Santa Marta Urban Grammar: Unraveling the spontaneous occupation of Brazilian informal settlements

Debora Verniz, José P. Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The World experiences a significant growth in population coupled with fast urbanization processes particularly in the Southern hemisphere, which puts an enormous pressure on cities, giving rise to numerous social, infrastructural, ecological, and urban problems. In this context, the formal sector is often unable to provide adequate housing for this growing population who resorts to self-help processes that lead to informal settlements. This paper focuses on the development of an analytical shape grammar for Santa Marta, the iconic settlement used as a critical case study, whose rules describe the generation of the self-constructed urban fabric. The methodology includes an analysis of the built shape and the physical urban relations. The resulting model is a shape grammar that recreates the urban fabric of Santa Marta. Future work includes the evaluation of the settlement’s urban space and the corresponding transformation of the analytic grammar to generate a synthetic grammar for planning new housing settlements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)810-827
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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