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The Nature of Order // Book Two // The Process of Creating Life

Started by droqen, January 04, 2023, 05:17:11 PM

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P. 116
 . . . modern people are, very often, not holistic perceivers. Instead of seeing the wholeness and acting on it, they (especially if they are educated in verbal concepts at modern institutions) now perceive according to invented categories, which often blind them to the wholeness which exists.

Quote from: The One-Straw Revolution, p26An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing.

Specialists in various fields gather together and observe a stalk of rice. The insect disease specialist sees only insect damage, the specialist in plant nutrition considers only the plant's vigor. [emphasis mine]



P. 122
. . . such planned communities, and indeed nearly all developer-built artificial communities, are based on structure-destroying transformations. This comes not from their failure to be consistent with the land where they are built, but merely from the fact that they are planned at all, rather than "grown."


P. 125
The base of [this] building . . . did not arise as part of an unfolding process from the land that was there before, . . . the base is a thought --- like thin paper --- not a reality which has grown from the actual situation. And . . . because of this, it does not work. It is probably vulnerable to water penetration. It is probably not very strong in earthquake or against cracking. Certainly it is not a place where plants can grow. It is not a place where a person can be comfortable, sitting or leaning or standing against the wall. The lack of unfolding not only makes the building ugly; it also makes sure that it does not work.

// I see Alexander repeating his argument that ornamentation and functionality are inseparable, and it is more compelling here than before . . . the "smooth" unfolding process which produces life is that process which takes what is there and builds upon it, strengthens it, notices it, loves it. If the ornamental process does not respect the conditions, how can the functional? Are they one?


P. 126
The geometry is stark, harsh, not well adapted to itself internally*. Again and again, this comes about from a failure of unfolding, and  from a procedure (during the design stage) which must have been structure-destroying.

// *emphasis mine. If the process does not respect the ground, why should it respect its own foundation? It follows that a process of building that cares to strengthen its centers, to build upon its self, would be capable of applying such to the space it was built on. . .


I love this next header.

P. 128-129


I believe it is in appropriate to feel anger toward them . . . What has caused the new tradition of structure-destroying forms of this era, are mainly the machine-like processes . . . However, even with the sympathy, I do not think one can avoid the realization that many architects have been sucked into a cooperation with the structure-destroying program of modern society. . . Yet that production process which we [architects] justified and which many people came to believe in is inherently incapable of creating life.


Another miserable banger.

P. 129


Images in the 20th century had a unique power, where image became divorced from reality, and often more important than reality. . . . photographs of buildings in magazines became more important than the buildings themselves. Buildings were judged --- at least by members of our own profession --- more by the way they looked in magazines, than by the satisfaction people felt when using them.

. . . because of the new role of images in society, many of us [architects] began to believe in our own propaganda . . . the images of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe [began to form the backbone of an accepted style.] . . . These images were highly destructive. As a result of the fame of such architects younger architects then wanted to be like that, too, and perpetuated this style of work, with all its inherent life-destroying qualities. Yet it all came from images, hardly ever from life.

// sounds like 'touch grass' could have preceded the internet. god damn


P. 129-130
     The essence, in all cases of unfolding, is common sense. You want to make a house. At each moment, you ask yourself, What is the most important thing I have to do next, which will have the best effect on the life of the house? Then you do it.
. . . It is not complicated, not pretentious, but simple and obvious. It is just common sense.

. . . the structure-preserving character unfolding is deeper than it seems. A student once asked me . . . Could you, in fact, create the designs of Mies van der Rohe, Botta, Le Corbusier by the same process? The answer is that you could not.
. . . Suppose you do start with an idea of a building --- as Mies, Le Corbusier, Botta all typically did. All of them started with a certain idea, a certain image. Imagine . . . you also start with an image. . . . Now you start an unfolding process, a structure-preserving process, on the site, carrying this image in your mind. If you do really and truly follow the wholeness of the land, site, and emerging building, and allow the wholeness to unfold --- then, gradually, each part of the initial (and arbitrary) image will slowly give way to common sense: that is, to reality, to the wholeness of what is there, rather than to the idea of it you carry in your image.

. . . the images of Le Corbusier, Mies, Botta, and others like them cannot, IN PRINCIPLE, be created by an unfolding process. Anything that starts with an imposed image, if then taken step by step through an unfolding process, will change --- often drastically --- as it unfolds. . . . In other words, many of the buildings we have inherited as icons of the modern movement are arbitrary, and do not --- deeply --- make sense at all.


P. 135


. . . the very idea of city images, or plans, and the very idea of city planning as an activity, is itself inherently at odds with the idea of unfolding, and at odds with the idea of the land giving rise gradually, and of its own accord, to natural extended city form. . . .

The modern developments we know too well, . . . necessarily depend on images --- because it is the images which first draw investors, and then potential buyers, to the land.


In a living system what is to be always grows out of what is, supports it, extends it structure smoothly and continuously, elaborates new form --- sometimes startling new form --- but without ever violating the structure which exists.
. . . Creativity comes about when we discover the new within a structure already latent in the present. It is our respect for what is that leads us to the most beautiful discoveries.



I N S P I R I N G   M O D E R N   C A S E S   W H E R E

U N F O L D I N G   D I D   O C C U R


Alexander writes, "I have, as a counterpoint to the pessimism of chapter 4" (much appreciated) "written this next chapter which extols the beauty of our era. I mean it as a source of inspiration, and as a source of hope. And I mean it, too, to be instructive, to show us that perhaps we have been looking in the wrong direction, at the wrong examples."

This is a single joyful page, very warm and comforting. And it comes at just the right time: as a counterpoint, as he says, to the chapter which precedes. Of course both centers strengthen one another. I would be startled to find Alexander getting meta (he does not), but it follows his philosophy closely as I notice much of his writing's structure does.


"If we are honest, we can still love what we are, we can find all the good there is to find, and we may find ways to enhance that good, and to find a new kind of living world which is appropriate for our time."





I haven't turned the page yet. I'm not going to write anything down from this chapter, at least not until I've finished the entire thing. I need the breather and I'm going to enjoy it fully, for myself.


These are my memories of living places, living processes:

- Live musicians and comedians, in the bandshell at the CNE. The crowd there.
- In Suzhou, the gardens.
- In Tianjing, the old men playing Xiangqi, surrounded by onlookers. I stood on a bench so I could see down at the game.
- Vending machines in Tokyo, tucked away in the winding streets of a residential neighbourhood.
- Ward's Island, Toronto. The houses there, the people there.