Shape Grammar Systems as a Technology for Flexible Design for Values in Cities: Giving Architectural Design to Inhabitants

Pieter E. Vermaas*, Sara Eloy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientific


In this chapter we consider computer tools for architectural design based on shape grammar design systems, and evaluate the advantages and disadvantage of handing over these tools to inhabitants for the design of their apartments. This evaluation is qualitative by considering the values of inhabitants, architects, and cities that are affected by this hand-over. Shape grammar design systems when applied to architecture enable computer tools to generate new designs and adjustments of existing designs of apartments on the basis of design rules. First, focussing on individual housing, it is argued in this chapter that the use of shape grammar design systems by inhabitants for designing their apartment realises the values of customisation and inhabitant autonomy without compromising design quality and structural safety. Second, focussing on cities, it is argued that a wide-spread use of these grammar design systems creates for cities a bottom-up inhabitant-led renewal of neighbourhoods and urban structures that maintains the social fabric in neighbourhoods and the architectural identity of cities. Values that are less realised by the hand-over are financial feasibility and ecological sustainability. Third, shifting to philosophy of technology, we present shape grammar design systems as a technology for design for values in architecture that allows for flexibility in the values designed for over the longer time periods characteristic to architecture. These systems are a technology that enables the incorporation of values of inhabitants, architects, and cities by the designs of apartments, and they are a technology that enables inhabitants to adjust their apartments through time to their developing needs and wishes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTechnology and the city
EditorsM. Nagenborg, T. Stone, M. González Woge, Pieter E. Vermaas
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePhilosophy of Engineering and Technology
ISSN (Print)1879-7202
ISSN (Electronic)1879-7210


  • Architectural design
  • Autonomy of inhabitants
  • Customisation of apartments
  • Design for values
  • Shape grammar systems


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