Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order

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Christopher Alexander wrote a series of impressive and influential books. Probably the two mentioned most often are A Pattern Language and The Timeless Way of Building. These books not only influenced architecture—their ostensible subject—but also computer programming, specifically in the area of object-oriented languages, the objects being the Alexandrian patterns.

Now his magnum opus, The Nature of Order, has been published. Here’s a brief discussion, including an outline.

One book of particular interest—now out of print—is his book on Turkish carpets. I have a copy, as does The Wife, and it’s quite fascinating. Here’s why:

The rules for putting matter together to form a building are universal, and apply to all man-made objects. In particular, they apply to two-dimensional designs such as paintings and textile patterns. The simplification of having only two dimensions and a single material (knots of wool) makes carpets an interesting application of the rules for organized complexity. Alexander establishes the connection between architectural design and Oriental Carpets in his fascinating book: A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art: The Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Unfortunately, the demand for the book has driven the price up. I got my copy from for $85, but I see that (today) the least expensive one is $540, though Amazon has a copy listed for $329. If you can find a copy in a used bookstore at a good price, buy it. Otherwise, your best bet for reading the book is a good library.

I have a friend whose house was designed using some of the principles set forth by Alexander. For example, one important idea is to go to the site and look at it and its surroundings, and situate the structure to take advantage of the site. Her architect built a wall framed with wood and covered with cardboard, with the windows cut out, that was the size and shape of the main living area wall. He and an assistant held the wall in place as my friend looked through the window, standing and seated, in the center of what would be the living room. They moved the wall this way and that, trying various angles, until the mountains in the distrance were framed in the window to my friend’s satisfaction. And that defined the location that wall and its windows, and thus the living room and main house.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2006 at 7:51 am

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life

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