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Books : reviews

Christopher Alexander.
Notes on the Synthesis of Form.
Harvard UP. 1965

Christopher Alexander.
The Phenomenon of Life.
Center for Environmental Structure. 2002

Christopher Alexander.
The Process of Creating Life.
Center for Environmental Structure. 2002

Christopher Alexander.
A Vision of a Living World.
Center for Environmental Structure. 2005

Christopher Alexander.
The Luminous Ground.
Center for Environmental Structure. 2004

Christopher Alexander.
The Timeless Way of Building.
OUP. 1979

rating : 2 : great stuff

Volume 1 lays out the philosophy of The Timeless Way, with numerous illustrative examples. The essence is that the people who are to live in the buildings should be closely involved in the design, and that buildings should grow naturally, rather than be planned. It talks about desirable patterns -- common features abstracted from many successful buildings -- and about a pattern language for describing and combining these patterns.

... the single central quality which makes the difference [between good and bad buildings] cannot be named.

The quality without a name: 'alive', 'whole', 'comfortable', 'free', 'exact', 'egoless', 'eternal'.

Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel.
A Pattern Language: towns, buildings, construction.
OUP. 1977

rating : 2 : great stuff

Volume 2, the core of the method, provides a language of 253 patterns, for describing buildings, and how they should be designed. The patterns range over ones for whole towns: 'mosaic of subcultures', 'four-storey limit', 'local transport areas' -- ones for small clusters of buildings: 'small public squares', 'common land', 'individually owned shops' -- ones for individual buildings: 'site repair', 'entrance transition', 'sheltering roof', 'light on two sides of every room' -- and ones for small parts of the construction: 'alcoves', 'ceiling height variety', 'thick walls'.

104. Site repair: Buildings must always be built on those parts of the land which are in the worst condition, not the best.

... each act of building gives us the chance to make one of the ugliest and least healthy parths of the environment more health -- as for those parts which are already healthy and beautiful -- they of course need no attention.

1999: We are having a house built to our own design. Remembering the lessons of A Pattern Language, I explicitly used the pattern 'light on two sides of every room', by designing in some extra windows -- I hope it works!

Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, Shlomo Angel, Sara Ishikawa, Denny Abrams.
The Oregon Experiment.
OUP. 1975

rating : 2.5 : great stuff

Volume 3 describes how the Timeless philosophy and Pattern Language method was applied to planning for the University of Oregon. It explains the process of piecemeal growth, speading resources evenly and encouraging repair, and contrasts it with the more popular, but potentially disasterous, lump development, which concentrates resources in a few large developments, and correspondingly large mistakes.

Christopher Alexander, Howard Davis, Julio Martinez, Don Corner.
The Production of Houses.
OUP. 1985

Christopher Alexander, Hajo Neis, Artemis Anninou, Ingrid King.
A New Theory of Urban Design.
OUP. 1987