The Nature of Order: A Vision of a Living World (Book 3)


Architecture becomes living when non-mechanical, fluid, unique to its circumstances, responds to what is there rather than impose on what is there (similar to aikido), grow with nature, arise out of nature, looseness and symmetry. Deep feeling appears in these buildings, as it does in nature, because they emerge through subtle adaptation from the whole, and because at each stage of their unfolding they support the whole

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Key Takeaways

  1. A proper environment makes you feel like you belong to it - a feeling of joy and connectedness that hinges on the sensation that we have the right to be there, that we belong to the world and it belongs to us. Only living process can generate belonging. When living processes are working well, our belonging comes about naturally
  2. Buildings should enliven the land they're on
  3. Seek an interlocking of positive and negative space. What is most remarkable of all, is that the structure which is created by a feeling for centers and by a  conscious and deliberate aim towards the feeling of the whole, will often turn out to be an efficient structure...Apparently good engineering structure follows, directly or indirectly, from the use of living process
  4. Save 20% of building cost towards gardens and outside structures
  5. Shared vision not gotten through a meeting, but from talking to each person quietly, one at a time, drawing from each individual his, her, their most important feelings, and their most authentic visions
  6. In each case, the forms, because they are generated in time, not designed at the drawing board, display qualities of life, and do have life...One of the most fundamental aspects of a living world is that every part of it will be unique. If we learn to use a living process well, its most essential nature will be to create structures which are unique, because they are perfectly adapted to their local unique conditions
  7. In general, the geometry will be created by differentiation, not by addition or accretion, the parts given their dimensions by differentiating operations within the space of the land, or within the space of the room where the thing is being made
  8. City planning comes about as a sequence of adaptive acts, a result of unfolding in time. It unfolds directly from people's ordinary instincts
  9. Close your eyes and dream up your idyllic space - ideal working conditions, natural centers, windows, entrance, main work surface, daylight, working chairs, computer setup, reclining chair, different chairs, thick walls, filing, desk lights, comfortable sofa
  10. Fine structure - every element has to have a living center, details that make it come to life. The field of centers is a convenient way of representing the substance of our minds. It is the substance itself which actually creates the field. Life will not exist in a building unless it exists in the actual physical fabric of the building, in all the details of the way the thing is made. The actual physical geometry of the foundation, walls, windows, roof edge, boards, tiles, plaster, paint work, moldings is itself crucial to the existence of life. The sensuous quality of the building comes from its detail; substance is fundamental to beauty. Wholeness will not exist in the large unless it also exists in the small...and for it to exist in the small, it must be made. The large scale order is absolutely interwoven and dependent on the tiniest details of the microstructure. The large scale order depends for its existence on the most subtle ordering of details at the smallest subatomic scale. And the same is true, and must be true, in architecture. If we are trying to construct a field of centers in a building, we must realize the field will not be whole, cannot even sustain itself as a structure, unless it is carried through from the larger scale structure to the fine structure. The macrostructure of the field is dependent on the microstructure of the field. If it is ignored or treated without respect, the larger field will fail
  11. Unfolding vs. construction / production - this must happen in the actual construction of the building, not only on paper. This is incredibly difficult to do in practise. Same is true for the details, the colors you use. If it is living, it will have its own, luminous, inner light
  12. In a building which has life, whatever is made is always the simplest thing consistent with its necessities of feeling and with the close and continuous attention to feeling while it evolves into form. This, I think, is the closest I can come to describing the core of architecture. When everything is going right, when the fundamental process is used well, what comes out is not only natural, not only simple, not only living structure. It has, too, an archetypal quality - something savage (wild, untamed)
  13. Each living structure has the minimal structure for its situation that carries weight of feeling, leading to a structure in which local symmetries are so densely packed that the highest possible density of local symmetries occurs, but without having an overall symmetry
  14. In the best cases, in the cases which have the most life, the building form will most often by interwoven in some fashion with nature itself. In the best cases, it will seem, almost indistinguishably, to be part of nature, thus forming a seamless whole. The clearest way I can say this, is to point out that it will - in this case - seem extremely ordinary. It will appear normal, and be normal

What I got out of it

  1. Pragmatic implications of Alexander’s ideas as it relates specifically to architecture and construction

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