March 2004 Archives

learning architecture

"The one thing I know, and believe most deeply, about learning architecture, is that it is an act of making. To learn it, you must gradually develop, in yourself, an appreciation of a building as something you make, in very much the same sense that you make a tiny carving with a penknife. To grasp this, deeply, and to make it work and come alive in you, you have to make tiny things which get bigger, then make parts of buildings like doors, shelves, counters, with your own hands, then make your first tiny building with your own hands, then begin to understand what it means to take resposibility when others are involved in the making process for a slightly bigger building, learn how to co-ordinate them and form a team, learn how to manage money in the context of making art, then to do this at larger and larger scales, progressing finally to neighbourhoods and very large buildings, where the problems are once again different.

In the course of this personal evolution a student moves through an early period which is self-discovery - largely emotional, and to some degree to do with craft and skill, as he or she learns to make a tiny satisfying thing, perhaps a cup, that has deep feeling in it, and is well and truly made. Then to a more intellectual version where the problems of small buildings are grappled with and the profession of architecture takes an entirely new form. And finally to those larger projects where everything that is done is in the nature of research - because, in our time, for big buildings and neighbourhoods, none of it has been done in the way that is required and every undertaking is an adventure and an experiment in financing, in ecology, in engineering or in construction management."

christopher alexander - the prince of wales's institute of architecture
9 july, 1993 open day. on crutches i gave a book on freemasons to brian

a foreshadowing of 21st century art

pixels from the cloth binding of the first edition
pixels from the original cloth binding

"a foreshadowing of 21st century art - the colour and geometry of very early turkish carpets" is one of a series of books by christopher alexander and colleagues at the center for enviromental structure, that provide a complete working alternative to our present day ideas about architecture, building and the nature of the universe


the art of building

"I am an architect. I have spent my life trying to find forms for buildings in which people may feel themselves at home."

color comes from the geometry
the carpets as my teachers
forming of the collection

part 1 the beauty of early turkish carpets

the original creature

"A carpet is a picture of God."

color and light
objective wholeness: the mirror of the self
the building blocks of wholeness

"As a first approximation, a "center" may be defined as a psychological entity which is percieved as a whole, and which creates a feeling of a center in the visual field"

the multiplicity of centres
centers and local symmetries
the density of local symmetries


positive space
levels of scale
the creation of a complex center
the role and character of animals
emergence of a being
afterword: the konya district

part 2 dating and progression of early carpets

part 3 the carpets

a selection

endless knot design hispano-moresque carpet (62 x 250 cm)
white field seljuk carpet with infinite repeat of dragons (139 x 254 cm)
seljuk prayer carpet (127 x 170 cm)
restored fragment of the byzantine-timurid prototype (114 x 195 cm)
painting of the byzantine-timurid prototype
black bordered carpet with goddess and deer (122 x 176 cm)
archaic lobed medallioncarpet with turtles in the border (157 x 222 cm)
early carpet with sptted lobes: the "old" rug (128 x 253 cm)
carpet with border of little red gods (91 x 36 cm)
blue timurid lotto with red animals and swans (148 x 199 cm)
endless repeating design with leaves on a yellow border (107 x 203 cm)
blue field carpet with green medallions, ram's horns and blossoms (106 x 182 cm)
turquoise lattice carpet (161 x 241 cm)
blue field carpet with purple star (172 x 221 cm)
saph mihrab with plum blossoms (74 x 146 cm)
endless design with starlike medallions (70 x 123 cm)

part 4 the degeneration of the art

the start of the tradition - endless knot design hispano moresque carpet (spanish carpet of the 12th century)
the end of the tradition - carpet with eight panels and red interlace (bergama carpet of the 19th century)

comparison1.jpg         comparison2.jpg

the carpets have been exhibited once before


"on this page is a photograph of the carpet gallery in the san francisco m h de young museum exhibit november 1990 to february 1991. the gallery space which i designed for the carpets, was almost like a museum within a museum. the atmosphere was dark, almost smoky - in such a way that the carpets glowed, and shone out from the darkness revealing - in many cases - their deep feeling. many people said that they had never had such an experience of carpets, and saw for the first time, the true feeling which they contatined. i view the temporary exhibit built at that time, as a sketch model of a museum which i hope to build, one day, in which these carpets will be permanently housed."

i read that and knew why i hadn't housed an exhibition in the castle street car park

whilst trying to reproduce an image of a carpet fragment at life size this project has made me think about digitisation. many bound collections of newspapers and magazines were destroyed in the rush to microfiche which in time decayed to the point of being useless. many originals were lost. attempts are being made to digitize the entirety of the worlds heritage sites. in trying to show the colour of the carpets by means of projection and a full size image of a fragment the difference between a reproduction of anything and the real thing itself became painfully apparent

short fat unit 4 - material form

the arbitrary nature of this architectural education begins to worry me and my scheduled conversation with gerry adler has been postponed. kiad is simply a factory reproducing the shitstem and i should know that people will not be able to behave at their best within it. all of us are occasionally aware of the disabling institutionalised nonsense that surrounds us. attending a third year class on a pattern language yesterday i realised i should have written the seminar "christopher alexander - an introduction" weeks ago and already be repeating it. the world i want will only come about through civic engagement and education

meanwhile, like a souk, my arse. why do these short fat units feel like administrative conveniences manufactured just in time. is it to do wth the poor level of presentation or just their general incoherence. i doubt that a souk would arise in the castle street car park even after a nuclear holocaust. living marketplaces are the result of incremental adaptive growth and their structure unfolds in space over time

center1.jpg   center2.jpg   center3.jpg

the most beautiful part of the site is the steep bank, the trees and the view of the back gardens of the adjoining terraced houses. when it's sunny the place is magical and the large black shed has a powerful presence. obviously their wholeness was ignored and the area severely damaged by the building of the car park. personally i like the brutality of concrete but the cartesian nodes formed by these prestressed members look like comparatively weak centers

having earlier chosen to try and display the center for environmental structure's collection of carpets i gave up on the site and decided to submit a really good "Submission Requirements: 1. Principle of space and form generation:" instead

simon allford at kiad


a founding partner at ahmm in london which is now a practice of fifty people, simon was kind enough to let me take three pics of him, one at the beginning and two at the end. i have photoshopped some highlights out of the above image.

there were no questions from the audience and as i wasn't able to be present for the whole of the talk i hadn't taken the opportunity to ask 'the theory question'. he said i should have done because it would have put him on the spot. i think he then went on to say he doesn't have a theory, was educated in modernism and just does it in the context of being a modern architect within the current system of production

did anybody else get to speak to him? i think the presentations should be a bit shorter and the discussion a bit longer. discuss

the shaker world: life art belief


john t kirk is a furniture historian and currently this is the best academic reference on the shakers. i was surprised to learn of a period in their history when mother ann lee and her early followers at watervliet engaged in heavy drinking and naked dancing as an aid to religious expression

the shaker aesthetic was the result of a combination of the neoclassical style of the period and their desire for simplicity leading to the elimination of any unnecessary features from their designs

"the peculiar grace of a shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it" thomas merton in edward deming andrews and faith andrews "religion in wood: a book of shaker furniture"

"regularity is beautiful

there is great beauty in harmony

order is the creation of beauty. it is heaven's first law and the protection of souls

love of beauty has a wider field of action in association with moral force

beauty rests on utility

all beauty that has not a foundation in use, soon grows distasteful, and needs continual replacement with something new

that which has itself the highest use possesses the greatest beauty"

the fact that the shakers are percieved as precursors of minimalism is a result of how they were presented in the work of early scholars and collectors with a vested interest in the value of the artifacts. this is particularly true of the way furniture was shown in black and white photographs of otherwise empty rooms

15 rules for rebuilding the world

wired magazine abridges the 2,150 pages of the nature of order into 15 rules for rebuilding the world and they include the worst picture of alexander ever. there's also a very good introduction to his work at the project for public spaces

i think i may have to build a christopher alexander page

2004 open lecture series

multi-story lecture series poster

a clickable version would be nice but until then the charles jencks page is now under construction

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