“I say it clearly as it is — to understand or not to understand, both are mistaken (views).”
Rinzai

The Teachings of Rinzai

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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Christopher Alexander on Concentration (dharana)

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“… thought experiments … There were serveral of us making these judgements, together. That always helped to make our judgments more reliable. With some effort, we could reach agreement of feeling on any given issue. But it is not so easy to do these experiments. Although having several people together helps, because one can then get confirmation, ad unity of judgement, it is nto something anyone can do.  The reason is that it takes quite a lot of concentration t keep on thinking about the real situation … one has constantly to realize that it is an experiment … and an experiment about the evolving design, which does not exist yet. That takes experience, and concentration. But it is possible, and it is tremendously useful. After doing it, one feels more certain about the design, and experience has shown often that this confidence is reliable. After such experiments, the real places which result do have – nearly always – the right feeling, a wonderful feeling. When done right, there is carry-over from the experiment to the real thing one builds.”

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

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Christopher Alexander on Belonging

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“… there is a connection between ordinary human happiness and the existence of a living structure in our physical world … when architectural structure is an unfolded one … when it is created by repeated application of living processes, and by … structure preserving processes … then what comes from it is a world where people are able to feel happy. They can be themselves, more easily. They are more free – free in spirit, free in their emotions.

And … that on the contrary, within the dead structure we have become used to as the normal 20th-21st-century environment, this freedom, this blissful state, is almost unattainable.

… What is the character of the kind of world where we experience emotional possession of the places we are in? It is a world in which the find adaptation between people and their buildings and gardens and streets is so subtle, goes so deeply to the core of human experience, that the people who then live and work and play in that environment feel as if they belong there, as if it belongs to them, as if they are a part of it, as if, like an old shoe, it is completely and utterly theirs.

… Historically, this quality … came about as a result of a long process – often years, even centuries long … But in our era, the opportunity for this very long time span is less available. We live in a time where things move quickly, where society evolves at a very great speed, where people are highly mobile, where things change at a great speed … we must invent new kinds of process which can [created belongingness] … in some new form, and by different means…

… The true landscape of architecture … is that arrangement of materials, windows, seats, roofs … which, as nearly as possible, helps us arrive at this blissful state. It is generated by the free application of a living adaptive process.”

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

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Christopher Alexander on Freshness

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“What was lost in the 20th-century building was the freshness of our buildings …. it is not style that makes a building living or dead, but the freshness of its response to its surroundings; the truthful and spontaneous unfolding of order within its own fabric.

… the essence of all life in any system at all, lies in the adaptive response of each new development in the system to the previous existing state …

… Although the adaptive sequences are highly ordered, and seem predefined, because they define steps and transformations in a disciplines sequence, it is the character of these sequences to help the user, the artist, the builder RESPOND to what is there, rather than to IMPOSE on what is there. And this too, stands as the foundation of any world where we experience true belonging. It cannot be achieved by a mechanical framework,by any mechanical system, nor by any stereotyped or stylistic response.”

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

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