“… a warrior knows that he cannot change, and yet he makes it his business to try to change, even though he knows that he won’t be able to. That’s the only advantage a warrior has over the average man. The warrior is never disappointed when he fails to change.”
Carlos Castaneda

The Second Ring of Power

Christopher Alexander on The Void


This is out of reading sequence. In thinking about Annelieke in the very present moment, the Void came back to me from book one:

“In the most profound centers which have perfect wholeness, there is at the heart a void which is like water, infinite in depth, surrounded by and contrasted with the clutter of the stuff and fabric all around it …

This emptiness is needed, in some form, by every center, large or small. It is the quiet that draws the center’s energy to itself, gives it the basis of its strength. The fact that the void does not exist so often now … is the result of a general disturbance in our capacity to make wholeness …

The need for the void arises in all centers. A cup or a bowl rests, as living structure, on the quiet of the space in the bowl itself, its stillness …

The void corresponds to the fact that differentiation of minor systems almost always occurs in relation to the “quiet” of some larger and more stable system.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 1: The Phenomenon of Life

“Part of the process of structure preserving requires cleaning out from time to time … When a situation appears where there are too many centers, too crowded together, in a confusion of structure, a structure preserving process must be applied … the process must act to discern the deep structure, the most important structure beneath the confusion …

… a crowded complex structure often ends up living at the edge of a much larger homogenous void, and that the contrast between the intricate structure and the vast emptiness is needed to maintain the structure of the intricacy.”

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

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Christopher Alexander – Move with Certainty


“As the living process goes forward, repeating the fundamental process again and again … one feature is built up at a time …

How do you determine these steps which must be taken, and their sequence? … The most basic instruction I can give you as a guide for a living process, is that you move with certainty. That means, you take smal steps, one at a time, deciding only what you know. You try never to take a step which is a guess or a “why don’t we try this?” …

As far as the scale of the decisions is concerned – that, on the contrary, should be rather large. At the beginning, especially, you need to work mainl with the largest questions. Many of the issues you need to settle , in the early stages of your work, have to do with the whole, the global quality of the design.

… A numerical comparison is useful. Suppose, for example, that at a given stage in a process there are e hundred possible next steps … more of these possible next steps are likely to be bad than good … 90 or 95 next steps which will make the thing worse … 5 or 10 next steps which wil make it better … How, then, do we find the few good ones? There is no special reason that we should be lucky enough to hit one of the small number of good steps …

If we reason this out, we may then draw the following conclusion. It is more likely that the first possibilities that present themselves to our minds will be bad ones … We should therefor be extremely skeptical about the first possibilities …. we should run through the possibilities very fast and reject most of them … If we do accept one … [it should be] only when we finally ecounter something for which no good reason presents itself to reject it, which appears genuinely wonderful to us, and which demonstrably makes the feeling of the whole become more profound.

The vital point is that this is an empirical matter. It can be discovered by experiment … But it will not be discovered unless the experiment is done … The one exception occurs when the designer is deeply in touch with the wholeness that is there and can summon up, very rapidly, a genuine structure preserving transformation as an intuitive response which springs directly from the wholeness, in the designer’s mind.”

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


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Christopher Alexander on First Steps and Ripples in Design


“… As any designer will tell you, it is the first steps in a design process which count for most. The first few strokes which create the form, carry within them the destiny of the rest.

How then, in a living process, do we take the first steps of design so that a beautiful, coherent whole begins to take shape?

In the early stage we must concentrate, of course, on broad structure, on the emergent structure of the whole… The notation that architects traditionally use is a language of drawing or computer representation … But such a sketch aways includes too much information, too early, so that the sketch (or computer drawing) is invariably over-specific … if only 20% of the information in a sketch is based on real decisions that have been taken by a living process in the designer’s mind, and the remaining 80% si arbitrary stuff entered into the drawing only because the notation (sketching) requires it, trouble inevitably follows.

We therefore need a notation … which stays closer to what is actually known at each moment. Here I wish to introduce the idea of morphological “ripples” … a partially generated form … not yet clearly located, or dimensioned, or even characterized … which, though fuzzy … plays a decisive role in giving character and feeling to the end result.

IT is important that the first steps – the morphological ripples – should focus only on the broadest, most global features of the emerging design … At each step, another “ripple” inroduces one more feature of the whole. To contain these ripples, I find it best to work … in the mind’s eye, preferably while standing in the real place itself …

More important still, as a first stage in the design process, I usually make a word picture of the building. THat is, I spell out, IN WORDS, what the buiding is like, what it is like to arrive to it, what the space in front of it is like, how the building forms the space, what happens as you enter, what happens inside the building, where its main rooms are, what their special beauty is, what is it like to go out, from those rooms, to the outdoors. All in all, a vision of the finished building IN WORDS – as beautiful as I can make it.

… Words and interior visions, when seen with your eyes closed, are more labile, morefluid, transformable and three dimensional … They allow the unfolding to go forward more successfully … If I say that a building towers above me, when I approach it, this says something qualitative about its height, but does not yet  describe the exact height … if I make even the most rudimentary drawing … the drawing has an actual height (implied by proportion), and it has many features of shape, width, volume, articulation, which have not in fact been generated by the fundamental process.

… The vision in the mind’s eye contains little that is not actualy generated by the living process … what it does add is real, and germane, and flexible … The vision floats in your mind, a hovering clear picture  …

… You start by saying to yourself, and seeing, one thing, the most important thing about the building … the first global holistic aspect of the building which you see, when you close your eyes and imagine the building as the context requires that it should be.”

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

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Iceland’s Fastest Growing Religion


A short story overflowing with the beauty of evolution:

“In Iceland, tax-authorities collect “parish fees” from all residents and remit them to churches based on the stated religious affinities of those residents. … A new church, the Zuists, claim to worship ancient Sumeran gods, and promise to rebate religious fees to anyone who registers … Iceland’s tax authorities say that the Zuist church can do whatever it wants with the money, but that adherents who receive rebates on parish fees will be charged income tax on them.”



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Christopher Alexander on Feedback


“To make the feedback meaningful in a step-by-step process, the process must be open ended, hence partly unpredictable. It must lack a fixed predetermined end-state. This is necessary because adapatation itself means nothing if changes cannot be made in response to the process of adaptation. By definition, such changes cannot be foreseen.

… For a variety of reasons – legal, financial, and procedural – under modern conditions the thing is fixed tooe xactly, too far ahead, an has far too little freedom to unfold … It thereby shut off, nearly altogether, the possiility that useful testing or adaptation could occur …

This mean not only that the end-result of a building project must be unpredictable during design. That is obvious. But to be effective in creating living structure, it cannot help also being unpredictable during construction.”

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


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