Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Christopher Alexander

Katarxis No. 3 has a treasure trove of interviews and articles about uber-architectural theorist and Pattern Language author Christopher Alexander, including a great review of his four part opus, The Nature of Order, and a good interview:

But the trouble is that even the people that I think are the most far-sighted and the most intelligent in dealing with that stuff are completely, I'd say almost 100 percent trapped in the notion of combinations. Of recombination and recombination of components.

MM: The reductive technology in the early industrial period which still very much grips us? Pulling things apart and putting them together in little bitty pieces instead of trying to create wholes?

CA: Right. And of course what happens in the biological world is that the wholes come about by differentiation - not by assembly. And that's an entirely different class of things.

MM: That's a crucial point, isn't it?

CA: Yes, very very - absolutely crucial. And probably - it's probably the single most serious issue, because without that you just cannot get there. And yet so much of the definition of an architect, the definition of a contractor and of a subcontractor, and all these things - they're all virtually assumed to be playing some role in the assembly process. And the idea that all these folks might be playing roles in a differentiation process, and that it really and truly was that, is just I think almost out of reach at the moment. And I think it's one of my biggest aims in the Nature of Order is to show what this means, that it is feasible, to set it up as a model of our profession, what we must do.

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