The legacy of Alberti’s 15th century treatise, De re aedificatoria, on architectural theory and practice up to the present day is profound and wide-ranging. Indeed, the story of building over the last five and a half centuries is, in part, the story of the diverse interpretations, adaptations, and transformations of the rules of building that Alberti derived from classical architecture and laid down in his treatise. Interestingly, this story of transformations begins with Alberti himself – with his own adaptations and departures from classical rules within his own design practice and for his own time. In so doing, Alberti set the stage for others to transform rules, precedents, and traditions in innovative and context-specific ways.
In this paper, design rules and transformations are introduced through the ideas and work of Alberti, and then expanded through a computational lens, specifically, through the lens of shape grammars. Four computational strategies for transforming designs to produce new ones are outlined and illustrated through prior case studies with shape grammars. In each strategy, the analysis of precedents is the impetus for design, and rules are the basis for practice. Though the computational format of shape grammars rules is unique and contemporary, the goals and potentials of shape grammars are very much in the spirit of Alberti.