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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis seeks to experiment with the culmination of social, natural and built paradigms of sustainability using digital generation as an architectural process. Specifically, this thesis will explore cellular automaton and modular design approaches in the context of multifamily housing, asking if we can quantify the qualities of equitable housing and guide digital algorithms to generate efficient, flexible, human centered designs. Cellular automaton is a term used to describe a phenomenon in which the growth of one cell in a plant or animal is entirely dependent upon the already existing adjacent cell. Digital cellular automaton is a mathematical, rule based tool used to generate patterns or to map complex systems; similarly, the generation of new cells is entirely dependent on the environment it is being born into. The aim of this work is to translate human centered parameters and local architectural guidelines into an algorithm with rules which can be easily manipulated to produce comparable digitally generated forms. The parameters will be based on an architectural program consisting of a multi-unit mixed income residential building located in, and designed for the residents of, Northampton, Massachusetts. Northampton is an exemplary small-scale city; a historic New England town with housing problems reminiscent of a larger urban area. The selected site allows for investigations of density, growth, adaptation and modular design in a way that could be applied to not only similarly sized cities, but regions of varying density based on their own local parameters. For a relevant output, the parameters and data put into the algorithm must be humanized, individualized, or in the case of this work, curated to reflect and serve a specific community. Cellular automaton allows for varied pattern generation and for the exploration of repeating modules as well as allow for future adaptations to evolving housing needs and sustainability targets. The goal is to create a supportive system of habitat that allows for growth potential and flexibility without sacrificing quality of life for the inhabitants.


First Advisor

Jordan Kanter

Included in

Architecture Commons