Alexander And Building Architects

ChristopherAlexander has himself noted that his ideas seem to have had more influence outside architecture than within it.

Here's what a couple of practicing architects had to say about CA when asked:

One from New York, USA, said this,

... Alexander went to Berkeley, I think in the early '70s, he
stepped into the whole California counter culture ethos and the
resulting work was almost a complete refutation of [Notes On The
SynthesisOfForm?]. It is possible he spent too much time in the hot
what came out is referred to as "touchy feely" design methodology
and is often justified through phenomenological thought with a
sprinkle of Zen and Fung-shui.

and added this telling comparison,

You may also want to consider the work of Buckminster Fuller
as an [source of ideas] whose influence on built form is noticeable
by its absence

and one from Ontario, Canada, said

[a] Californian who has worked with CA mentioned that the best
thing that one could do with A Pattern Language is to blow it
up with a stick of dynamite.

And, a few years ago, a top-of-the-class student at one of the best schools of architecture in the UK, when asked, claimed maybe to have heard of CA. -- KeithBraithwaite

A British architect and Wiki writer comments:

There was a particularly extreme (determinist) view of design put forward in 'NotesOnTheSynthesisOfForm' and maybe Alexander's 'refutation' of this was reasonable. (I initially typed that as 'Notes on 'a' synthesis of form', a title that would imply many/several syntheses are possible....)

As for BuckminsterFuller having 'little influence on built form' that is pretty ridiculous: viz the work of Architects Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Michael Hopkins (ie the whole 'Hi-tech priesthood!), even early Jim Stirling: all greatly inspired by the visionary American inventor/designer's ideas and, indeed, his personality. -- MartinNoutch

That's a valuable observation Martin, I hadn't thought of the HiTech? folks as being the new Bucky(s), but now that you've said it, it makes some sense. - KB


Maybe there are Big M methodologies in architecture, too? -- HaskoHeinecke

Are you suggesting that there are Big M methodologies in Architecture that are preventing CA's ideas coming to fruition? (Built) Architecture certainly is rife with "schools" and personality cults.

Having watched part of a UK architecture education at fairly close quarters I can't say I had any sense of anything we in software would recognize as a methodology being taught. Conversely, you could lose credit in assessments by producing a perfectly "adequate" design that just happened to conflict with the lecturers school of though. Of course, you could also get extra credit for really going out on a limb, but only once per term, it seemed. -- KeithBraithwaite

Which part of UK Architectural education did you see at 'close quarters'? -- MartinNoutch

My first degree was at Heriot-Watt and I was for a while close friends with an architecture undergrad there (in the 2nd and 3rd years, if I remember correctly). -- KB

Could you explain what Big M means please? -- MartinNoutch


I had the opportunity to design my own house from scratch and ended up using 45 of CA's patterns. If you're interested, you can read more on my page - RichardPawson - I'd love to hear from others who've done similar.

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