“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw

Christopher Alexander on an Architecture Studio Class

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Reading this brought Itsik to my heart and mind. I know, and on a couple of occasions have witnessed him deal with this specific challenge, the studio class.

Though as I read this I also thought about the “competition” format that was (probably still is) so prevalent and normative and the source of so much difficulty in his work as an architect. Where in other disciplines contractors bid on projects (another example of life destroying processes), in architecture (as I got to know it through Itsik) the norm is that architects “apply” for a project through a competition in which they submit a design – a VERY complete and mature design process that isn’t paid for, unless you are the winning architect. It always struck me as a highly abusive (in almost every possible way) process … and now reading this text makes me wonder if the foundations for this process were not laid in this ill-conceived teaching process described by Alexander where the teachers (often professional architects) teach and do to students what customers to do them as professional architects:

” … almost any social process can have a relatively more living character, or have a relatively less living character … even the typical process which take place in an architect’s mind – these are all originally socially defined processes, and these are all capable of being relatively more living, or less living.

Suppose, for instance, that a group of architecture students are asked to make designs in a studio class, and are then asked to bring their drawings for presentation to a jury of several faculty who will make comments about all the designs. This process was widely used in 20th-century architecture schools. It, too, is a process, a process traditional in contemporary architectural circles and part of the process of design which these students are being taught. Unfortunately, this process is harmful, and has a strong tendency to work against creation of living structure in building design. It is harmful because it encourages students to focus on image more than on reality. In the first place they larn to equate design with drawing, and re not taught that it is the quality of the building more than the quality of the drawing which matters most. Second, the jury system encourages presentation: Those who draw the most beautiful and slick images tend to gain sympathy from jurors who only have a few moments to study each design. Further, the process is far too quick, and too casual. Jury members sit in judgment, often without understanding the schemes they are judging; the whole procedure encourages a trivial attitude to buildings.

All extant processes may be scrutinized, tested, examined for the degree to which they are life-creating or not … and … all types of processes, since they have some impact on the formation of the environment, should be made more living in order for our towns and buildings and our outdoor landscape to come to life. In short, not one of the processes in any of these categories should escape scrutiny.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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