“We create history for ourselves, and we have a fondness for participating in grand epics.”
Brian Herbert

Hunters of Dune

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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Christopher Alexander on Program Budgeting

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This quote comes from a context of large building projects … these ideas may need to be adapted to different scales of projects … but what strikes me most about this is that it creates an alignment of motivations using a budgetary approach … instead of typical conflicts of interest which arise around money and budgets:

“Money is the lifeblood of every building. How it is garnered and spent determines the outcome and the artistic life and soul of the finished building. It is the overall global pattern of expenditure which controls the way feeling can occur,because it is this which controls the overall pattern of material, in quantity and quality …

… starting with the money, and allowing the overview of money to guide the process every day and at every stage of work, help unfolding, because it is only in this procedural atmosphere that one truly has a grasp of the whole at every stage.

… In program budgeting, a cost plan is made starting even before design begins. This cost plan is an assignment of budget amounts allocated to different categories of work. To start with the cost plan is made intuitively, to capture how much one wants to spend in these categories.

… One guesses and can feel the result of spending 14% on foundations, 22% on roof structure, etc. The purpose is to find a set of numbers which are realistic, and yet create the best possible depth of feeling that can be attained within the given budget envelope. For a team with experience, numbers like these translate directly and intuitively into a sense fo how the building will turn out …

Of course the allocations in the first cost plan are subsequently tested and modified continually, as the work goes forward …

The assumption throughout is that the numbers will remain within the framework set. What floats is the design, not the price. One assumes that “something” can always be done for any sum suggested, and the subcontractors and general manager must make do with that so as not to disturb the whole – the whole, in this instance, being the overall budget distribution that has been allocated in the cost plan.

Thus, as the building design develops, each subcontractor … instead of being show the drawings and asked to bid the work, he is told the sum allocated, and asked what he can do that is best for the project within that sum of money.

… the benchmark of the process is that the allocation which has been made gives the failsafe distribution: in the best interest of the building overall, and it is unwise for any one operation to be allowed to drive it out of balance, merely because something has been drawn or specified, which is expensive. Rather, one takes the attitude, let this allocated amount be fixed, and – unless exceptional conditions dictate otherwise – whatever can be done for that amount will serve the project well. “

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

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