The Phenomenon of Life: The Nature of Order, Book 1: An Essay of the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe (英語) ハードカバー – 2003/6
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In Book One of this four-volume work, Alexander describes a scientific view of the world in which all space-matter has perceptible degrees of life, and establishes this understanding of living structures as an intellectual basis for a new architecture.
He identifies fifteen geometric properties which tend to accompany the presence of life in nature, and also in the buildings and cities we make. These properties are seen over and over in nature and in the cities and streets of the past, but they have almost disappeared in the impersonal developments and buildings of the last hundred years.
This book shows that living structures depend on features which make a close connection with the human self, and that only living structure has the capacity to support human well-being.
Christopher Alexander is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, architecture, builder and author of many books and technical papers. He is the winner of the first medal for research ever awarded by the American Institute of Architects, and after 40 years of teaching is Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
His work is about harmony and how you perceive it, describe it, and achieve it in the formulation of things in this world. This is the work's greatest strength and is highly attractive to those seeking to express and define harmony among things. I think this is also where it fails. I do not think conceptualized harmony as shown here is the full sum of the truth. As comforting an experience an ancient building is, I do not think civilization can evolve successfully under the philosophy expressed in this work. A timeless changeless form that evokes rest, peace, and an endless commune with nature may not be the proper measure of living. As attractive as those things sound.
Rather, I think his work is a great conditioning tool. A tool to broaden aesthetic capacity. A concept building tool to expand awareness of form, function, and relationships among elements. He presents a wide discussion that attempts to situate science, reason, intellect, empirical thought, creative awareness, and philosophy into proper contexts. An exercise that will prove beneficial for thinking beyond and outside of these subject domains. On these basis and a few others, it is a huge transformation.
I bought the books in 2009, it took me months to read and I have waited to write a review. I wanted to be sure of what I said about this important work. I lost my copies of the book during a move in 2013 and hope to one day gain a new set. I wanted it on the Kindle, but the books may be too large and the colorful photos may not translate properly.
He has written a candidate for the design world's theory of everything.
Christopher Alexander is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an architect, a builder, and the author of many books and technical papers. He is the winner of the first medal for research ever awarded by the American Institute of Architects, and after 40 years of teaching is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He trained in Physics and Mathematics at Cambridge and was part of the group of scientists who developed systems theory along with Herbert Simon. He has been investigating the interaction between science and architecture all of his life, and this beautiful four-volume work contains the results of his research.
Although many of Alexander's ideas are subtle and require thoughtful reflection, the basic thesis of these four volumes might be stated: everything that exists contains "life," and the degree to which "life" is manifest in any particular can be "objectively" determined by probing one's "subjective" world.
Book Four describes a new cosmology uniting matter and consciousness. In order for us to make the changes that will preserve and extend the beauty of the world (in the midst of trucks and prefab), we must change our world-view. As one reviewer said, Alexander gives us "an effective theoretical basis with which to combat the billboard." First he discusses the weakness of the present world-picture, listing its ten tacit assumptions. For example, tacit assumption 1 is: What is true is only the body of those facts which can be represented as lifeless mechanisms. He adds that this assumption has the offshoot assumption that value is subjective. He closes the book with eleven new cosmological assumptions, one of which is: Everything matters. Another: Whenever we undertake an act of construction we have the ability to make the world more alive or less alive, more harmonious or less harmonious. He says, "The idea, then, is that every part of our physical world is shadowed by this parallel domain of I-stuff, and that each part of our ordinary world, if it is given the right structure, will lift the flap or open the door, and give us a glimpse into that domain." (By "I-stuff" Alexander is hypothesizing that there is underlying all matter a "Ground" - single and personal.) He adds, "All the efforts I have made have, at their heart, just this one intention: to bring back our awe . . and to allow us to begin again to make things in the world which can intensify this awe."
Christopher Alexander's tireless work, his brilliance, his humility, his humanity give me deep hope in a time when it is so easy to lose heart. These are books to be read slowly, savored. One reviewer suggested that this is one of the few works to be remembered 500 years hence. I suggest that it is one of the works to be read and absorbed now in order for there to be a 500 years hence for us.
I have reviewed Books One, Two, and Three at their respective sites.
It is way beyond interesting. It completely changed the way I look at the world. It deserves to be read carefully, slowly, savored. Alexander makes his work accessible to both architects and lay people alike.
Even with two kids in college, I am going to spring for book 2. Higher praise could not be given.