Christopher Alexander

30 Oct 2021 02:15 - 05 Aug 2023 09:47
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    • Architect and design Theorist. Best known for his book A Pattern Language which introduced the idea of design patterns, later picked up on by the software field.
    • Later he released a four-volume set of books on his radical conception of the universe, Nature of Order. Alexander's search for quality of life in architecture led him to a new theory of everything; of the universe itself as a system of living centers.
    • The books offer a view of a human-centered universe, a view of order, in which the soul, or human feeling and the soul, play a central role.
    • Taken as a whole the four books create a sweeping new conception of the nature of things which is both objective and structural (hence part of science) - and also personal (in that it shows how and why things have the power to touch the human heart). A step has been taken, through which these two domains - the domain of geometrical structure and the feeling it creates - kept separate during four centuries of scientific thought, have finally been united.
    • This kind of thing is quite a challenge to my materialism. Alexander's case for something closer to vitalism – that life is not an accident of evolution but fundamental to the structure of the cosmos – is made compelling through the sheer beauty of the examples he gives and the thoroughness of his exploration of the questions.
    • Alexander the anarchist

      • Or more accurately, a decentralist. The image I have of Alexander's philosophy of architecture is that aesthetics is a distributed field, and good architecture requires that the activity of architecture be distribtued. A central rational authority (architect in the modern sense) is death, good (living) art and architecture relies on being structured as a kind of distributed hierarchy of centers, both the result and the activity of constructing it.
    • Random

      • There are thus two worlds in our minds. One is the scientific world which has been pictured through a highly complex system of mechanisms. The other is the world we actually experience. These two worlds, so far, have not been connected in a meaningful fashion. Alfred North Whitehead, writing about 1920, was one of the first philosophers to draw attention to this modern problem, which he called the bifurcation of nature. Whitehead believed that we will not have a proper grasp of the universe and our place in it, until the self which we experience in ourselves, and the machinelike character of matter we see outside ourselves, can be united in a single picture. I believe this. – Christopher Alexander, The Luminous Ground, p13
      • ... It is this ongoing rift between the mechanical-material picture of the world (which we accept as true) and our intuitions about self and spirit (which are intuitively clear but scientifically vague) that has destroyed our architecture. It is destroying us, too (p18)
      • Ooh Someone made a web version of A Pattern Language, very useful APL - Home
      • On occasion of his death (March 2022). Here's a good one: 43 University As Marketplace
        • At Any Given Moment in a Process - by Dorian Taylor
          • Really nice overview of Alexander's career and thought.
          • Ooh:
          • Those who are familiar with such matters will note that Alexander is describing an algorithm. The fundamental differentiating process is an outer loop, and the fifteen properties/​transformations are primitives. Alexander treated the building site itself as an analog computer, using the information embedded in its current state at any moment to compute the next step in the process. In a way it reaches back to his earliest mathematical work, circumventing the problem of gathering and partitioning a snarl of design concerns, by performing the computation in situ.
          • In construction, the convention is that the blueprints are the supreme authority on whether or not this or that constituent of the process did their job. In many jurisdictions, this fact is actually enshrined in statute. Alexander’s method eschewed committing to the precise geometry of the intended outcome, because that was precisely what got revealed throughout his idiosyncratic construction process. In other words, any drawing of a building Alexander drew was only ever a suggestion. Subcontractors and planning authorities, accustomed to authoritative blueprints, simply couldn’t understand it.
          • Above are very interesting and resonates with the situated action distinction between plans as programs and plans as recipes to guide improvised conduct. Alexander is advocating jazz architecture!