“…insight, vision, moments of revelation. During those rare moments something overtakes the man and he becomes the tool of a greater Force; the servant of, willing or unwilling depending on his degree of awakeness. The photograph, then, is a message more than a mirror, and the mans a messenger who happens to be a photographer.”
Minor White

Christopher Alexander on the Purpose of a Room

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“In principle, a room is the sanctification and illumination of a life. It is your life made manifest. The room itself, like a cradle or a gathering together of a life is, in its essence, the place of a thousand joys and sorrows, the receptacle of your life and your children’s lives, the embodiment, in physical order, of what your spirit has been and has become.

That is, perhaps, the true purpose of a room. It is comfort, but true comfort, an inner spiritual comfort … It is the real comfort, the comfort of the soul: but also the comfort of pillows, soft light, sounds just right for the ear, birds singing, a solitary vine running up the front door and bearing one, two, then three blossoms …”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on a Coherent Plan

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” … it is more important to get the rooms right, one by one, than it is to have a coherent ‘plan’. Don’t worry about trying to arrange the overall plan – that is not unfolding but manipulation. Instead, start with the most important room. Put it in the most important place, towards the garden, or the sunlight, or the river, or the street … Let it take its own form. Don’t worry about the rooms around it. Then do the same for the next rooms, get them right. When you do thing this way, some places will a little bit of a shambles. There will be left over spaces, funny bits and pieces where you can put closets, toilets, storerooms. Don’t worry about the plan so much. Just make each part really beautiful, in its position, in its quietness … in its light.”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on Vital Centers of a Room

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“Now we come to the internal organization of the room. This is the most subtle aspect of room design. It is extremely hard because, in many cases, the centers which to be created, and which define the room, are almost invisible.

… The vital centers which govern the life of the room are nearly invisible pieces of space which exist as centers, yet usually have no clear boundaries, sometimes no obvious defining marks. Like still places in a stream, they are nearly imperceptible in the configuration, yet all-important.

So the secret of making a room with life … depends on our ability to make living centers appear, almost without seeming to, within the very simple structure of a nearly featureless rectangle of space.

… Usually the main center of a room is defined by two things: (1) it is a quiet spot in the pattern of movement and (2) it is a place near the light … a quiet backwater in the flow of moving people, and the intense oriented place towards the light.

… The fundamental process therefore takes these latent centers (to begin with, really just places which seem that they will be foci of light in the room) and makes them into ‘something’ … develop it with detail, sills, bays, glazing bars … the window is not a hole in the wall but a definite volume of space … once the center formed by the light is a coherent space in its own right … the shaping of it then creates the space which animates the room.”

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

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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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Christopher Alexander on Mass Situations

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There is a section of the text about sequences that I did not quote from because there was no single quote that shimmered for me and I felt that it needed to be kept whole. This quote builds upon that missing subject and yet seems to have an independence. It holds, I believe, a key to a question I have reflected on (and I recall Pietro raising it too): what is the role / position of an expert (in any process). The answer Christopher Alexander seems to give is in creating processes that lead to unfolding of living structures … processes that are clear and simple enough for others to make decisions on their own. An expert creates processes that enable others to create.

Also, I can’t begin to emphasize how valuable to me the idea of differentiation is. In trying to plan things (a woodworking project, a deck, a house) I often feel stuck when trying an approach based on addition of parts. I am embracing this awareness and flagging it with an alternative … how to modify what I am doing into a task of differentiation. This makes me ask different questions. It reminds me to re-seek and reconnect with a sense of a wholeness I am trying to create and to look for that an anchor for what I am trying to do now WITHIN that wholeness (most recently I have attempted to to this with the physical construction of the Arduino powered automated dog-feeder I am building – both in its design AND in the way / order / sequence in which it is constructed / constructed).

“In any mass situation which requires repetition of houses, or repetition of apartment, or repetition of offices, it is good to bear the following in mind. Once generic patterns have been established, it is relatively easy to generate local individual variations in a genuine and practical way. You can do it be inventing processes … which give each individual the power to create the configuration of their individual house or apartment or office. Such a process can easily be constructed so that silly mistakes will not occur, and so that the process virtually guarantees that each person will be able to make a coherent design.

In general the geometry will be created by differentiations, not by addition or accretion, the parts given their dimensions by differentiating operations within the space of the land, or within the space of the room where the thing is being made.”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on Sameness and Uniqueness

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this quote comes after a story of how three different houses individually unfolded in a shared place in nature where three families wanted to create a shared experience:

“The uniqueness of the houses, the sensation that they are like nature, different leaves off the same tree, comes in large part from the way these houses were later built.

All three houses used a common form of construction. All have stem walls of stone, heavy stud walls, open ceiling beams … stones in the courtyards, wooden windows …

One might make the mistake of thinking that if each house had its own unique system of construction … But this is not the way it works.

Imagine an oak tree on which there was a fig leaf, a hazel nut leaf, a willow leaf interspersed among he oak leaves. This would not create a feeling of uniqueness in the different leaves. It would merely be bizarre and chaotic. The quality of uniqueness is a quality of particularity which stems only from necessity … It is because we all have noses – essentially similar in shape and structure 0 that we recognize a certain person’s nose, mouth, eyes. This sameness provides the ground against which we see their uniqueness.

And just so with these houses. They are more particular, more unique, because they are all made within the same process of formation and construction – and the differences that come from place, person and temperament are made more visible, stand out, are there to be loved – because they ‘beat’ against the shared sameness.

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

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Small glimpse into human nature

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I parked next to the village post-office. As I got out of the car a ragged old man passed by me and started talking … in Romanian … I though he was talking to himself. We passed each other and I was on my way to the post office when I realized he was talking to me. He moved very slowly, so it took him time to turn around and face me.

With my basic Romanian I was trying to understand what he was saying. He assumed I spoke Romanian so he wasn’t being considerate and speaking slowly or clearly for me. When I looked confused he took out his ragged wallet and from it a small piece of folded paper. He unfolded the paper which had a phone number on it. With that clue I was able to piece together that he was asking for a phone to call his wife so that she could come and pick him up. I asked him, would you like to use my telephone … holding my telephone out to him to compensate for my Romanian. He said yes.

I dialed the phone number on the paper for him and gave it to him. He immediately started talking … assuming the connection had already been made. I told him to wait a second. I am guessing he then heard the phone ringing and waited. During that short interval I had a chance to look at him more closely. His eyes were partly closed. He was wearing ragged clothes. The zipper on his pants looked broken … his pants were tied on and one of his sweaters was sticking out where there should have been a zipper. His hand was shaking nervously (some kind of illness I am guessing). A woman’s voice answered and he asked to come and get him. He then switched to speaking Hungarian and spoke for another half a minute. Then he handed me the phone back.

I wished him a good day and started to resume my journey to the post office. He asked me to wait. He fumbled with his wallet again and his fingers opened the slot that holds bills. There was only one bill of only one lei. He pulled it out and handed it to me. I replied: no thank you, I was glad to help have a nice day. He insisted. I insisted too. He held his arms out and embraced me softly, thanking me and wishing me health.

 

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Christopher Alexander on Doing Work Together

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One beneficial side effect, I believe, to a process as described in this quote, would be that group decision-making would probably take more time (then is typically allocated for it) … as it should. This kind of process unveils the illusion of quick-feel-good-superficial-consensus. It takes time, engagement, care, patience, attention to detail … if a group does not have time and space for this kind of engagement the process will make it known … it has potential to keep a group from escaping to superficial agreement … it may bring a group’s attention back to itself … to its own ability to function … instead of allowing a disability to be overlooked and generating disabling decisions.

When people work together, in small groups, how then does the unfolding process work?

No one quite knows where to start. They want to express themselves, they want to express their own individual ideas; yet they want to work together. How to curb the bounds of individualism, when to give in, when to insist? It is extremely hard …

If, for example, we are to place a bench i a neighborhood, and say there are quite a number of people involved in it. And suppose, for the sake of example, that two alternatives are placed before us. Choice is (in theory) the classic tool of democracy. So let us – together, perhaps thirty or forty of us – try to decide which of the two benches is better for this place, bench A or bench B.

The problem is that bench A and bench B differ in so many different ways, on so many dimensions. One bench is wood, one bench is metal. One is blue, or is black; one has a more comfortable profile than the other does, perhaps A is comfortable, B is more formal. On the other hand, A, which is more comfortable, is perhaps made with a shape not entirely pleasing to the eye; while B, less comfortable to sit on, is very delightful in its shape.

So as we, the thirty of us who want to decide this thing, set out to work together, how can we decided whether A or B is better Of course we cannot … The difficulty comes from the size and extent of the decisions we are trying to agree on. Choice among alternatives, as a strategy, does not work realistically.

The answer, the solution to the difficulty, lies in the use of the fundamental process, applied over and again, focusing on very limited, tiny decisions taken one at a time, in sequence … the steps can be made so small and so particular that for each step the thirty of us will find it possible to succeed in deciding among the possibilities, what is best by checking versions, testing them, trying things out …

Even when the whole is as big as a building, or even a portion of a neighborhood, the complex of answers optimizing a group consensus can be arrived at by arranging the whole evolution of the form, as a sequence of smaller questions. Provided the smaller questions are taken in the right order, step by step, resolving one step at a time, in a manageable way, we shall be able to reach agreement even as a group. But the end result of these limited agreements will not be a single choice among half a dozen alternatives (inevitably a phone choice). It will be a unique thing which has been generated, truthfully, as a product of twenty or fifty or a hundred true answers to unique questions … because the questions were small enough and reasonable enough, not arbitrary, so that people could discuss them, feel them the same wat, settle them, move on to the next, and thus gradually approach consensus on the emergent whole.”

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

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Christopher Alexander on Static & Dynamic

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dynamic and static indeed … and also … how to juggle these two qualities

“Think about the time dependent process by which an unplanned human settlement grows naturally. Someone starts with the idea of building or living on a certain site. A few people build their houses there. In the natural order of things, perhaps an office or workshop is built there. Then a small cafe is built. That happens in response to people’s needs and the press of their activities. As a result of the cafe and the office, and their interaction with the terrain, people start driving to that place in a certain way, parking their cars in a certain way.

Those parking places and that dirt road set up in relation to the terrain, take on a certain natural form. Then, if another person wants to build a workshop there, or an office, it goes in a certain place which is related to the existing directly aligned dirt road, to its parking, to the office, to the cafe and its view.

The position for the second workshop is a natural outcome of the answer ‘Where would I like to locate in relation to all these other things that are there already?’ It is, almost certainly, a very different spot from the spot that would have been marked on an original master plan, if one existed. That si because on the master plan, someone was trying to arrange everything at the same time … So if the second workshop wer built according to a master-plan it would inevitably be unrelated to the terrain, cafe, road.

… Even in this first very small increment of construction, the dynamic time-dependent process creates and maintains relatedness. The static master plan does not. It a community growing over time, such increments will happen hundreds – more likely thousands – of times. It a dynamic process is followed, so that each time the next step follows existing things – preserves the structure, and creates and maintain relationships – we get a harmonious living community.

If, instead, a static master-plan based process if followed, and the 20 or 100 things are built according to the original drawing or plan, then they will exist, for the most part, without real functional relationships: the whole is unrelated in its internal elements; there has been no structure preserving going on, step after step, and the whole remains dead.

Thus, the main problem of community development, of growing a neighborhood, is to do it in the dynamic wat not in the static way.”

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

 

 

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Christopher Alexander on Cars in Neighborhoods

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… though the subject of a neighborhood is of lesser interest to me …this is a wonderful example of direct reasoning and priorities … and this is just one example … is it any wonder that our sense of community has been eroded … and the funny thing is that I too always appreciated the spacious roads and organized parking lots … and I too rarely walked anywhere … except to and from my car … which makes me wonder how we have also eroded our sense of like … replacing wholeness with superficial comforts … and then searching and searching … and not finding a sense of wholeness

“… A neighborhood should be a place where you would rather walk than drive your car, where people feel ree to walk, meet, enjoy themselves, a place where children can play safely almost anywhere; …

In a neighborhood modified by a living process, the car must therefore be made to play second fiddle to the pedestrian … It is convenient, the car can reach almost every house, almost every workshop, but it is not allowed to dominate the situation, nor to create conditions which threaten the well-being of the pedestrian world …

To achieve this we give in the unfolding process, priority to the process that established the pedestrian structure, and we expect this … to be coherent, dominated by local symmetries which form the land into nice pieces …

… The process of setting in parking, lanes for cars … comes later. And we expect that the paths for cars will be somewhat tortured. It makes the car slow down when it is in the neighborhood. The car can easily negotiate bends, curves, etc. On the other hand, for the pedestrian, unless there are views, and a coherent sense of the space, the pedestrian world will not easily be grasped. So (contrary to most 20th-century thinking) the car si given irregular streets and parking, while the pedestrian is pampered, made to feel kind, allowed to feel at home.”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on Unconventional Wisdom

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…in my 43 years of living no one has ever asked me, in a meaningful social context, to speak truly about my life … about “our” life … I have not yet been a part of … is it just me or is that the way things have been in recent human history?

“How could I ever have guessed, when I began working with the people of Chikusadai in Japan, that they would, above all, revere the insects, that they wanted a world where insects – and above all cicadas – would be safe – because they felt that in such a world, once the insects are all right, then they, the people themselves – would be all right too …

No outsider can do justice to these human phenomena. Usually, they can be described only from inside by the people who are part of them …

When people think about this, they CAN articulate it. They know what is needed to give them – for their place – surroundings in which life can be lived. And when they dream of a world, imagined by people for themselves, they come closer to a life which grants true freedom …

When people are given the freedom to speak truly about their lives, they have an unconventional wisdom, an idiosyncratic quality, which brings forth unique centers, unique living structure in each situation. That is what we mean by their culture or their ‘way’. It is a shared vision … not part of the conventional professional wisdom of architects and planners …

It is this, which receives expression through the medium of a collective pattern language. It celebrates human uniqueness, the enormous variety of human effort, human desire, human aspiration.”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on Communal Vision

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… the path to deep communal vision begins with deep individual visions …

“To go towards true belonging, we must also consider the deeper process by which people may draw from their own experience, the aspects of the environment – its necessary centers – that will genuinely contribute to deep feeling in the environment.

If you ask me how to get the deepest stuff from people, the stuff which matters most, I would not have them meet all together, under conditions of imagined communality. I would rather talk quietly, to one person at a time, drawing from each individual his, her, their most important feelings, and their most authentic visions …

Once one reaches that level of depth, what is being said is then rarely idiosyncratic or private. It moves from that realm, enters a new realm of psychology, reality of feeling, becomes something which will raise a deep effect in all of us. At least, that is my experience.

… I think this work has to be done by an architect. Or, if you like, an architect-psychiatrist. A person, anyway, who cares about people, who cares about the real forces flowing in people, the real visions which people have in them, who loves those visions, and who is then willing to write those visions down, step by step, one by one, in the form of a communal language which can be used and shared by everyone in that community.

… A drawing is too monolithic; even when it contains separable elements, it is much harder to take its elements apart or to discuss them separately. But with a picture made of words, you can discuss the elements one by one throw some out when they don’t work, improve them, work gradually to a proper understanding and agreement based on debate and refinement.

… Have someone … who is not concerned to impose an egocentric image on the community – coordinating the work of putting this language together, so that it can be made coherent and useful – and, if possible, poetic.

Do all this with careful awareness of deep morphology so that … the system of patterns and sequences becomes generative, capable of conjuring up a whole geometric world when it is let loose.”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on Unfolding Unanimity

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I felt relief reading this … I’ve never felt drawn to participating in such excercises and usually felt discomfort when others were doing them (especially on my behalf).

“When people do sit down and discuss patterns together, one by one, the remarkable unanimity which comes from these discussions is often moving and profound.

During the seventies and eighties of the last century, the then prevailing rhetoric of pluralism tried to persuade us that because we are ll different, we live in a world of competing interests, and tha unanimity is not available or reachable. Yet the language of “interests” “conflicts” and “compromise” … came chiefly from the special interests of particular players who want to do something one-side – usually to do with money. It is these one-sided interests which have to be balanced , or negotiated – in my view, because they are not quite legitimate in the first place.

Ordinary people, who are not pushing a special economic interest, rarely have such profound conflicts. The reality of daily life … is largely shared in its deeper aspects, and remarkably uniform …

The process of taking individual generic patterns one by one, getting them right in isolation, then gradually adding them to a “bank” of good patterns, is quite different from the process that used to be followed in the late 20th century community design  … an architect enters the community and gathers people around, then people draw together on a huge piece of paper … all trying to put their ideas and visions into the process. This design charrette is intended to create communal agreement, and a communal vision …

The problem is, that this charrette procedure creates an illusion of communality and of understanding without necessarily creating the real thing: true understanding …

At its worst, the practice of design charrettes is a kind of political scam which is meant to create the sensation or impression of cooperation and collective work – but actually does not. This rather postmodern approach, in which it is the image of what si going on that matters, not the reality can be disastrous …

.. A drawing is not a good medium for a process, which requires serious and mature reflection, one item at a time … [only then] people can arrive at things which are then mutually satisfying, realistic, a genuine part of their vision of the world. “

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

 

 

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Christopher Alexander on Gardens

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Reading this chapter made me feel that permaculture (and my relationship to it) may have injured my potential relationship with gardening …

“What is the effect of living process, used repeatedly, to shape exterior space? …

… in gardens, we come close to the heart of zen, to the contact with life which shows it to us as orderly and uncontrollable, wild and cultivated, dispassionate and unkempt … it is in gardens, above all, that most of us have an opportuity to express it an an ordinary level, to try it, practice it

a garden is a structure … which creates and contains living centers … it needs to be understood as an extension of the building … The exterior structure is as vital a part of the structure of the whole, as the building … you cannot forget it, or reduce it, without severely damaging the whole. This exterior structure is what brings life to the world

Oddly, the wildness of an unfolded garden does not become most natural without support. It becomes most vivid, when supported by a delicate system of small walls, edges, terraces .. which refer to centers that are in the land and have been formed by structures built before … The loosely, carefully made centers … let loose, what is seeking to happen there, as if of its own accord …

It is the least constrained part of our environment, the place where each of us is most free to do what we want. So we can express ourselves; we can have our heart’s desire; we really can do what we WANT to do …

To get the wild true garden by unfolding, all we have to do, really, is what every good gardener does. Like a painter placing one color at a time, most carefully, giving each precious drop of color its life, we must pay attention to each place, flower by flower, bush by bush, one bit at a time, and sk what its character is …

Of course, I am concerned with sunshine and shade, water, drainage, soil condition … But … in making a living world, we must above all be concerned with centers. Centers govern life. The fundamental process asks us again and again to see, feel the centers latent in the land

The beat of informality against the discipline of geometric order, can led to the most splendid qualities … the relation of the cultivated to the wild … Allow the mess, where it wants to be, as a natural counterpart to the cultivated and pruned and tamed.”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on One Thing at a Time

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“If you do one thing at a time – just a true thing that comes from a carefully considered feeling – that means , when you do it, your own feeling is enormously increased, and you choose it because of that, and you put it there because of that … then something real, ordinary real life, will come into being there”

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

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Christopher Alexander on Structural Engineering … of Space and Solid

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“To solve the problem [of structural engineering], you need to address the alternation of space and solid in the building; and you need to approach this matter almost as if it were a problem of decoration, of playing, making the solid mass of the building so beautiful in its own right …

It is too often forgotten that a building is, above all, a load-bearing structure. The most significant thing about what we call a buildins is that it is a disposition of material weighing several hundred or several thousand tons. The question is, how do we arrange these thousands of tons to make something with powerful sense, with psychic force?

To do it, we essentially have to think of the structure as big and the space as small. The structure is made of big and massive members … And the building will be beautiful , or not, according to the pattern of these members in three dimensions …

Structural mass is almost always distributed with rhythm …

The process of creating the structure consists mainly of work we do in the centers, trying to make them stronger and more intense. The process of making the centers intense, and the process of making the structure powerful and able to withstand forces, are the essence of the thing. We master the art of making this structure ar that moment when we see the system of load-bearing elements (structure) and the system of rooms (spatial centers) as one and the same problem …

This is virtually pure art. It is not, as peoeple sometimes like to say, a mixture of practical and art. It is pure art.

… what the fundamental process does to make a building beautiful, is to make the structure part and parcel of the space … The structural elements form a composition in their own right, as do the spaces: two beautiful systems of centers, each with its own weight and substance, each interlocked and interdependent with the other.

So, a good building, in the end, is a dense packing of pure pattern in three dimensions, in which every piece, every part, is positive. This is not so easy to achieve …

What is most remarkable of all, is that the structure which is created by a feeling for centers and by a conscious and deliberate aim towards the feeling of the whole, will often turn out to be an efficient structure … engineering structure … efficient, stable, well behaved, coherent … Why this happens is a deep matter, too difficult to analyze here. “

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

 

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Addiction: a crisis of disconnection

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“… the path out of unhealthy bonds is to form healthy bonds …

for too long we’ve talked only about individual recovery from addiction

but we need now to talk about social recovery …”

via Esko Kipli

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Christopher Alexander on Building Volumes

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… putting buildings in service of the land … being in service gives purpose and context and direction … being in service becomes a nourishing relationship (if you can get it right) … being in service of what wants to be instead of expecting to be served what I want …

“The most crucial thing to understand throughout the volume-creating processes, is that IT IS THE LAND WHICH MATTERS. The purpose of the buildings is to bring life to the land. The building volumes are the tools with which we undertake this task. This is a radical point of view. It puts the building in a humble position making it a tool, the clay from which we mold the pace. But it is the land and its space, as they become activated by this clay, which really matter.

… It is remarkable to realize that it is this uncompromising attitude of attention to the land which also makes the building volumes subtle and beautiful. That is truly surprising. The land itself, and our love for it, is enough to give the actual building volumes their shape …

Like a person who, in being helpful, becomes more graceful, more beautiful as a person, the building volumes become beautiful as they help the land.”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on Eyes of Lovers

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I find it challenging to allow both critical thinking and “eyes of lovers” to co-exist, inform each other, bounce around, contain  … and hopefully integrate …

“To start with, we look at that land with the eyes of lovers. We see the land, appreciate its good qualities, love what is it, no matter how derelict, still we love what is best in it. And then, as lovers of it, we have to imagine that by putting a building there, we can make the place better. This is often hard to imagine. In a natural landscape, is it really possible that the bushes, the buttercups, the small blue flowers on the hedge are made better by putting a building somewhere? But I persist … I begin to see a glimpse of the way that the whole land might become better if I put a building there … I get a glimmer of an idea that this land can actually be improved, made better …”

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

 

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Christopher Alexander on Feeling of Materials

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This takes me back to the conversation Annelieke and I had about the roofing material used for the deck. I designed for corrugated sheet metal, Annelieke prefered clay tiles (which is what came to be). When Annelieke explained her position based on vague notions of magnetic fields I wasn’t comfortable with it … because neither of us know much about it … not substantial knowledge that we can relate to with any depth. However it is clear that the metal roof would have been a much less involved roof … I chose it because it was cheap and easy for me to build. The choice to go with clay tiles was much more demanding (the roof structure had to be changed / reinforced) and more involved … and in the end not that much more expensive. I also felt, and still feel that a green roof was the most “living” option … but it felt beyond my capacity when the buld was taking place.

“The feeling of a material does not depend on what it is – it depends on how it is handled.”

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

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