme of design, including algebras of design, design rules and criticism rules, provides a new light in the Vitruvian model that can disambiguate the esoteric nature of the six principles of design, relate them coherently to the three Vitruvian prerequisites of design, and more significantly, propose an intellectual thread of architectural theory and discourse that can remain useful throughout the ever changing nature of architectural briefs, technologies and aesthetic concerns.