Timeless Way of Building—Christopher Alexander (1979)


I.                    The Quality Which Has No Name

A.     Freedom from inner contradictions

B.     Alive

C.     Whole

D.     Comfortable

E.      Free

F.      Exact

G.     Egoless

H.     Eternal

I.        Ordinary

J.       Slightly bitter


II.                  “The Quality” (cont.)

A.     It is the quality of life.  And we must seek it, for our own sakes, in our surroundings, simply in order that we can ourselves become alive.  p. 54

B.     …every place is given its character by certain patterns of events that keep happening there.  p. 55

C.     …certain patterns of events—both human and nonhuman—keep repeating, and account, essentially, for much the greater part of the events which happen here.  P. 69

D.     self-sustaining harmony  p. 118

E.      Each living pattern resolves some system of forces, or allows them to resolve themselves.  Each pattern creates an organization which maintains that pattern of the world in balance.  P. 134

F.      …every part of it, at every level, becomes unique.  P. 143

G.     Nature is never modular.  Nature is full of almost similar units.  P. 144

H.     …relaxed geometry comes directly from the balance of repetition and variety.  p. 148

I.        The character of nature can’t arise without the presence and the consciousness of death.  P. 153


III.                The Gate

A.     …the enormous repetition of patterns, which makes up the world, comes about because the languages which people use to make the world are widely shared.  P. 209-210

B.     …the most mystical, most religious, most wonderful…they are more ordinary than most things.  P. 219

C.     Each pattern is a field… a bundle of relationships…. P. 223

D.     …time when a pattern language was a song, in which people could sing the whole of life….  P. 237

E.      If you want to influence the structure of your town, you must help to change the underlying languages….  So long as the people of society are separated from the language which is being used to shape their buildings, the buildings cannot be alive.  P. 241

F.      Each pattern is a three-part rule, which expresses a relation between a limited context, a set of forces which occur there, and the pattern which resolves those forces.  P. 247 & 254

G.     For a pattern to be sharable, we have to be able to criticize it.  And to criticize it, we have to know its functional purpose.  P. 251

H.     Elements of a pattern:

                                                               i.      Visualize a pattern as a kind of fluid image p. 263

                                                             ii.      Redefine it as an operational entity p. 265

                                                            iii.      You must be able to draw it p. 267

                                                           iv.      You must give it a name p. 267

I.        Test of a pattern:

                                                               i.      Problem must be real p. 283

                                                             ii.      The configuration must solve the problem p. 283

                                                            iii.      The configuration must deal with all the forces in the situation p. 285  The fact is, we feel good in the presence of a pattern which resolves its forces p. 286

J.       A pattern which is real makes no judgment about the legitimacy of the forces in the situation p. 304

K.    A pattern language must be

                                                               i.      Morphologically complete—the patterns together must form a complete structure p. 316

                                                             ii.      Functionally complete—self-consistent, generating only those forces which they themselves resolve.


IV.              The Way

A.     …since the patterns are patterns of action, and the action will not happen unless the patterns are felt, and created, and maintained by the people whose action goes into the patterns, there is no way the living town can be built by professionals, for other people to live in.  p. 354

B.     Each pattern is an operator which differentiates space:  that is, it creates distinctions where no distinction was before.  P. 373

C.     …there are no places which are way-stations between moments of living; every place is made in such a way that life can be savored fully there.  p. 484

D.     …it is possible for all the large-scale order of a town to be created purely by means of incremental piecemeal acts.  P. 496  each larger pattern comes into being as the end product of a long sequence of tiny acts—and that these tiny acts themselves have to power to create the pattern, if they are repeated often enough.  P. 499

E.      …each group is made responsible for helping the next larger group, create the larger patterns which the larger group requires.  P. 506

A.     To act as nature does is the most ordinary thing in the world.  P. 548