The Process of Creating Life: The Nature of Order, Book 2: An Essay of the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe (英語) ハードカバー – 2003/8
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Christopher Alexander's masterwork, the result of 27 years of research, considers three vital perspectives: a scientific perspective; a perspective based on beauty and grace; a commonsense perspective based on our intuitions and everyday life.
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 Two "invites us to reconsider the role and importance of process and how it is living or not. . . The lifeless buildings and environments which have become common in modern society are not merely dead, non-living structures. They are what they are precisely because of the social processes by which they have been conceived, designed, built, and paid for." When Alexander contracts to build something, he and his associates meet constantly with those who will use the structure in what he calls generative process, making step by step adaptations so that the results unfold. He says that it is "possible to create a highly general generative sequence . . . definable and predictable in the steps that must be followed. . . Just so, a single generative sequence for houses can generate a million unique houses, each one highly successful in meeting the special needs of special individuals and families: and each one well adapted to the particular site where it occurs, thus - at least in part - healing the land." By "feeling" he means adherence to the whole. Not a touchy-feeling thing, but serious connection with the whole which results in a wholesome feeling in the person. He notes that a feeling-guided process was typical in most human societies in Earth's history, which should give us pause in dismissing it too quickly. He sees what he calls a feeling-based process as necessary to produce "living" structure and he would have future society carried by this kind of nourishing, fun, effective process.
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, Three, and Four at their respective sites.
I decided to start with Book 2 in the "Nature of Order" series as one Amazon reviewer described it as the most "practical" of the four. I can best describe my overall reactions as excitement regarding the implications of Alexander's ideas, and disappointment that the text is so dense and repetitive that I fear that only the most committed of readers will persevere. I don't mean to dissuade other readers at all, but merely to warn you that Alexander's motto seems to be "why use one word when you can use ten, and then repeat yourself ten times." I believe a rigorous editing of the book would render it far more digestible without losing any of its inspirational magic.
Alexander provides philosophical, logical and practical examples of concepts of wholeness and flow in design and how these lead to "living" end products, whether these products are buildings, interiors, works of art or simple household objects. I am currently using these ideas to renovate my home and I can now see why some rooms "work" and others don't and what I can do to improve them. There are many photos of "living design" scattered through the book, to reinforce the concepts. In addition, you don't need to be independently wealthy to apply the ideas - you just need to be willing to think about how you like to live, recognise what feels comfortable and "right" in your environment and experiment with small changes to see how they affect the "feel" of a room or space.
I can strongly recommend this book for any fans of "A Pattern Language", but read it slowly and you will see how it provides a strong conceptual framework for using the patterns described in his previous book. I have just ordered Book 1 in the series and will gradually work my way through the remaining books - I may resort to using a highlighter pen to make it easier to re-read and absorb the ideas. (I recently heard an interview with Alexander which was produced by a Canadian radio station - luckily he speaks succinctly and presents very well in conversation).