[Homestead] Christopher Alexander and Paul Oliver books

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Thu Feb 10 16:34:19 EST 2005

Architecture---Christopher Alexander

Christopher Alexander
 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A professor-emeritus (the University of California, Berkeley) and 
licensed contractor as well as architect, Christopher Alexander (born 
October 4, 1936 in Vienna, Austria) is famous mostly for his popular 
appeal, and his theoretical contributions. With Sarah Ishikawa and 
Murray Silverstein, he produced and validated an architectural system, a 
pattern language designed to empower any human being to design and build 
quite well at any scale. He began the project because he believes that 
users know more about the buildings they need than any architect could. 
Based in England, he continues to practice architecture and consult in 
Contents [showhide]
1 Life
2 Work

2.1 Writings
2.2 Buildings
3 External links


Alexander grew up in England. His education started in sciences. He was 
awarded the top open scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge 
University in 1954, in chemistry and physics and went on to read 
mathematics. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Architecture and a 
Master's degree in Mathematics. He took his doctorate in Harvard (the 
first Ph.D. in Architecture ever awarded at Harvard University), and was 
elected fellow at Harvard. During the same period he worked at MIT in 
transportation theory and in computer science, and worked at Harvard in 
cognition and cognitive studies. He became professor of Architecture at 
Berkeley in 1963, taught there continously for 38 years, and is now 
Professor Emeritius at the University of California. He is widely 
recognized as the father of the pattern language movement in computer 
science. He was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and 
Sciences in 1996 for his contributions to architecture.



The Timeless Way of Building described the perfection of use to which 
buildings could aspire.

"There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and 
the same today as it has ever been. The great traditional buildings of 
the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, 
have always been made by people who were very close to the center of 
this way. It is not possible to make great buildings, or great towns, 
beautiful places, places where you feel yourself, places where you feel 
alive, except by following this way. And, as you will see, this way will 
lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as 
ancient in their form, as the trees and hills, and as our faces are. "

A Pattern Language : Towns, Buildings, Construction described a 
practical architectural system in a form that a theoretical 
mathematician or computer scientist might call a generative grammar.

The work originated from an observation that many medieval cities are 
attractive and harmonious. The authors said that this occurs because 
they were built to local regulations that required specific features, 
but freed the architect to adapt them to particular situations.

The book provides rules and pictures, and leaves decisions to be taken 
from the precise environment of the project. It describes exact methods 
for constructing practical, safe and attractive designs at every scale, 
from entire regions, through cities, neighborhoods, gardens, buildings, 
rooms, built-in furniture, and fixtures down to the level of doorknobs.

A notable value is that the architectural system consists only of 
classic patterns tested in the real world and reviewed by multiple 
architects for beauty and practicality.

The book includes all needed surveying and structural calculations, and 
a novel simplified building system that copes with regional shortages of 
wood and steel, uses easily-stored inexpensive materials, and produces 
long-lasting classic buildings with small amounts of materials, design 
and labor. It first has users prototype a structure on-site in temporary 
materials. Once accepted, these are finished by filling them with 
very-low-density concrete. It uses vaulted construction to build as high 
as three stories, permitting very high densities.

This book's method was adopted by the University of Oregon, as described 
in The Oregon Experiment, but has not been used much there, although it 
remains the official building method. It has also been adopted in part 
by some cities as a building code.

The idea of a pattern language appears to apply to any complex 
engineering task, and has been applied to some of them. It has been 
especially influential in software engineering where patterns have been 
used to document collective knowledge in the field.

The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of 
the Universe is his latest and major work. It consists of four volumes. 
In it, he puts forward a new theory about the nature of the space around 
us and describes how this theory influences thinking about architecture, 
building, and so forth. The mostly static patterns from A Pattern 
Language have been amended by more dynamic "sequences," which describe 
how to work towards patterns (which can roughly been seen as the end 
result of sequences). Sequences, like patterns, promise to be tools of 
wider scope than building (just as his theory of space goes beyond 

His other books are:

* The Production of Houses
* A New Theory of Urban Design
* A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art, The Geometry of Very Early 
Turkish Carpets
* The Mary Rose Museum
* Notes on the Synthesis of Form
* The Linz Cafe

Published in 2002-2003

* The Nature of Order I - IV


Among Alexander's most notable built works are the Eishin Campus of the 
University of Tokyo; the Julian Street Inn (a homeless shelter) in San 
Jose, California (both described in Nature of Order); the Martinez House 
(an experimental house in Martinez, California made of lightweight 
concrete); and the low-cost housing in Mexicali, Mexico (described in 
The Production of Houses).

External links
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Christopher Alexander

* PatternLanguage.com (http://patternlanguage.com/)
* The Nature of Order series (http://natureoforder.com/)
* Article: New Concepts in Complex Theory. May 2003. 
* A list of the building patterns (http://www.jacana.org.uk/pattern/)

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Alexander"





One of the most important events in the history of recent research into 
the wider horizons of architecture is doubtless the publication of Paul 
Oliver's "Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World". The 
successful publication was celebrated at the RIBA-building, Portland 
Place, London, Dec. 4, 1997.

Paul Oliver's encyclopedia documents the results of an entirely new type 
of global architectural research which had developed over the last 2 -3 
decades. Over 750 specialists from more than 80 countries contributed to 
it. Over approximately 2500 pages in 3 volumes it unites more than 1700 
photographs and 1000 line drawings including plans, diagrams, 
orthographical and computer generated projections. In addition there are 
80 regional maps.

The first volume is essentially theoretical, giving more than 100 
approaches and concepts. Volumes 2 and 3 geographically document 
traditional architecture globally in 7 continental main areas and nearly 
100 subzones. Doubtless this is the first time we get such a complete 
and dense information about how the non-urban surface of the earth is 
populated in regard to traditional housing. Thus, with its multilayered 
grid structure covering cultural, geographical, climatic and 
environmental aspects, this encyclopedia allows a highly complex and at 
the same time fairly complete image of a phenomenon greatly neglected by 
the disciplines of architecture as well as ethnology. This 
interdisciplinary "two in one" of 'vernacular architecture' and 
'architectural ethnology' may explain the importance of this 
encyclopedia for architectural research.

In the framework of architecture Paul Oliver's encyclopedia opens the 
awareness, that the content of the term architecture had conventionally 
been extremely one sided, being restricted on aesthetically preselected 
samples of Euro-mediterranen (and other) historical, or 'high' 
architectures (key words: 'pyramids, temples, palaces and cathedrals') 
thus greatly neglecting a huge wealth of traditional architectural forms 
diffused over centuries all over the world. Evidently architectural 
'theories' were greatly handicapped by this lack of knowledge and 
projected Euro-Western functionalistic rationalisms onto non EuroWestern 
cultures (architectural colonialism). This will change now. Architects 
of many regions of the world will become aware that there are many other 
ways to conceive architecture beyond EuroWestern rationalisms.

In view of the humanities and particularly in regard to ethnology, Paul 
Oliver's encyclopedia provides a full fledged 'dictionary of 
architectural ethnology' including agrarian house traditions 
conventionally dealt with by folklore studies of various countries. The 
complexity of the presentation in this encyclopedia and, particularly 
the many approaches outlined in the first volume, may convince many an 
ethnologist, that the human dwelling may be a valuable and important 
source which expresses many aspects of human life.

With its additional comparative lexicon of 500 words (French, German, 
Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic), its glossary of over 1200 
architectural and anthropological terms, and with its largest 
bibliography on the subject today, including over 9000 references, it 
may become a standard work for many interested in architectural 
research: architects, anthropologists, geographers, ethnologists, 
folklorists, planners, historians and conservationalists.

Remember the French 'encyclopŽdistes' (d'Alembert, Diderot, in 
collaboration with Rousseau, Voltaire, Grimm, Holbach etc.) and their 
impacts on what is called "enlightenment" in European thought? It may 
well be possible that Paul Oliver's encyclopedia will have impacts of 
'enlightenment' on the present "postmedieval myth of the profaned 
creator genius" still violently virulent in post modern architecture. 
And, maybe he will be considered as the "architectural encyclopedist" by 
a new 'Neohumanism' in the architecture of the 21st century.


      Paul Oliver (ed.)


219 x 276 mm; ca. 2'500 pp. 1'700 halftones, 1'000 line drawings, 80 maps
ISBN: 0-521-56422-0
3 volumes hardback £ 695.-- / $ 900.-


    * For more informations (contents of vol. 1-3) see the site of
      Cambridge University Press:

          o http://www.cup.org/Books/oliver/oliver.html
    * Using PDF format (Adobe Acrobat), you can also download a copy of
      the leaflet distributed by Cambridge University Press:

          o http://home.worldcom.ch/~negenter (see file "Reviews")

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