“... The danger has always been that the rituals, the static patterns are mistaken for what they merely represent and are allowed to destroy the Dynamic Quality they were originally intended to preserve ...”
Robert Pirsig


Christopher Alexander on Static & Dynamic


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


… 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


…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


… 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


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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