• Welcome to droqen's forum-shaped notebook. Please log in.

The Nature of Order // Book One // The Phenomenon of Life

Started by droqen, December 10, 2022, 05:47:43 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


What I like about this is that it captures what the artist does as essential, rather than frivolous. In a results-oriented setting these minuscule changes are so easily steamrolled by not being explicable.

I have tended to defend this type of small detail work by defending the artist's whims. But perhaps that is not the right approach... I could learn to perceive and appreciate the wholeness, the inexplicable.


P. 139
.. it is not enough for the centres to merely be present....each of those one hundred centres must be drawn in such a way that it is beautiful and has its own strength.
   It is also instructive to find out how hard it is to draw all one hundred centres as strong, living centres even when you know what they are.


Page 140 contains Alexander's description of how the creation of lines, curves, and shapes.. is distinct from the creation of centres. They exist in relation to one another. Changing one to fix it may set another one off. "It takes enormous skill and concentration to draw the pattern so that all the centres at once have their full strength."






In the previous chapter Alexander claimed to have identified fifteen rules which "control the ways that living centres can be made from other centres". I don't know exactly what this means but it's possible this is going to be a very very practical list.


This is an incredible chapter. Everything has been making sense, and I haven't felt the need to grab anything as a quote. Uh. . . Like, I could list the properties, and I might still do that just as a reference at some point. There is one interesting thing I'd like to quote.

P. 189-190, describing LOCAL SYMMETRIES
. . . Each strip was 7 squares long, and was composed of 3 black squares and 4 white squares, arranged in different arrangements. There are 35 possible strips of this kind.
    First, we established that the relative coherence of the different patterns --- operationally defined as ease of perception --- was . . . an objective measure of cognitive processing, roughly the same for everyone.
. . .
We found that, whether we used ease of description, ease of memorization, subjectively judged "simplicity," or ease of recognition in a tachistoscope [(an instrument used for exposing objects to the eye for a very brief measured period of time)], the relative coherences as measured by these different experiments were very strongly correlated.
. . .
the relative degree of coherence . . . was rather constant from person to person.


P. 215
. . . an apparent roughness. Our current tendency is to dismiss this house as an archaic building, rough only because the techniques of fabrication forced it to be rough because the techniques could not be precise. . . . More modern construction techniques that will be available in the future, will, like nature, once again be more capable of making such an organic structure and we shall, by then, no longer be ashamed of it.


Ah . . . I realize now that I am surrounded by dead things. I live in dead spaces. So . . . so depressing.


I must learn to notice and appreciate life where I can.


P. 221, functional notes for ECHOES
   A practical example: In a well-made old barn, all the different parts are somehow made in the same way --- adzed beams and columns, pegged and mortised, so that they come from a single family. This arises from practical functional consideration. Often, when all the different details are members of a family, the task of making the building becomes simpler, the rhythm of making it faster, more economical. It can produce the necessary variety without trouble. If, on the other hand, the details are disparate, it is such an effort, mentally, to make the building at all, that there is less room for variation and invention. The result: in a building without echoes, the final adaptation of the building to its needs is often weaker. . . . chances are that certain deep requirements have been ignored, and the variety of non-echoing forms will cause various functional failures.


I think about this with regard to the self-imposed limitation of pixel art without mixels and rotated pixels and out-of-scale pixels, that sort of thing. I've written several times a piece of code that positions a pixelated cursor 'above' and outside of the pixelated Godot viewport, but forces it to maintain the same scale, keeps its position locked to the grid. It's more than ease of use -- though in this instance it's extra work to maintain the echo, I think if I let it slide in one place, I might as well let it slide in more places. Once the echo habit is broken, or let us say, expanded, once the barriers are broken, more becomes possible. There are more possibilities, more possible answers to more possible questions. Alexander writes, ". . . when all the different details are members of a family, the task of making the [thing] becomes simpler, the rhythm of making it faster, more economical. It can produce the necessary variety without trouble." (emphasis mine.) This implies there is also an unnecessary variety.

I believe that is what mixels are, what they give access to, what they open the door to.
They make the task of making the thing more complex, the rhythm of making it worse, less economical.

Unnecessary variety.


P. 221
   When functions are taken seriously, there are usually various geometric rules which follow, as a result of functional conditions. These rules, applied over and over again, will create a feeling of familiar angles, lines, shapes, not for formal reasons, but simply as a result of careful adherence to functional requirements.


P. 233, on not-separateness
If you believe that the thing you are making is self-sufficient, if you are trying to show how clever you are, to make something that asserts its beauty, you will fall into the error of losing, [of] failing, not-separateness. The correct connection to the world will only be made if you are conscious, willing, that the thing you make be indistinguishable from its surroundings; that, truly, you cannot tell where one ends and the next begins, and you do not even want to be able to do so. . . . This quality, geometrically, depends especially on the state of the boundary. In things which have not-separateness, there is often a fragmented boundary, an incomplete edge, which destroys the hard line. . . . the actual boundary is sometimes rather careless, deliberately placed to avoid any simple complete sharp cutting off of the thing from its surroundings --- a randomness in the actual boundary line which allows the thing to be connected to the world.


The way each of these fifteen properties blend into one another is beautiful, in following themselves. There are echoes between the properties, a non-separateness, an ambiguity as to where one ends and another begins.

Not-separateness relies on deep interlock and ambiguity, which in turn describes the nature of boundaries: those boundaries must have a roughness to them, but also contrast. The center should have echoes of things outside. . .

repeating but not repeating.


Nowhere in the book do I find a plain text list of the fifteen properties and I suppose this must be on purpose. They have a natural quality this way, a running-togetherness. On the pages 239-241 there are a list of the fifteen properties but accompanied by drawings and additional descriptive words. The closest is, on page 144, this block of text:

Quote                           [..] 1. LEVELS OF

~ Lists


When I came upon that block of text for the first time I was a little frustrated that this was the way these properties were being presented, a little confused that they would be allowed to run together, to none of them take center stage on their own line . . . it wasn't a really bad feeling, it compelled me to move forward and take in each one in turn, in depth. And now, thinking back to my response, I am fond of the way they are presented, none of them alone, the boundary between item to item somewhat ambiguous. Whether serendipitous or not, I am fond of many features of this block of text.

I'm often frustrated when reading large dense nonfiction books when there is no good wrap-up, no good concluding summary, no good clear overview of a topic. I'm making my peace with it; there isn't always a good list for me to take away. Lists that prize separateness in their items are nice lists, but perhaps are not alive.

~ Lists


It makes me so mad to keep reading this (for reasons already stated)! But I have been thinking about a lens of party planning, of designing spaces which allow play -- life, even! -- to emerge, and this next chapter title is so, so tempting, seen through this lens.

Let's do it.






P. 244
A skeptical reader could . . . make relatively light of these claims. According to a "cognitive" interpretation, the centers could merely exist in the mind's eye (as products of cognition), and the fifteen properties, which apparently make the centers work, could also exist merely as artifacts of cognition. According to such an interpretation, it might be said that buildings and works of art look good when they are made of centers in the way I have described, simply because they correspond somehow to deep cognitive structures --- that is, to the way human perception and cognition work. In this interpretation, these explanations would be a powerful way of understanding the psychology of buildings and works of art --- and would tell us something important and significant about visual phenomena in the world.


I have been called out. I was finally getting into this book and was happy to let this question of objective world vs phenomenal model sit on the back burner, in the pantry, in the  freezer, but here Alexander is making it clear that he intends to directly challenge this precise difference in perspective. Well.

I have feelings about this, but I can't tell whether they're good or not.