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

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

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

Previous topic - Next topic


I have plans to meet a friend and make a new friend tomorrow and I'm going to try and make them do the teahouse thing with me. In the meantime, the remainder of chapter eleven... is incredible... just mind bogglingly inspiring. I have never before now felt any level of confidence in my ability to convey how I approach level design, or design in general. The way Alexander says it, it is so obviously simple. It is always just a series of steps... Is there even anything I can quote here? I will quote a piece of step 9 of the "generative sequence for apartment buildings in Pasadena", "an old town with a nice history recently ruined by an influx of ugly multi-family apartment buildings" which leapt out at me in particular as I read it, but please remember this is one part of one step of eleven. It may mean nothing on its own.

P. 311

Cut up the [overall building volume which has been established in previous steps] into apartments in such a way as to define the best and most pleasant apartments. There should be no attempt to make apartments of a standard shape. Rather, each apartment should take a shape which is appropriate to its unique position in the building volume and with respect to daylight, access to outdoors, and entrances. The living room or main room of the apartment should have a garden view if possible.


P. 317

Although the generative sequence itself is fixed (and needs to be fixed in order to embody the dictates of the fundamental process), the variety this sequence generates, when interacting with a variety of contexts, is very great indeed --- indeed, it is essentially infinite.[8]

[8] . . . My friend Dan Solomon, the San Francisco architect with whom I was joint-venturing the creation of the zoning ordinance, came to me and told me that he felt the generative sequence was an offense against architects, that it abrogated the individual freedom of expression of any self-respecting architect who might wish to apply for a building permit in Pasadena, and that he could not agree with the idea that the ordinance would contain the sequence as a major component. . . . It is significant, I think, that the fundamental rightness of generative sequences, as a source of life in buildings, was so deeply misperceived by a fellow-architect, who felt it to be a denial of freedom. It was, of course, only a denial of the freedom to do something willful and "creative" in the name of architecture: just the very aspect of architecture which caused so much damage in the 20th century. But the generative sequences are the origin of real freedom in the creative process --- if that freedom is aimed at creating living structure.

P. 322

The single most important thing that happens during the process of making anything, is the ever watchful task of getting the next bit of sequence right and modifying it as we go along. Paying attention to what has to be done next, and getting this right. . . The more one understands the key role which sequence plays in the unfolding process, the more it becomes clear that the process of design and the process of construction are inseparable.






     During the onrush of the late 20th century, love of the unique --- at least in places and things --- sometimes appeared almost quaint, a desperate search for humanity among the inhumanity of dull repetition, stereotypes, and nearly identical McDonald's shops and Japanese cars. Uniqueness, a lost quality, still existing only in a few fishing villages, was regrettably now kept only for vacations. Daily life itself was marked by replicas, by sterile repetition, by the loss of uniqueness. Video-tapes of films, identical cars, bags, packages, refrigerators, houses, windows, streets, created a sense of a modular world in which parts were not unique. We were informed, solemnly, by the architectural theorists of that century, that modularity was an inevitable aspect of production, part of the march of progress, and that it would lead us to the triumphs of technology.


I stopped reading for a few days, troubled. How do I feel about uniqueness? I like it of course, but how does it come to terms with this passage from my recent letterclub post?

"Modern values suggest common feelings are not that important, and rather it is individuality that has an overriding importance. "It's not for everyone." "There's no accounting for taste." "Your difference is what makes you beautiful." And so on. // I point this out because this [common] feeling of life cannot be fully understood without first acknowledging that underlying feeling which it contradicts."

The more I read over this though the more I understand that it is not in conflict... still I'm left a bit unsettled. Did I really sound so anti-uniqueness? It's not that I don't value, or that I undervalue, the unique... but that I value the common, too. The ayy lmao between 🌀 uniqueness is worthless, and 🐉 everyone is unique in every way or else


P. 325

During the 20th century, our ideas about repetition and uniqueness were distorted. . .

First, by a conviction that it was inevitable that a modern industrial process could only make exact replicas, if it was to be efficient, via mass-production. . . . it was an aesthetic idea, a philosophical ideal, an intellectual extension of the ideas of mechanism [and the 20th century mechanistic view].

Second, our concept of repetition was distorted by a conviction about atoms and fundamental particles, which seemed to provide a basis for thinking that the world is, in its essence, modular. . . . At one time physicists believed that atoms --- then thought to be the ultimate constituents of matter --- were the modular units from which everything was made. Later it was thought that electrons, neutrons, protons were the identical modular units . . . Later still, quarks and strings . . .

P. 325 - 326

. . . the intellectual bias of the century was often mixed with the philosophical (and practical) dream of a small number of components which could be combined in infinite richness of arrangement to create beautiful things. . . . [but if] wholeness as it is expressed in Book 1 turns out to be correct, and if the unfolding of wholeness described in this book turns out to be fundamental, then one must come to expect that each atom and each particle will be different according to its context, and that there are no ultimate identical constituents of matter at any scale.


P. 337

Just make it nice at every spot.

P. 340

If we concentrate on understanding by what process each part must become itself --- in just the right way which emerges from its position in the whole --- it will be tied to the whole, harmonious with the whole, integrated with the whole, yet unique and particular according to just the unique conditions which occur in that part of the whole. This will give us the living process, and our understanding of it, too, in its entirety.


The idea as far as I am able to understand and express it for myself is that there is a uniqueness which arises from following common patterns. A common process, that is, a non-unique process, so long as the process pays attention to context or has "respect for what exists" (the name of the 6th and final section of this chapter), produces unique results constantly and infinitely.

Put another way, space is already unique. . . every spot of space is unique in its relationships to other spots of space. Every person is unique too, in this way as well as many different ways.

Uniqueness does not take effort. Uniqueness is already present in every moment and every part of every life. We can appear to produce unique results by paying very close attention to what already exists.

It is this common uniqueness which I struggled with, above. Uniqueness not as a struggle to create, but as a quiet noticing. Notice that latent uniqueness and strengthen it; respect it; step-by-step adapt to it; create new centers to do so; unfolding in sequence, one will discover that every part is unique.





This chapter will prove useful for understanding game design -- not all game design but game design in context.

P. 342
In any sane process which is able to make living structure . . . giving proper attention to the functional basis . . . to what people need, and want, and desire, in order to make themselves comfortable . . .

P. 343
When we begin a . . . project, our clues about what should be built, what should be done next, must come not only from the land but from society, too, and from the culture where this is being done. We are faced with the empty canvas, and we puzzle about what to do.

P. 343 - 344
It is the human family which makes us build a house, it is the concept of transportation and community which makes us seek roads and sidewalks; it is the way that people are in their custom and behaviour, which provides the all-important physical subtleties. . . . a true unfolding process must be rooted, always, in the whole, in the cultural and human whole and the land and the ecological and natural whole and the physical wholeness [and the technological, digital wholeness and the genre tropes and and and...] of that place which forms the context of our work.


When we begin a project, we are faced with the empty canvas, and we puzzle about what to do. Our clues about what should be built, what should be done next, must come from the context. In any sane process which is able to make living structure for people, we must give proper attention to what people need and want and desire to make themselves comfortable.


I've had this question lingering in the back of my mind: Why is Christopher Alexander not more well-known as an architect? Of course his ideas might just be wrong, but this passage made me think that part of the problem is his bedside manner. His way of describing his approach and involving others in the process was blunt, cut to the point in a way that people do not find comfortable. I can relate.

P. 355

[My clients] quickly realized that this discussion was . . . a discussion about [their] whole way of life. . . . Both of them felt that their future . . . was on the line. The discussion of spaces, and centers, itself harmless, but profoundly disturbing in its implications for family life, for the relation of man to woman, and much more, created tremendous anxiety. We had to stop talking for a while.


I have been trying to read each chapter without succumbing to the desire to copy every single quote that grabs me, but this chapter is too much. It's too much. I want to capture the whole idea of the chapter, not every little bit, but I fear . . . what if I miss the trees for the forest? What if I forget every little gem? I think it helps to sit down with the chapter and read it all in one sitting. If I break it up into little pieces, half paying attention and half not, then the wholeness escapes me more easily. Then it helps to grab every quote I can.

I am in that position now, distracted; so I will grab the quotes.

P. 366
The essential centers are those whose presence is already latent in the field . . . the essence of the real life which is going on.
. . . in a period of history where people like to stress the arbitrariness of all things, such an idea may seem doubtful or impossible to accept. But the crux of all life is, nevertheless, the difference between recognizing the essential thing and separating it from the trivial thing.


Quote from: Ian BogostBy holding everything at a distance, we trap ourselves within our imperfect minds. Irony doesn't protect us; it only makes things worse.
--Play Anything

Bogost suggests that play is to see a thing for what it is, to accept it. The contrast is irony, which is to 'hold at a distance.' There is a mirror here . . . to play is to pay attention to the essential thing, irony is to hold it at arm's length and pay attention instead to a trivial thing, to the wrapper, to something else. Hmm


. . . examples of developer architecture and postmodern "image" architecture, which put the accent on image, not on the essentials. . . . the accent is on the box, not the flowers. . . . In the fancy staircase balustrade, all the emphasis is on the impression which the balustrade will make --- not on the problem of holding on. . . . image-conscious, and sterile. . . phony.
In the Italian case, the rough plastered trough for flowers is unobtrusive, what matters is the flowers. The flowers are intense, they are at just the right height to see them, smell them, experience them. . . . In the economical iron railing, which comes from an 11th-century palace, the essential thing is the beauty of the steps, and getting upstairs to the door. . . . simple, often cheap, and goes to the guts of the situation in a way that matters. . . real . . . They go to the heart of the structure that is already there, they summarize and encapsulate the essence of the real life that is going on in people's hearts.