Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 73-111

First online:

Creating Specific Grammars with Generic Grammars: Towards Flexible Urban Design

  • José Nuno BeirãoAffiliated withFaculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology
  • , José Pinto DuarteAffiliated withFaculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Rua Sá Nogueira, Pólo Universitário, Alto da Ajuda Email author 
  • , Rudi StouffsAffiliated withFaculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology


The aim of the City Induction project is to develop an urban design tool consisting of 3 parts: an urban programme formulation module, a generation module and an evaluation module. The generation module relies on a very generic Urban Grammar composed of several generic grammars called Urban Induction Patterns (UIPs) corresponding to typical urban design moves. Specific grammars, such as the analytical grammars inferred from our case studies, can be obtained by defining specific arrangements of Urban Induction Patterns and specific constraints on the rule parameters. We show that variations on the UIP arrangements or rule parameters can provide design variations and specific grammars to be synthesised through design exploration. It is therefore seen as a process for synthesizing a specific design grammar within the field of urban design and has two main features: (1) it allows for the synthesis of specific grammars during the design process and (2) it allows for the customization of a personal design language within the broad scope of the generic grammar.

A formal definition of Urban Grammars is presented and its application in the production of customized urban designs is demonstrated by customizing design languages using a specific compound grammar defined by a specific arrangement of generic grammars.


Urban design shape grammars urban patterns