Unveiling the structure of the Marrakech Medina: A shape grammar and an interpreter for generating urban form

José P. Duarte, João M. Rocha, Gonçalo Ducla Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations


This paper describes research carried out to develop a parametric urban shape grammar for the Zaouiat Lakhdar quarter of the Medina of Marrakech in Morocco. The goal is to create the basis for a system that could capture some features of the existing urban fabric and apply them in contemporary urban planning and architectural design. The methodology used is described, from the initial historical analysis and fieldwork to the identification of three subgrammars necessary to encode the complexity of the urban preexistences: the urban grammar, the negotiation grammar, and the housing grammar. Topdown and bottom-up approaches to grammar design are analyzed and compared. The bottom-up urban grammar developed is then described, and a hand derivation of the existing urban fabric is proposed. Visual, symbolic, and tagged computer implementations of shape grammars are briefly discussed and a novel design generated by the tagged interpreter is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-349
Number of pages33
JournalArtificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing: AIEDAM
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence

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