Shape Computation Lab

From Drawing Shapes to Scripting Shapes



From Drawing Shapes to Scripting Shapes: Architectural Theory Mediated by Shape Machine


Heather Ligler and Athanassios Economou


Siobhan Rockcastle and Tarek Rakha


Symposium on Simulation for Architecture and Urban Design (SimAUD)



ACM Digital Library

Publication date:



Architecture, Shape grammars, Design computation, Computer-aided design, Modeling and simulation


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.