“The art of a warrior is to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Christopher Alexander on the Most Important Room

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“At an early stage in a building design process, the rooms are first established in position: usually to start with, by name, size and rough position. At this stage, conceptually, we may say that the rooms are (usually) rough rectangular volumes of space which have yet to be made ‘good’.

In theory, one might argue that once position and dimensions have been established rooms can be given life later on by choosing the material of walls, windows, door, carpets and furnishing. Then the rooms will be complete. Is that the right approach?

It is not. The centers which bring life to a room are larger features which lie beyond the boundary of the room. Rooms are given their life, first of all, by their position in the flow of people’s movement through the building, the light in the room, and their connection with the outer world beyond the windows – those are the three most salient. By the nature of these things, they can only be settled early on, not later – before rooms have their position – before even the building has its overall ground plan fixed.

… each room must be chosen to be a strong center in itself … And that  – once applied to all the rooms – has profound effect on the building envelope – its perimeter …

Once a room is in position, with its size and location fixed, it is too late to give that room real feeling or true meaning if it does not already have it because of its position in the whole …

Start with the most important room (often the biggest, but not always). It seems almost silly to state this so naively, but is really is true: Most buildings have a ‘most important’ room.

… One may say as a general rule that the main room of the building – in size, position, light, volume, character and structure – must be unforgettable. You must not constrain it with other thoughts, you can let everything else go. If you try to make this main room ‘fit in’ or be part of some system, you will almost certainly make it less than it could be. What you have to do is concentrate, concentrate, concentrate on just this one room … let everything else go to hell – for the moment.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

 

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