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Decoding and Recording

Photo of female student wearing an augmented reality headset.

Using Technology to Support Social Integration

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 sufficient adequate housing for this growing population, which then resort to self-help processes that lead to informal settlements. These settlements are not perceived as a problem but as a solution that although affordable and spatially rich presents limitations. This project explores the use of digital technology to overcome such limitations and promote social integration. Technology is used in two ways: first, to map, analyze, and explain the genesis and morphology of informal settlements; and then to devise alternative planning and design methodologies to generate planned settlements with the qualities found in informal settlements while avoiding its shortcomings.

Learn more at the World Studio website.

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José Pinto Duarte Stuckeman Chair in Design Innovation; Director, Stuckeman Center for Design Computing Learn More
Marc Miller Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Learn More
3D scanned image of the favela Santa Marta, Rio by Debora Verniz.

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Penn State

  • Tim Baird
  • Marc Miller
  • Alex Klippel
  • Danielle Oprean


  • Maria Ângela Dias
  • Mário Márcio Queiroz
  • Gonçalo Henriques

U Lisboa


Penn State

  • Debora Verniz
  • Eric Mainzer
  • Sukanya Ranade


Verniz, D.; Duarte, J.P. Santa Marta urban grammar: unraveling the spontaneous occupation of Brazilian informal settlements, in Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 0(0) 1–18. Article first published online: January 2, 2020.

Rahimian, V.; Iulo, L.; Duarte, J.P. A Review of Predictive Software for the Design of Community Microgrids, in Journal of Engineering, Special issue on Energy Management of Distributed Energy and Microgrid, 2018., 13 pages.

Beirão J, Duarte JP (2018). Generic grammars for design domains. Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 32, 225–239. DOI:

Rahimian, V.; Cervone, G.; Duarte, J.P.; Iulo, L. A Machine Learning Framework for Mining the Impact of Urban Form on Energy Consumption in Community Microgrids, in Gero, J. (ed.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Design Computing and Cognition, DCC 20, Atlanta, GA, December 14-16, 2020, Springer, The Netherlands (In Press).

Ni, R.; Duarte, J.P. Monitoring China’s City Expansion in the Urban-Rural Fringe: A Generative Grammar for Binjiang District in Hangzhou, in Gero, J. (ed.), Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Design Computing and Cognition, DCC 18, Milan, Italy, July 2-4, 2018, pp. 459-479, Chapter 23, Springer, The Netherlands. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-05363-5_23