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Christopher W. Alexander

Christopher W. Alexander, architext [1935-    ]

Christopher Alexander [1] was born in Vienna, Austria in 1936. He was raised in England, and he holds a Bachelor's degree in Architecture and Master's Degree in Mathematics from Cambridge University, and a PhD in Architecture from Harvard University. In 1958 he moved to the United States, and he has lived in Berkeley, California since 1963. Alexander taught architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is now an Emeritus Professor of Architecture. In 1967 he founded the Center for Environmental Structure, and he remains its President.

He is the father of the Pattern Language movement in architecture as well as the pattern movement in computer science, and he is principal author of the 1977 book A Pattern Language, a seminal work that was perhaps the first complete book written in hypertext. In 2000, he founded the website PatternLanguage.com, and he now serves as its Chairman of the Board.

Alexander has designed and built more than two hundred buildings on five continents, laying the groundwork for a new form of architecture, one that looks far into the future yet has roots in ancient traditions. Much of his work has heavily utilized technological innovations designed to build a living architecture, especially for the use of concrete, shell design, and contracting procedures. He has served as a consultant to city, county, and national governments on every continent, and has advised corporations, government agencies, and architects and planners throughout the world.

He was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996, is a fellow of the Swedish Royal Society, and has received innumerable architectural prizes and honors, including the first gold medal for research from the American Institute of Architects, awarded in 1970.

His biography, Christopher Alexander: The Evolution of a New Paradigm in Architecture, by Stephen Grabow, was published in London and Boston in 1983, and his film biography, Places for the Soul: The Architecture of Christopher Alexander, was released in 1990.

Concepts of Wholeness [2]

Christopher Alexander defines the concepts of wholeness and centers in his book The Nature of Order, and emphasizes the idea that a whole makes its parts, rather than the idea that a whole consists of parts. To clarify the difference, he calls the parts made by a whole as "centers." He says that there are some or many centers within a whole, and they intensify each other. In his book, he proposes fifteen fundamental properties to show how centers intensify each other.

Centers—15 Properties of Wholeness

The www has expansive coverage of Alexander's "principles" as applied to various contexts, especially to seemingly diverse topics incuding architecture and computer programming.

  1. Levels of scale
  2. Strong centers
  3. Boundaries
  4. Alternating repetition
  5. Positive space
  6. Good shape
  7. Local symmetries
  8. Deep interlock and ambiguity
  9. Contrast
  10. Gradients
  11. Roughness
  12. Echoes
  13. The void
  14. Simplicity and inner calm
  15. Non-separateness

Christopher Alexander's minimum features for a living process [3].

  1. A living process is a step-by-step adaptive process, which goes forward in small increments, with opportunity for feedback abd correction at every increment.
  2. It is always the whole which governs, in a living process. Even when only latent, whatever greater whole is latent is always the the main focus f attention and the driving force which controls the shaping of the parts.
  3. The entire living process—from beginning to end—will be governed and guided and moved forward by the formation of living centers in such a way that the centers help each other.
  4. The steps of a living process always take place in a certain vitally important sequence, and the coherence of its results will be dependent to a large extent on the accuarcy of this sequence qhich controls unfolding.
  5. Parts which are created during the process of differentiation must become locally unique; otherwise the process is not a living process. This means that all repetition is based on the uniqueness of the locally shaped parts, each adapted, by the process, to its situation to the whole.
  6. The formation of centers (along with the sequence of their unfolding) is guided by generic patterns which play the role of genes.
  7. Every living process is, throughout its length and breadth, congruent with feeling and goverened by feeling.
  8. In the case of buildings, the formation of the structure is guided geometrically by the emergence of an aperiodic grid which brings coherent geometic order to built form.
  9. The entire living process is oriented by a form language that provides concrete methods of implementing adapted structure through simple combinatory rules.
  10. The entire living process is oriented by the simplicity transformation, and is pruned steadily, so that it moves towards formation of a beautiful simplicity.

  1. Biography, Project for Public Spaces, www.pps.org, accessed July, 2021.
  2. Understanding Christopher Alexander's Fifteen Properties via Visualization and Analysis, 2017, Takashi Iba (Kelo University) and Shingo Saka (Kao Corporation), web.sfc.keio.ac.jp/~iba/papers/PURPLSOC14_Properties.pdf, accessed July, 2021.
  3. The Nature of Order: Volume 1, page 225.