The procedural generation of Vitruvian architecture

  • Jeremy Noghani

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


    Can a single, cohesive framework be designed for the purpose of converting any set of historical, architectural descriptions into a digitally modelled format?

    To address and exemplify this question, this study provides a set of novel and technical methods capable of converting a set of architectural writings – namely, Vitruvius’ De Architectura – into an understandable set of procedural and grammatical rules that could then be incorporated into an application, providing a navigable digital model of a prototypical Roman city.

    Different approaches were taken for the various elements of the generated city. A weighted formula was designed for the purpose of citing a city location upon a heightmap, incorporating factors like the distance to the nearest body of water and the gradient of the land. Three methods of situating generic structures within a city were proposed, including a probability distribution method that assigned buildings to districted allotments with a flexible degree of randomness.

    For the generation of the building architecture, a novel formal grammar syntax was devised, capable of describing shapes in a deterministic and technical fashion. The grammar made use of superscripts preceding symbols for the purpose of notating conditional rules, and superscripts and subscripts following symbols for the purpose of adding attributes to said symbols. In this way, architecture was described using grammar rules in a way that would be impractical or outright impossible through the use of traditional grammar syntax.

    The results produced by the application were deemed to be reasonably accurate. Slight discrepancies could be found between the architecture produced by the application and the architecture described by Vitruvius, but this was attributed more to the inaccuracies that arise from the transcription process than to errors caused by the grammars themselves.

    The formal grammar syntax devised for the purpose of describing architecture was deemed to be effective for its purpose. Some cases of ambiguity and inconsistency were acknowledged, and suggestions were made for future improvement, but the syntax was largely considered to be suitable for its intended purpose of describing historical architecture in a technical and legible manner.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorFotis Liarokapis (Supervisor)

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