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Christopher Alexander: The Latest Architecture and News

What is Beauty in Architecture Today - and Are We Afraid of it?

07:00 - 22 February, 2019
What is Beauty in Architecture Today - and Are We Afraid of it?, Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi. ImageImage via Wikimedia
Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi. ImageImage via Wikimedia

This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "The 'B' Word: How a More Universal Concept of Beauty Can Reshape Architecture."

How to Judge a Building: Does it Make you Feel More, Or Less Alive?

09:30 - 7 December, 2018
How to Judge a Building: Does it Make you Feel More, Or Less Alive? , via Wikimedia. ImageSelgas Cano's Pavilion at the 2018 Brugge Triennale
via Wikimedia. ImageSelgas Cano's Pavilion at the 2018 Brugge Triennale

This extract was originally published on Common Edge as "The Legacy of Christopher Alexander: Criteria for an Intelligent Architecture."

In his monumental four-volume book, The Nature of Order, Christopher Alexander talks about an intelligent architecture, responsive to human needs and sensibilities through adaptation to existing buildings and nature. This is a new way of viewing the world—a way of connecting to it, and to ourselves—yet it is very much the same as the most ancient ways of connecting.

Unified Architectural Theory, Chapter 13

09:30 - 30 May, 2015
Unified Architectural Theory, Chapter 13, The City of Culture / Eisenman Architects. "Eisenman explains how he creates forms that make him feel high in his own mind, instead of considering the mundane needs of the user. Thus it comes as no surprise that he wants to express a stressed conception of life through his buildings’ twisted and unbalanced forms". Image © Duccio Malagamba
The City of Culture / Eisenman Architects. "Eisenman explains how he creates forms that make him feel high in his own mind, instead of considering the mundane needs of the user. Thus it comes as no surprise that he wants to express a stressed conception of life through his buildings’ twisted and unbalanced forms". Image © Duccio Malagamba

We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In Chapter 13, Salingaros begins to conclude his argument by discussing its counterpart, explaining how post-modern theorists such as Peter Eisenman came to eclipse the ideas of Christopher Alexander – and why Eisenman’s theoretical hegemony is not based upon sound architectural thinking. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.

Natural and Unnatural Form Languages

The concept of living structure, and the support for the theory offered by both direct experience and science, offers a basis for designing and understanding architecture. This platform is a sensible way of approaching design and building, because it is beholden neither to ideology, nor to individual agendas. Moreover, it should be contrasted to the irrationality of other schemes that currently appear in and seem to drive architectural discourse.

Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 11

10:30 - 2 May, 2015
Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 11, View from St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. "Strong centers are formed when a substantial region of space is tied together coherently" . Image © Flickr CC user Michael Seljos
View from St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. "Strong centers are formed when a substantial region of space is tied together coherently" . Image © Flickr CC user Michael Seljos

We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In Chapter 11, Salingaros introduces and explains a list of 15 properties theorized by Christopher Alexander which give rise to the phenomenon of “life” in architectural designs. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.

Alexander’s Fifteen Fundamental Properties

We have come to the point in this course when we need to present the geometric properties responsible for the deep connectivity that I have discussed in previous chapters. Christopher Alexander has derived a set of 15 properties that all structures that we perceive to have “life” possess (Alexander, 2001).

Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 9B

09:30 - 4 April, 2015
Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 9B, The Pruitt-Igoe Development in St. Louis. "Had people consistently applied the “mirror of the self” test, we would probably have avoided some of the inhuman environments built over the past several decades. One such typology is the extremely long apartment block, which houses thousands of people in a box of about eight stories". Image © US Geological Survey via Flickr CC User Michael Allen
The Pruitt-Igoe Development in St. Louis. "Had people consistently applied the “mirror of the self” test, we would probably have avoided some of the inhuman environments built over the past several decades. One such typology is the extremely long apartment block, which houses thousands of people in a box of about eight stories". Image © US Geological Survey via Flickr CC User Michael Allen

We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In the following chapter, Salingaros continues his discussion of Christopher Alexander's “Mirror of the Self” test introduced in Chapter 9A, and revealing how it can be used to provide all-important feedback to enable evidence-based design. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.

Evidence-based design is now fast becoming a standard tool used in school design. (See Peter C. Lippman: “Evidence-Based Design of Elementary and Secondary Schools”, 2010). And yet its current application, while laudable, is missing the other key components necessary for adaptive design: Biophilia, Intelligence in the environment (two topics discussed in this book), and Pattern Language. All of these have to work together to give optimal design results.

Evidence-based design permits an architect to evaluate a design, and variations of that design, to see if they contribute to human wellbeing. This makes possible informed choices that push and guide a design towards a more adaptive final form. We know the result is going to be more adaptive since we check each intermediate stage of an evolving design.

Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 9A

10:30 - 21 March, 2015
Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 9A, Casa Milà / Antoni Gaudí. "The perception of “life” in objects comes instead from a deep connection established between the observer or user, and the object". Image © Samuel Ludwig
Casa Milà / Antoni Gaudí. "The perception of “life” in objects comes instead from a deep connection established between the observer or user, and the object". Image © Samuel Ludwig

We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. The following chapter expands on the phenomenon of “life” in buildings introduced in Chapter 3, and also introduces a simple test which can be used to determine the degree of “life” in a structure. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.

Approaching architecture from the entirely new perspective of organized coherence — what Christopher Alexander calls “wholeness” — unifies many phenomena. The traditional distinctions between ornament and function, between buildings and ecology, and between beauty and utilitarian structure are blurred. We can look for the “life” in artifacts and structures, which explains our experience of them.

Later in this course we are going to count features, and measure parameters that contribute to our impression of “life” in an object. These measures will show that the phenomenon of life is not idiosyncratic, but is, to a very large degree, shared among all people.