Where does Christopher Alexander go wrong?


Where does Christopher Alexander go wrong? In A Pattern Language (1977) he describes a design methodology that tries to capture the apparently spontaneous success of vernacular building:

“The elements of this language are called patterns. Each pattern describes a problem  which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution to that problem a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.” (p. x)

Each pattern describes a particular relationship that can be manifested any number of ways. For example, the pattern ‘Arcades’ specifies that paths along the edges of buildings should offer continuous shelter; and the pattern ‘Necklace of Community Projects’ specifies that town halls should be connected to a ring of facilities for community groups. So far, so good. But somewhere down the line he gets to arguing that we should only use warm colours inside, that all farms must be public parks, and that its impossible to make a comfortable space using thin columns. I react strangely to his work: his desire for a generative theory of the built environment sounds great, but somewhere along the line it gets weird and ends up being retrograde.



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