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The Timeless Way of Building

di Christopher Alexander

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982415,652 (4.38)5
The theory of architecture implicit in our world today, Christopher Alexander believes, is bankrupt. More and more people are aware that something is deeply wrong. Yet the power of present-day ideas is so great that many feel uncomfortable, even afraid, to say openly that they dislike what is happening, because they are afraid to seem foolish, afraid perhaps that they will be laughed at. Now, at last, there is a coherent theory which describes in modern terms an architecture as ancient as human society itself. The Timeless Way of Building is the introductory volume in the Center for Environmental Structure series, Christopher Alexander presents in it a new theory of architecture, building, and planning which has at its core that age-old process by which the people of a society have always pulled the order of their world from their own being. Alexander writes, "There is one timeless way of building. It is thousands of years old, and the same today as it has always been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. And as you will see, this way will lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as ancient in their form as the trees and hills, and as our faces are."… (altro)
Aggiunto di recente dabwjackson, BIBLIOTECATLACUILO, CowsAndCars, Thicksinpg, mgillett, NLLibraryTbilisi, BranchMuseum, rjcm
Biblioteche di personaggi celebriGillian Rose

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I came to Pattern Language with an eye toward theory and meaning, more than a specific architectural interest. How do wholes and parts relate? What ramifications follow from specific choices at one level, for preferences or objectives at another level? Primed with readings in Batesonian cybernetics, I was curious what Alexander would bring to the table.

Alexander found in bespoke building (artisanal craft) a distinction perhaps unexpected. It's not about higher or lower quality of custom-built pieces, in fact he implies at various points that modular / prefabricated pieces will be more precise and consistent in their construction. However, artisanal & modular approaches are very different, and yield distinct results at the scale of wholes, and when pieces interface. Alexander's "quality that cannot be named" or "timeless way" is essentially about coherence or integrity. He claims modular building often won't yield coherent results simply because the approach ignores the specifics of site and / or the remainder of the edifice in which one is building.

An example makes this clear. Pre-hung windows and doors are available in pre-set dimensions. One chooses where in the room they go, but precise placement is limited by the pre-set options. If the builder wants to set a window so as to frame a lake in the distance, but not intrude on either a radiator in the room or the branches of an oak tree just outside the house, nothing can be done but hope the dimensions work out. It's likely available windows will be too large or too small for the purpose, and the objective can only be partially achieved. The issue can be minimised with greater choice in standard sizes, but the inherent obstacle cannot be avoided. Bespoke windows allow the builder to determine precisely where the window should appear so as to balance the vista with the room's interior layout.

Characterised generally: modular building assumes a Cartesian grid, maps the specific site and structure upon that grid, and construction is undertaken in a modular fashion from prefabricated (and predefined) materials. That grid can be finer or grosser in its precision, but it remains a grid. Artisanal building assumes a scale specific to the project, fits the structure to the site, and construction is undertaken in a relational fashion: that is, driven by dynamic between pieces and wholes at varying scales. Alexander attempts to marshall the efficiencies and wisdom of modular design by applying patterns to typical situations. These patterns, at root, identify dynamics one can expect to recur, and suggests useful considerations ("rules of thumb") for solving these dynamics in specific instances.

In a discussion on coding design, a project manager noted the Agile framework exists predominantly as an abstract, with little evidence of success at scale. A major challenge is how to code for large projects, when detailed coding for specific modules and subroutines are developed weeks or months after the full project was mapped out as a whole. When interactions between modules encounter obstacles or conflict, the relevant teams are often deployed elsewhere and can't hash out specifics. I wonder if a Pattern Language approach would be fruitful in avoiding such problems. ( )
  elenchus | Aug 23, 2019 |
Excelente libro de consulta permanente. ( )
  maxtrek | Jan 30, 2019 |
one should not set most of a book in italics!
  mulliner | Oct 17, 2009 |
I read this as an introduction to Alexander's other books. The same sentiments apply.

This is a very easy to read book. It explains the philosophy of pattern based design much better than many later books have managed. Reading it it is obvious why so many Design and Software gurus consider Alexander as a big influence. ( )
1 vota ghd-read | Jun 22, 2008 |
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The theory of architecture implicit in our world today, Christopher Alexander believes, is bankrupt. More and more people are aware that something is deeply wrong. Yet the power of present-day ideas is so great that many feel uncomfortable, even afraid, to say openly that they dislike what is happening, because they are afraid to seem foolish, afraid perhaps that they will be laughed at. Now, at last, there is a coherent theory which describes in modern terms an architecture as ancient as human society itself. The Timeless Way of Building is the introductory volume in the Center for Environmental Structure series, Christopher Alexander presents in it a new theory of architecture, building, and planning which has at its core that age-old process by which the people of a society have always pulled the order of their world from their own being. Alexander writes, "There is one timeless way of building. It is thousands of years old, and the same today as it has always been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. And as you will see, this way will lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as ancient in their form as the trees and hills, and as our faces are."

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