Technical Overview

Three Central Classes

From a bird’s eye perspective, pyMOR is a collection of generic algorithms operating on objects of the following types:


Vector arrays are ordered collections of vectors. Each vector of the array must be of the same dimension. Subsets of vectors can be copied to a new array, appended to an existing array, deleted from the array or replaced by vectors of a different array. Basic linear algebra operations can be performed on the vectors of the array: vectors can be scaled in-place, the BLAS axpy operation is supported and scalar products between vectors can be formed. Linear combinations of vectors can be formed using the lincomb method. Moreover, various norms can be computed and selected components of the vectors can be extracted for empirical interpolation.

Each of these methods takes optional ind parameters to specify the subset of vectors on which to operate. If the parameter is not specified, the whole array is selected for the operation.

New vector arrays can be created using the empty and zeros method. As a convenience, many of Python’s math special methods are implemented in terms of the interface methods.

Note that there is not the notion of a single vector in pyMOR. The main reason for this design choice is to take advantage of vectorized implementations like NumpyVectorArray which internally store the vectors as two-dimensional NumPy arrays. As an example, the application of a linear matrix based operator to an array via the apply method boils down to a call to NumPy‘s optimized dot method. If there were only lists of vectors in pyMOR, the above matrix-matrix multiplication would have to be expressed by a loop of matrix-vector multiplications. However, when working with external solvers, vector arrays will often be just lists of vectors. For this use-case we provide ListVectorArray, a vector array based on a Python list of vectors.

Associated to each vector array is a VectorSpace. A Vector space in pyMOR is simply the combination of a VectorArray subclass and an appropriate subtype. For NumpyVectorArrays, the subtype is a single integer denoting the dimension of the array. Subtypes for other array classes could, e.g., include a socket for communication with a specific PDE solver instance.

Two arrays in pyMOR are compatible (e.g. can be added) if they are from the same VectorSpace, i.e. they are instances of the same class and share the same subtype. The VectorSpace is also precisely the information needed to create new arrays of null vectors using the make_array class method. In fact empty and zeros are implemented by calling make_array with the subtype of the VectorArray instance for which they have been called.


The main property of operators in pyMOR is that they can be applied to VectorArrays resulting in a new VectorArray. For this operation to be allowed, the operator’s source VectorSpace must be identical with the VectorSpace of the given array. The result will be a vector array from the range space. An operator can be linear or not. The apply_inverse method provides an interface for (linear) solvers.

Operators in pyMOR are also used to represent bilinear forms via the apply2 method. A functional in pyMOR is simply an operator with VectorSpace(NumpyVectorArray, 1) as range. Dually, a vector-like operator is an operator with a VectorSpace(NumpyVectorArray, 1) as source. Such vector-like operators are used in pyMOR to represent Parameter dependent vectors such as the initial data of an InstationaryDiscretization. For linear functionals and vector-like operators, the as_vector method can be called to obtain a vector representation of the operator as a VectorArray of length 1.

Linear combinations of operators can be formed using a LincombOperator. When such a linear combination is assembled, assemble_lincomb is called to ensure that, for instance, linear combinations of operators represented by a matrix lead to a new operator holding the linear combination of the matrices. The projected method is used to perform the reduced basis projection of a given operator. While each operator in pyMOR can be projected, specializations of this method ensure that, if possible, the projected operator will no longer depend on high-dimensional data.

Default implementations for many methods of the operator interface can be found in OperatorBase. Base classes for NumPy-based operators can be found in pymor.operators.numpy. Several methods for constructing new operators from existing ones are contained in pymor.operators.constructions.


Discretizations in pyMOR encode the mathematical structure of a given discrete problem by acting as container classes for operators. Each discretization object has operators, functionals, vector_operators and products dictionaries holding the Operators which appear in the formulation of the discrete problem. The keys in these dictionaries describe the role of the respective operator in the discrete problem.

Apart from describing the discrete problem, discretizations also implement algorithms for solving the given problem, returning VectorArrays with space solution_space. The solution can be cached, s.t. subsequent solving of the problem for the same parameters reduces to looking up the solution in pyMOR’s cache.

While special discretization classes may be implemented which make use of the specific types of operators they contain (e.g. using some external high-dimensional solver for the problem), it is generally favourable to implement the solution algorithms only through the interfaces provided by the operators contained in the discretization, as this allows to use the same discretization class to solve high-dimensional and reduced problems. This has been done for the simple stationary and instationary discretizations found in pymor.discretizations.basic.

Discretizations can also implement estimate and visualize methods to estimate the discretization error of a computed solution and create graphic representations of VectorArrays from the solution_space.

Base Classes

While VectorArrays are mutable objects, both Operators and Discretizations are immutable in pyMOR: the application of an Operator to the same VectorArray will always lead to the same result, solving a Discretization for the same parameter will always produce the same solution array. This has two main benefits:

  1. If multiple objects/algorithms hold references to the same Operator or Discretization, none of the objects has to worry that the referenced object changes without their knowledge.
  2. It becomes affordable to generate persistent keys for caching of computation results by generating state ids which uniquely identify the object’s state. Since the state cannot change, these ids have to be computed only once for the lifetime of the object.

A class can be made immutable in pyMOR by deriving from ImmutableInterface, which ensures that write access to the object’s attributes is prohibited after __init__ has been executed. However, note that changes to private attributes (attributes whose name starts with _) are still allowed. It lies in the implementors responsibility to ensure that changes to these attributes do not affect the outcome of calls to relevant interface methods. As an example, a call to enable_caching will set the objects private __cache_region attribute, which might affect the speed of a subsequent solve call, but not its result.

Of course, in many situations one may wish to change properties of an immutable object, e.g. the number of timesteps for a given discretization. This can be easily achieved using the with_ method every immutable object has: a call of the form o.with_(a=x, b=y) will return a copy of o in which the attribute a now has the value x and the attribute b the value y. It can be generally assumed that calls to with_ are inexpensive. The set of allowed arguments can be found in the with_arguments attribute.

All immutable classes in pyMOR and most other classes derive from BasicInterface which, through its meta class, provides several convenience features for pyMOR. Most notably, every subclass of BasicInterface obtains its own logger instance with a class specific prefix.

Creating Discretizations

pyMOR ships a small (and still quite incomplete) framework for creating finite element or finite volume discretizations based on the NumPy/Scipy software stack. To end up with an appropriate Discretization, one starts by instantiating an analytical problem which describes the problem we want to discretize. analytical problems contain Functions which define the analytical data functions associated with the problem and a DomainDescription that provides a geometrical definition of the domain the problem is posed on and associates a BoundaryType to each part of its boundary.

To obtain a Discretization from an analytical problem we use a discretizer. A discretizer will first mesh the computational domain by feeding the DomainDescription into a domaindiscretizer which will return the Grid along with a BoundaryInfo associating boundary entities with BoundaryTypes. Next, the Grid, BoundaryInfo and the various data functions of the analytical problem are used to instatiate finite element or finite volume operators. Finally these operators are used to instatiate one of the provided Discretization classes.

In pyMOR, analytical problems, Functions, DomainDescriptions, BoundaryInfos and Grids are all immutable, enabling efficient disk caching for the resulting Discretizations, persistent over various runs of the applications written with pyMOR.

While pyMOR’s internal discretizations are useful for getting started quickly with model reduction experiments, pyMOR’s main goal is to allow the reduction of discretizations provided by external solvers. In order to do so, all that needs to be done is to provide VectorArrays, Operators and Discretizations which interact appropriately with the solver. pyMOR makes no assumption on how the communication with the solver is managed. For instance, communication could take place via a network protocol or job files. In particular it should be stressed that in general no communication of high-dimensional data between the solver and pyMOR is necessary: VectorArrays can merely hold handles to data in the solver’s memory or some on-disk database. Where possible, we favour, however, a deep integration of the solver with pyMOR by linking the solver code as a Python extension module. This allows Python to directly access the solver’s data structures which can be used to quickly add features to the high-dimensional code without any recompilation. A minimal example for such an integration using pybindgen can be found in the src/pymordemos/minimal_cpp_demo directory of the pyMOR repository. The dune-pymor repository contains experimental bindings for the DUNE software framework.


pyMOR classes implement dependence on a parameter by deriving from the Parametric mix-in class. This class gives each instance a parameter_type attribute describing the form of Parameters the relevant methods of the object (apply, solve, evaluate, etc.) expect. A Parameter in pyMOR is basically a Python dict with strings as keys and NumPy arrays as values. Each such value is called a Parameter component. The ParameterType of a Parameter is simply obtained by replacing the arrays in the Parameter with their shape. I.e. a ParameterType specifies the names of the parameter components and their expected shapes.

The ParameterType of a Parametric object is determined by the class implementor during __init__ via a call to build_parameter_type, which can be used, to infer the ParameterType from the ParameterTypes of objects the given object depends upon. I.e. an Operator implementing the L2-product with some Function will inherit the ParameterType of the Function.

Reading the reference documentation on pyMOR’s parameter handling facilities is strongly advised for implementors of Parametric classes.


pyMOR offers a convenient mechanism for handling default values such as solver tolerances, cache sizes, log levels, etc. Each default in pyMOR is the default value of an optional argument of some function. Such an argument is made a default by decorating the function with the defaults decorator:

def some_algorithm(x, y, tolerance=1e-5)

Default values can be changed by calling set_defaults. A configuration file with all defaults defined in pyMOR can be obtained with write_defaults_to_file. This file can then be loaded, either programmatically or automatically by setting the PYMOR_DEFAULTS environment variable.

As an additional feature, if None is passed as value for a function argument which is a default, its default value is used instead of None. This allows writing code of the following form:

def method_called_by_user(U, V, tolerance_for_algorithm=None):
    algorithm(U, V, tolerance=tolerance_for_algorithm)

See the defaults module for more information.

The Reduction Process

The reduction process in pyMOR is handled by so called reductors which take arbitrary Discretizations and additional data (e.g. the reduced basis) to create reduced Discretizations along with reconstructor classes which allow to transform solution vectors of the reduced Discretization back to vectors of the solution space of the high-dimensional Discretization (e.g. by linear combination with the reduced basis). If proper offline/online decomposition is achieved by the reductor, the reduced Discretization will not store any high-dimensional data. Note that there is no inherent distinction between low- and high-dimensional Discretizations in pyMOR. The only difference lies in the different types of operators, the Discretization contains.

This observation is particularly apparent in the case of the classical reduced basis method: the operators and functionals of a given discrete problem are projected onto the reduced basis space whereas the structure of the problem (i.e. the type of Discretization containing the operators) stays the same. pyMOR reflects this fact by offering with reduce_generic_rb a generic algorithm which can be used to RB-project any discretization available to pyMOR. It should be noted however that this reductor is only able to efficiently offline/online-decompose affinely Parameter-dependent linear problems. Non-linear problems or such with no affine Parameter dependence require additional techniques such as empirical interpolation.

If you want to further dive into the inner workings of pyMOR, we highly recommend to study the source code of reduce_generic_rb and to step through calls of this method with a Python debugger, such as ipdb.