“A Project Language”, “A Center Language”

“A Project Language” and “A Center Language” as derived from “A Pattern Language” from Christopher Alexander. Thesis paper by Hajo Neis in 2010, with presentation slides (partially in German).

In earlier projects, patterns were used and applied in the original format and formulation of APL (i.e. Oregon Campus, Peru Housing, Multicenter New York, etc). A additional set of new patterns was created for each project. Because of the need for a more direct participatory process combined with lack of time and money, in many cases patterns and pattern languages took on a simpler format (i.e. Eishin Campus Japan). Also advances in theoretical understanding have modified the pattern approach itself.

Here, a key notion is that of adaptation in the design and building process for architecture and the built environment. The idea of adaptation originated in biology, especially in relation to evolution. However, the adaptation in buildings is very different from the adaptation in biology.

A small part of the process of building adaptation, like evolutionary adaptation in biology works by modifying the genotype (pattern). This kind of adaptation is in some ways similar to biological adaptation, but it is not coded through the genes. It is purely functional, and it is driven only by functional pressure. But it is also driven by geometrical considerations of coherence.

It is this geometrical-adaptive process that drives much creation and the making of a living environment. This process is also called the centering process. This centering process contains about fifteen geometrical properties that are helpful in this process. The geometric properties include properties such as centers, boundaries, sub-symmetries, levels of scale, deep interlock, etc

“Thesen: Pattern Language and Beyond” | Hajo Neis | November 2010 | MICC-Experten/innen at http://micc-project.org/wp-content/uploads/neis-architektur-patterns20101.pdf

Beyond Patterns: From Pattern Language to the Language of Centers

“Beyond Patterns: From Pattern Language to the Language of Centers” (presentation slides) | Hajo Neis | Nov. 2010 | “The Patterns of Patterns: Pattern Language and Beyond”, MICC Experten/innen Workshop at http://micc-project.org/wp-content/uploads/pr%C3%A4s-neis-MICC2010.pdf

(translated) How can we organizations that constantly play like musicians dynamically forward and more and more are under pressure to change, better understand and shape? What strategies are the basis for innovation? What is constructive improvisation beyond crisis management and the role of patterns in the interdisciplinary work?

(translated) These are the questions the research team MICC (music – innovation – corporate – culture) of the University of Duisburg-Essen, headed by Prof. Wolfgang Stark together with cooperation partners from practice organizations and the musicians Christopher Dell after.

“Dokumentation “Pattern Language and beyond” MICC-Workshop 9.12.2010” | March 2011 | Music Innovation Corporate Culture | at http://micc-project.org/?p=928

#christopher-alexander, #pattern-language

2015/07/05 10:35 Norihiko Kimura and Takashi Iba, “The Fundamental Behavioral Properties”, Purplsoc

Presentation at Purplsoc, Norihiko Kimura and Takashi Iba @taka_iba, Keio University.

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

At PURPLSOC (Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change) 2015, Danube University Krems, Austria

[Norihiko Kimura]

New properties for capturing and relating wholeness

The wholeness of Lively Human Activity

  • Have been creating pattern languages on human activity
  • Finding wholeness in people’s activities, hard to separate into parts
  • Beethoven composed while walking

How can we capture the wholeness?

  • In Nature of Order, defines a basic unit of “center”
  • Liveliness in centers that activate each other

Beethoven:  composing and walking

  • Mutual helping centers

Will focus on 3 of 24 properties

1. Bootstrap:  Centers that radiate their own energy

  • e.g. boy becomes interested in Milky Way from book in library.
  • Finding the library is the bootstrap

2. Source:  Overwhelmingly strong center

  • Social entrepreneur
  • Entrepreneur becomes the key source of energy

6. Togetherness

  • Small centers strengthening each other
  • e.g. conferences on pattern languages, community

How were Behavioral Properties found?

  • Investigated pattern languages
  • Alexander says a Pattern Language is a way defining centers

1. Find the mechanism behind the patterns

  • Read
  • Group

2. Refining and revising the properties

  • Verified

3. Expressing behavioral properties

What is the usage of behavioral properties?

  • Pattern mining
  • Pattern writing
  • Designing

Relation between behavioral and Alexander?

  • Geometric at a point in time
  • Behavioral properties over a series of time

Possible future

  • Alexander talks about color properties in Book 4, essential part of wholeness
  • In human activity, emotions are important to create a lively wholeness

Anticipate that can reach a comprehensive theory of wholeness

Norihiko Kimura

#christopher-alexander, #pattern-language, #purplsoc2015

2015/07/05 08:40 Howard Davis, “Pattern Languages and the New Productive City”, Purplsoc

Plenary at Purplsoc, Howard Davis @HowardDavis, Professor of Architecture, Collaborative for Inclusive Urbanism, University of Oregon.

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

At PURPLSOC (Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change) 2015, Danube University Krems, Austria

Introduction by Hajo Neis

  • Howard Davis researched buildings, focused on social and cultural capabilities in cities
  • The Culture of Building, not only by architects, but also by coordinating systems
  • New forms of urban economy
  • Combining commercial and residential uses
  • Needs of low income groups, and sustainable regenerative buildings
  • Coauthor of Production of Houses
  • Mexico and India participatory design

[Howard Davis]

Invitation asked to talk about pattern language, general issues

  • Current research interests
  • Pattern language
  • How approach to pattern language will impact research

Course of career

  • First educated as scientist, high energy physics
  • Then decided to study architecture, like Alexander
  • Student before Timeless Way was written
  • Worked in Burbank, Mexico, Omaha, San Francisco, Israel, California
  • All work was experimental
  • Philosophy has roots in that

Since leaving Alexander’s office, focused on spatial structure of cities, and their economic wires

  • e.g. housing project in India, similar to Mexico

Influenced by Henry Glassie, who sees configurations with historical roots

Also influenced by architects in System B

  • Even System B architects have some of System A
  • Cracks in the concrete pavement, where little flowers grow, and need to be fed
  • Boundary between System A and B is not sharp, doesn’t mean that they have to be separate
  • Alexander said, a long time before System A and B:  there are two kinds of the people in the world, those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t

Working with Bill Hilliard, space syntax

  • Now seeing that some people criticize Bill Hilliard, in the same way that some criticized Alexander
  • Full range of cultural manifestations

A few years ago, Living Over the Store

  • Social and geographic contexts
  • Economy of local cities, with building inside

Latest interest:  industry in the contemporary city

  • Nature of globalized structure
  • Collapse of building in Dhaka, Bangladesh 2013, over 2000 workers killed
  • Work has moved from United States to other countries, in a race to the bottom
  • Profound impact on American cities, and elsewhere
  • How cities and business would change

Several factors:

  • Globalization has changed cities into places of consumption, rather than production
  • Then workplace regulation in Bangladesh, that increases their costs
  • New York garment workers were producing for local and regional
  • Question global production systems and cities
  • Globalization does have a positive side: cheap labour, creativity, production techniques, product will improve

Workflow production will have impacts, with global production and local startups, artist studios, greenhouses

  • Emerging cities of production

Importance of connection to things, and making things

Urban ecology

  • Species diversity, flows
  • Arguments based on biological systems, compared to urban systems with social systems
  • City as complex adaptive system
  • In the realm of function that is most important
  • Production and manufacturing is important, adds value
  • Higher level of organization, analogous
  • Input-output flows, contracts, social systems
  • Added value to materials in the process
  • Materials become more organized
  • Biology and material production becomes more order
  • Manufacturing through craft expertise, setting up tools, complex supply chains

Cities are changing, manufacturing is returning

  • Production is small
  • Won’t replace globalization soon
  • However, is reasonable to ask what type of urban form, what types of buildings would help this

A new pattern language for urban production and manufacturing

  • New city of production

Talk first about pattern language in general

  • Doesn’t have status amongst architects, as they do in software

Main criticisms:

  • Overly nostalgic view of the past
  • Iconoclast, divorced from modernism and contemporary moements
  • Not science
  • A-cultural and a-historical, although some recognition of anthropology


Overly nostalgic?

  • Reinforced by photographs
  • 67 Common Land
  • Be wary of automobile
  • Key photograph doing 2 things:  physical relationship (building playing together, sharing something in common on land), also specific with row houses and church (which invoke people to think the past, not necessarily desirable).
  • See also:  33 Night Life, 92 Bus Stop
  • Asked why patterns with leisure and enjoyment, not labour
  • Was struck by this
  • Some misunderstanding
  • Formal relationship represented, can be tested
  • Something else:  allows interpretation that it is archaic.
  • Images give erroneous bias

Divorced from contemporary?

  • In 38 years from The Timeless Way of Building to The Mary Rose Museum, very few footnotes
  • Yet ties to systems science, biology, etc.

Environment, human behavior

  • Gerald Weisman, Jenny Young and others
  • Empiricists
  • What people say about their own desires
  • Correlate with physical environment

Pattern is physical

  • e.g. light on two sides of room helps against glare
  • Has been used in building science


  • Typology
  • Not a natural building, but an idea
  • Courtyards Which Live:  all spatial, appealing to people
  • Courtyards are also a type
  • Idea of life may be unique to Alexander, but should recognize as having a different value


  • Not systematic investigation?
  • Four story limit:  High people make people crazy
  • Connected buildings:  Disconnected building
  • High degree of variability of research attached, so critics say not good science
  • However, science has different stages:  hints, conjectures, hypotheses, experiments and observations, provisional conclusions
  • Provisional

Pattern language allows a systems of hints and conjectures, then hypotheses

  • Allows coexistence of variety of patterns at different stages
  • e.g. Long Thin House, privacy, hasn’t been studied specifically
  • Light on Two Sides, Accessible Green, have a lot of empirical work
  • Not the same as * and ** used in pattern language books
  • Instead of bad science, it sets up a program of research in paced

Universality versus specificity

  • Even Newtonian physics shown limited by Einstein’s time
  • Some patterns are more universal than others, but shouldn’t be taken for granted
  • Range of applicability
  • Cultural difference patterns:  Edge of Building, with activity both with space in house and outside, but different in India and Amsterdam
  • Range should be limited, so pattern can be used appropriately
  • Specific pattern languages for specific cultures

Now can discuss how pattern languages can be used to shape cities with industry

  • Should be different from 19th century, when had pollution and separated from other parts of the city
  • Pattern languages are not universal, and not timeless

Pattern language for next stage of industrial formation

  • Industry more integrated than other urban functions
  • Now 30 patterns, very provisional
  • Patterns not of past, may not have seen before
  • e.g. zero-energy building, industry regenerates natural systems
  • Didn’t exist during industrial revolution
  • Emerge from contemporary

Some have been seen before

  • Local food production
  • Fine grained zoning: Small industry linked with dwelling
  • e.g. neighborhood in Berkeley, where zoning has been changed so that industrial and residential are combined — but still unusual in the U.S., where has been separated for the last 100 years
  • This kind of zoning more coming in the U.S., e.g. Prague

Combine patterns that have been seen before, and those that haven’t

  • Reflects as science

Evidence that supports from patterns can come from other disciplines

  • To validate Daylight in All Workplaces, need environmental behavior studies
  • To validate Depth in Local Street Network, will need space syntax literature
  • Across disciplines that otherwise look unconnected

Science at different levels of development

  • List is provisional
  • Some are reliable
  • No Pollutants: All Pollutants Captured is well studies
  • However, Showing Off Industry hasn’t been validated well, need qualitative or quantitative show of success
  • To be a pattern need to a strong reason, a problem if the pattern didn’t exist
  • Political process might tell which patterns are important
  • History of land use and zoning

This pattern language is thus only beginning

  • Tentative in nature
  • Beyond the city as a playground of consumption

When pattern language was firs devleoped in 1960s and 1970s, two concerns:

  • 1. Inadequacy of built environment in serving human purposes
  • 2. Lack of a commonly-accepted knowledge system concerning the built environment

Have had reductiveness

  • Now have seen social inequality increasing
  • Global climate change impacts life in city
  • Urban production related to both of above: understanding is scattered, without shared knowledge in other shared fields e.g. medicine, engineering
  • City-making has been fragmented since the 1900s, e.g. traffic engineers, zoning officials
  • Professions are important, but they need to understand the big picture
  • Can be done through a shared pattern language


  • 1. Renews respect for the institutions and expertise that build the city
  • 2. Development of new pattern language that are relevant to new problems that face systems …
  • 3. … in ways that are open and scientific

Howard Davis, University of Oregon, Department of Architecture

#christopher-alexander, #pattern-language, #purplsoc2015

2015/07/04 17:00 Panel, “Christopher Alexander’s Ethics: An Ethic of Design”, Purplsoc

Plenary panel at Purplsoc: David West, Peter Baumgartner, Christian Kohls, Helmut Leitner, Hajo Neis, Till Schummer.

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the Coevolving Innovations web site by David Ing.

At PURPLSOC (Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change) 2015, Danube University Krems, Austria

Introduction by Christian Kohls

Purplsoc: panel

[David West, New Mexico Highland University, at InfoQ, on O’Reilly]

Alexander at OOPSLA:

  • Only 10% of world is impacted by architects
  • Software developers, however, will impact 100% of the world
  • Doing a horrible job
  • When was the last time someone liked the software they use in the office

[Peter Baumgartner, Danube U. Krems]

Found the book in the library, why is it so special?

  • Vision:  to build a society that is alive and whole
  • Vision, yet open

[Hajo Neis, University of Oregon]

Alexander works with participation

  • On other projects, different situations
  • What are you really responsible?   More for the building, or the owner?  For architects, it’s the building.

[Helmut Leitner, HLS Software Development]

Feeling of wholeness

  • Working on generalizing
  • People as part of nature
  • If think outside of architecture, there’s a conflict
  • Everyone is a designer
  • Hundreds of contexts

Purplsoc: panel

[Till Schummer, FernUniversität in Hagen] As computer science, ethics from pattern definition

  • Most computer people read solution to a problem in context, and they’re done
  • Without ever doing the same way twice?
  • Taking the intelligence of the business seriously.
  • When we think aobut creating reality, remind us of our limitations

[Christian Kohls, Cologne University of Applied Sciences] Responsibility to the design, or to push the design?

[Till Schummer] Can get a new start to communications

  • From people, to people
  • Better for describing their needs
  • Patterns as an ethical solution method
  • See all viewpoints, then see most important
  • Would be better as wholistic

[Helmut Leitner] Responsibility is shared, in higher or lesser degree.

  • How to codevelop, be co-responsive in processes

[Hajo Neis] Alexander was pushing the building to better, beyond limits, where clients didn’t want to go

  • Pushing the envelope for fantastic buildings
  • One for the homeless people
  • Cutting edge of new technologies, pleasant designs like fountains, trees
  • Dining hall with truss, in the middle of concrete that was shotgun, never done before, not expensive
  • Was done in ways for only rich clients, but in this case, was building for poor people
  • Chris was pushing:  is that ethical to push clients to the limit?
  • In the end, building is unique

[Christian Kohls] Was hearing about participation, everyone being a designer

  • What if conflicts are not resolved?

[Hajo Neis] In architecture’s office, of 10 projects, only 2 get built

  • Chris pushed, beyond client’s wants
  • Chris refused to work with developers, it’s contention
  • Success came with multiple projects, always pushing the envelope in some direction

[Peter Baumgartner] Push the envelope, stick with ideals

  • Way to success in the long term

[David West]:  Recent

  • Computer science is 60 years old
  • Psychology is a bit older
  • Political theory is maybe 100 years old
  • Everyone wanted to be like physics
  • Wanted to be computer science, not computer arts
  • Wanted laws
  • Unfortunately, they are still stuck on pure science, the fact that they blast people out of the sky doesn’t matter
  • Computer science the same:  it doesn’t matter if I build a system that will be hacked, I was just doing my job
  • Computer science is inward-looking, only interested in the computer, not interested in the domain
  • Making everyone’s life miserable
  • Work with a friend who is creating programs who put tweets out in the world that are created by machine; clients are governments and corporate; he says he’s just doing pure science
  • Everyone is a designer, has a responsibility

[Christian Kohls] Can you really say something is ethical or not?

[David West]:  Studied cultural anthropology, understand there are not absolutes

  • However, we can recognize Quality Without a Name across cultures:  it’s beautiful or ugly
  • Suggest there some similar things in the ethical realm
  • Amongst friends, know when someone crosses the line (including the person that crosses)
  • Don’t have to bring a standard, just work as human beings on what makes us happy and sad

Purplsoc: panel with Hajo Neis, Helmut Leitner, Till Schummer

[Till Schummer] Computer science students seem to be getting more disconnected from ethics

  • See this in physics-driven attitude
  • Just doing what is asked, not looking at values
  • Wish it had been more explicit
  • Alexander’s last book:  some passages become very personal, very religious
  • If had put this in the first book, it would have made a big difference

[Audience] As soon as split matter and mind, ethics is something you add on

[Hajo Neis] Physicists working within their framework

  • Christopher Alexander would say doing this, trying to get to a higher order
  • Might take a risk: someone might not get paid
  • Was never going that direction implied

[David West] Often wished that patterns had gotten a wider audience, outside of computer science

  • It’s a lot of an issue with computer science
  • Education system is a problem:  almost all universities have abandoned their pre-1900 principles (while Europe still hides it)
  • Ethics doesn’t come from me, it comes from us
  • Alexander says this:  people build their own houses
  • Few work on complex problems alone

[Helmut Leitner] In worst case, people could take pattern language for profit, rather than quality without a name

  • Search problem:  need a way to figure out which are better, and which are worse
  • Most patterns are found, not written
  • Heritage doesn’t belong to a single person
  • A tool can be used in the way intended, or misused

[Audience] Early in Alexander:  value is not outside the world, apart

  • Turnstiles at BART station
  • Value of country?
  • Work is not a process that is relaxed, often conflictual within the group, and with forces outside the group.
  • This is something that is welcome, and important
  • Truth gets out
  • Alexander got accepted at Cambridge, for an experiement everyone else was fudging the result

[Christian Kohls]  Is there a truth?

  • Not my quality?
  • Both sides are wrong, in a small way.  Just not smart enough to accommodate, in another solution out there, that no one else is searching for.

[Peter Baumgartner] A common objective, we are torn apart

  • The issue of wholeness
  • Agenda;  wholeness and decision isn’t important
  • This may be important in the future
  • Correspondence from Alexander:  he opens the door, and asks to explore
  • We have to explore what wholeness really is

[Audience] Responsibility

  • Work at IBM, are situations where responsible acting is difficult
  • Higher bureaucracy makes it less important
  • It’s a character of large organizations, e.g. military or government
  • If acting on a business basis, easier to hide responsibility in large organizations

[Audience] Things that are value-free, and the value comes from the culture?

  • Don’t think that that’s true
  • In any object, there’s value
  • It’s not the truth, it’s a truth
  • Could have many truths
  • When talking about a project, we are superficial and convenient to find a result for the value
  • We need fast results, we forget about the search for truth
  • We are very convenient, and pressed to be fast
  • It’s still worthwhile to look at these things
  • e.g. financial systems:  what is the material, what are they doing, it’s not just about quick fixes and wins
  • What is money for?  It’s not a simple thing
  • There is a truth, not just one truth
  • There are things worth searching for

[Christian Kohls] Culture or situation?

[Audience] Hard to find one truth

  • Was looking for the quality without a name
  • A piece of work, health, in building a time
  • Bring in more life:  keep within this?
  • Easier to test for life, than for truth
  • Comparison
  • Not enough in ethics in the pattern language
  • We don’t have to discuss ethics?
  • Does it create life, or foster life?

[Dave West] The truth is not a fixed thing

  • Not only is it contextualized
  • First called fit, then quality without a name, living, then unfolding wholeness
  • Unless have a history of ideas, then it’s easy for Alexander to say that this was the truth
  • Christians and Muslims gradually elevated women from property to individuals, but if don’t know that history, then will read it wrong

[Hajo Neis] Modify the question?

  • In buildings we do, rank it as four-star building?
  • A lot of people respond to buildings
  • They may think it’s old

[Audience] Money or help the world?

  • People criticizing the machine, the game
  • It’s hard to be part of that system, but are still in it
  • Alexander was outside the system
  • As philosophers say leadership that doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from people who are willing to play.
  • Trying to bring in money, rather than saying just won’t be involved
  • Are we really playing the game we espouse?
  • If not involving self, don’t have the right to change

[Audience] Comment on book

  • When making the money, pushing the envelope or pushing the system?
  • Deterministic or holistic value
  • From computer, everything as numerically defined
  • From architecture, wasn’t as well described, except for Alexander
  • The value systems switch from time where controlling more and morea about the natural world, and consuming more is part of the natural world?
  • Producing ever more with ever less
  • We’re stuck inside systems

[Till Schummer] it’s all about fixing the separatness

  • Estrangement, hope to be fixed
  • Would like to see toolkit
  • No universal truth, there’s individual culture
  • Patterns could very personal, e.g. type of world that I’m associated with

[Audience] Changing philosophy

  • Alexander shift over the years
  • When Quality without a Name was being presented, the idea presentended the idea that human of a whole
  • Patterns not telling you what to do, it allows you to do what you want
  • Cities were build for people to make money, and also live life
  • Need a primary motive

[Audience] Role of System A to destroy the foundations on earth

  • Not relativistic
  • Role of System B has to be broken for systems to survive
  • Easy to get eaten up
  • Hard to get system A and system B to cooperate
  • Needs a place to grow, outside of a system A
  • Things can grow without permanent properties

[Helmut Leitner] Thoughts about truth as a concept

  • Philosophy is 100s of years old
  • Nature of society, Karl Popper can’t
  • Truth is what you write down

[Audience] Alexander asked, what are you good at?

  • Good at listening
  • Then asked, what makes you feel good?
  • Know what the truth is

[Hajo Neis]:  Asking a question outside scope

  • System A goes to large projects, it’s started to destroy the world
  • Then can argue with good or evil
  • e.g. climate change has a different set of values

[Audience] People have flown from all around the world to this conference

  • Can’t separate from the world

[Audience] System A and System B will be with us for a long time

  • Question of balance
  • At Berkeley, was doing a class in software development
  • Highest investment
  • Wrote a paper, had to do a development project
  • Did a design that seemed reasonably whole, then did calculation
  • But wouldn’t get acceptance
  • e.g. 15% to affordable housing

[Audience] There are people who will take less than 5%

  • Don’t have to say developers don’t exist, they should be okay with less thtn 205

[Audience] Basic rule of management, every project begins with a divergent system, ends iwht convergent.

No system works by itself

[Audience] Don’t believe young generation has less cultural force

[Dave West]  Questions shifted to human and social systems, which are complex, and easy to destroy

  • How do you know if the systems changes will destroy the system, or improve
  • Case where replacing stone axes with steel axes destroyed the culture
  • Utopia societies don’t survive 3 generations, some survived 2

[Till Schummer] Utopia, not as a total world system, it’s a potential being in this life

  • Related to the personal environment
  • Doesn’t require top-down change, can be bottom-up
  • Started off thinking about patterns as recipes, could quickly follow and make good software
  • Then, discovered it’s about communications towards learning
  • Now, even learning is not the main focus
  • it’s a catalog towards developing a personal utopia
  • Not a fixed utopia, it’s an interest that you’re moving towards

[Audience] Human beings are an invasive species

  • It’s great to try to improve systems, but it will take some destructive force to bring us back to equilibrium
  • Life will become harder

[David West] Try to figure out how to rise from the ashes?

[Audience] Believe in intentional community, we are the children of a great community of 20 years

  • Community has taught strategy-seeking
  • May not have freedom that I used to, but to have choices
  • Pattern language was an educational and interactive tool
  • Should go back to pattern language development projects, and ask if the people living there are happy
  • Think about generating choices, not just designing choices

[Audience] How do you influence a complex system?  It’s a living thing, like a child.  You don’t direct it, you influence its environment

  • In sustainability, money hasn’t been part of the solution, it’s taboo

[Christian Kohls] How can Christopher Alexander help the world?  Wholeness?

[Till Schummer] The invitation to believe the world doesn’t have to be perfect

  • Connection between people, and with environment

[Helmut Leitner] Christopher Alexander gives us a way to think about systems

  • Could take some time, maybe generations
  • Basic orientention given by Christopher Alexander, supporting life as best we can

[Hajo Neis] Best from Christopher Alexander:  go off by yourself, and find out for yourself

  • Deep structure

[Peter Baumgartner] Community growth is important.

[Dave West] Challenge

  • Christopher Alexander was conflicted
  • Scientist, and Catholic mystic
  • Can you really understand Alexander, without understanding the mystical order?
  • Can you attain the experience of truth and he saw it, and then hear him say “everything I told you was wrong”
  • Embrace your inner mystic.

#christopher-alexander, #pattern-language, #purplsoc2015

2015/07/04 11:30, Hiroshi Nakano, “Japanese Spirituality and Pattern Language”, Purplsoc

Presentation at Purplsoc, Hiroshi Nakano, Center for Environmental Structure Tokyo

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the Coevolving Innovations web site by David Ing.

At PURPLSOC (Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change) 2015, Danube University Krems, Austria

[Hiro Nakano]

Worked 30 years ago on construction of the Eishin high school

Talking today about deep structure in pattern language

  • Japanese spirituality, but could mean any culture

Gauguin: From where to we come from?  What are we? To where are we going?

  • Had issues with government officials in tsunami area

Christopher Alexander started career with question:  What causes beauty?

Part of movie by Kurosawa

  • Beauty comes from a spirituality

Japanese Spirituality, A Zen Life, D. T. Suzuki

  • Every object, either organic or non-organic, has a life essence
  • Difference is only more or less of the degree

Have to take a look at the way of making language

Project language:

  • From pattern book and patterns
  • Mix with local patterns
  • Call this a project language, which becomes a center of the whole

Pattern language is a part of the whole

Project language leads to an actual realization

Why do we need centers?

  • e.g. a hand is a kind of foot
  • A fist is also a hand, which is also a center

If can make a good narrative story out of patterns, like a centering process

  • Aggregate to make stronger and stronger
  • Can start at any moment

Two sides:  from the side of process; from the side of form

  • Vision to Pattern to Centering process to Quality Pattern Language to a Project Language

In projects:

  • Center 1 natural environment
  • Center 2 gate to shopping street
  • Center 3
  • Center 4

Centering process is a path, oriented towards form

Idea isn’t the battle

  • It’s a big stream at present
  • Could have branches off the side
  • Should be able to reconcile or compromise between System A and System B

Cartoon Museum Krems, Hiroshi Nakano


#christopher-alexander, #pattern-language, #purplsoc2015

2015/07/03 14:30 Hermann Czech, “Remarks about the Truth and the Whole”, Purplsoc

Plenary at Purplsoc, Hermann Czech, architect, translated the works of Christopher Alexander into German.

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

At PURPLSOC (Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change) 2015, Danube University Krems, Austria

Introduction by Richard Sickinger

Purplsoc: Richard Sickinger, Hermann Czech

Translated A Pattern Language

Alexander translated pattern as German word muster

  • A few German words with muster don’t mean pattern (e.g. ideal husband), but most translate as pattern

Muster-Sprache as Pattern Language, without hyphen in German would mean Perfect Language

Purplsoc: Hermann Czech

Alexander’s, The Linz Cafe

  • The only one that was simultaneously published in German and English
  • Alexander himself chose the photographs
  • Ornament
  • At first, seems like wallpaper, but each ornament was handpainted
  • 119 Arcades **, two stars mean pretty sure it’s a valid pattern
  • Paragraph starts with description of larger scales (and at bottom, will describe smaller scales)
  • Middle paragraph of how people with interact with the pattern
  • Then some diagrams
  • Therefore … what you’re advised to do
  • At the very end, the patterns at a smaller scale

Book has this character

Covers of American version of the book has an imprint, like the bible in a hotel

  • In German edition, couldn’t get the soft cover as per American, it’s stiff in the German style

Older than the work on the pattern language, is work on the nature of order, “A City is Not a Tree”

  • Perception of properties of things overlap
  • Not a pure tree, has crossovers
  • Perception is also attributed to society, which also has never been argued strictly hierarchically

In Notes on the Synthesis of Form, designs are so complicated that can’t be solved all at once, even with computers

  • Elements are design problems
  • Inter-related in different rates
  • Preface:  The idea of a diagram, or pattern, is very simple …..
  • “I use aesthetic criteria for the validity of a theory all the time”
  • “Design methods” and theory — but theory is not separated from design

Photo of hotel bathroom

Architectural drawing

Levels of design thinking leads to questions of design

Earlier work by Rose:  who looks out for the whole?

Philosophy deals with objectivity and realism

  • Architecture doesn’t deal with uniformity and homogeneity, it deals with heterogeneity

Central Pavilion, 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, designed by Rem Koolhaas with collaborators

  • Can compare Rem Koolhaas with Christopher Alexander

With Alexander, A New Theory of Urban Design

  • Can separate decisions, e.g. can’t decide now, should wait until later
  • With students, development of a not-reality city core
  • Challenge of working individually or together: design decisions by one peron or many

#christopher-alexander, #hermann-czech, #pattern-language, #purplsoc2015

2015/03/07 11:00 Jim Coplien, “A Challenge to the Japanese Pattern Language Community”, AsianPLoP

Jim Coplien (Cope), Gertrud & Cope, and the Scrum Foundation.

Keynote presentation at the 4th Asian Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs, Waseda University, Tokyo

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the web by David Ing.

Presentation with participants seated in a circle

Jim Coplien, AsianPLoP 2015

Jim Coplien was at first Asian PLoP conference in Okinawa in 2001

At 2009, was at a conference about Christopher Alexander, talked about Scrum movement

  • Started movement to introduce Scrum movement to Japanese

A little ashamed for coming here for just one hour

  • That’s not a PLoP
  • A PLoP is a family
  • Commitment to the event, or 3 or 4 decades
  • Grateful to be invited

An introduction to an introduction to a talk that isn’t a PLoP

  • Will be using Powerpoints, there isn’t Powerpoints at a PLoP

Today, explore what a PLoP is, starting from a mountaintop in Colorado at the beginning

  • Talk about patterns in Japanese culture
  • Talk about some PLoPs that have have involved with:  ScrumPLoP
  • Where are we going as a community

Have participants done the rain storm game?  Yes

  • Parachute game?  (Not here)

Pattern community is over 20 years old, want to wind back 20 years for a vision

  • Had worked with Christopher Alexander, who is concerned about our community
  • The concern is that the pattern community doesn’t have outreach
  • We’re a wonderful community in ourselves, but we’re incestuous
  • It’s dangerous, in becoming a culture internally-focused
  • We’re trading amongst ourselves
  • Have kind of become a club
  • Does have the advantage of being a nurturing community

The goal is to have a vision

  • Patterns are about healing the world
  • People were excited about dream building
  • If we were green activists, we would have passion not as a club, but would protest against dead architecture, dead social practices

We get to travel here to beautiful Japan (or beautiful Allerton)

Back to Christopher Alexander:  what is a pattern?

  • What does it have to do with what we do here?

The whole

  • The dao that can be named is not the dao
  • Patterns are not not about writing
  • What do you do about forces?  You feel them, not shallowly, but in who you are, and how you are connected to the universe
  • Then use writing as the gate through which we pass on the way to enlightment, says Alexander
  • Patterns aren’t the end, they’re on the path

Wholeness has to do with geology, with space

  • Some properties of geometry
  • Space
  • Echoes in a face, wrinkles
  • City-country thinkers, deep interlocking
  • Alexander says to use more and more of these, and as it becomes more tightly coupled, there’s the potential for creating this great sense of wholeness or peace
  • Want to create more and more of these configurations in the world
  • To Alexander, this is literal

It’s about our identity

Alexander says that people come together in the community to find these patterns within themselves

  • In Japanese culture, we learn this, year after year after year

In industry and academia, we have been taught to predict these things

  • Industry, academia, technology, is the evil world system
  • Academia is definitely in the bad world system

Are patterns objective?  What does objective mean?

  • Objective means a property of the object
  • Alexander says beauty is an object
  • So, how to measure beauty?  It’s not something from applying makeup, it’s in the essence itself

Academia is formal, and distances itself

  • We need to consider the objective by itself, outside of people
  • Alexander says the objective is in the people
  • There’s an “ahh”, sense of wonder
  • It’s obvious, how we see it
  • From our upbringing, we can’t see it

Came to Japan 15 years ago to work with Nakano

[Nakano just arrived, sits close enough to Cope to hit him]

A chair is alive, in the sense that we are alive, there’s not much life in this chair or in this room

  • On the train, looking at the trees, they’re alive in their geometry and configuration
  • They’re an architecture that makes a Meiji shrine alive beyond the tree
  • In patterns, looking for a notion of alive

Start from the larger world

  • Come together in a community, so those who have forgotten the pattern can remember them

Some patterns are written like IEEE papers

Alexander says that a pattern is something I can draw

  • A process is needed to create a pattern than comes into existence

If Alexander came in to this room, he wouldn’t look at the paper

  • He would look at ceiling heights, door entries
  • This room is pretty dead

A pattern is something that you should be able to tell your mother-in-law (or a Martian)

This is what we were looking for at the hilltop in Colorado [when the pattern language movement started with the Hillside Group]

  • The architect from Carnegie Mellon, Mary Shaw was there
  • Doug Schmidt was there
  • 50 people, no idea of what we do
  • Richard Gabriel said we should come together, and see what happens

Came together to look at Alexander’s vision

  • Originally 7 people
  • Then Richard Gabriel joined us, and someone else, became 9
  • George Platts brought with the games
  • Also look at PLoP today
  • Also look at ScrumPLoP

ScrumPLoP started 7 years ago, formally 5 years ago

August 15, 1993:  Here are the 5 P’s of pattern

  • 1. People:  has survived
  • 2. Programs, from Ward Cunningham, not programming — programs are the things we build; since then we do more than software
  • 3. Pictures:  Alexander says need pictures, big on geometry.  Not an algorithm, a procedure, a way of building
  • 4. Process:  The dual of geometry
  • 5. Patterns:  The recurring in culture that we see over and over again, e.g. parenting is different in Japan as compared to India, etc; but there are commonalities in the pattern in deep interlock, e.g. does the mother play father, and the father play mother, sometimes alternating making meals

[Cope referred to tables projected as 2 slides in Powerpoint.  The content is reproduced below, with the talk added in bullet points.  Read left to right, then down]

Alexander Ben Lomond Hillside Scrum PLoP Other PLoPs
The first thing in APL is a sequence
  • APL [A Pattern Language] starts with universe, world, shows how to apply the pattern in sequence
  • The way to build pattern language is to collect thousands of sequences, and factor that into a generative pattern
  • Don’t write patterns; write generative pattern languages by looking at whole sequences
  • A pattern doesn’t make sense outside of its context
  • When a pattern forms a grammar (as in English), there’s a well defined ordering of words that will generate a system
  • A pattern alone doesn’t mean anything
  • e.g. fire is a pattern, no context, doesn’t mean anything
  • We knew this when we came together, but didn’t know what to do about it
Sequences are explicit
  • When Jeff Sutherland created the first pattern, had the sequence
  • The pattern can grow the whole, or refine the whole
  • The refinement is always local, small, because want to be able to erase the ugly and try again
Almost no sequences
  • How many sequences have been published this year at PLoP?  None?
Languages Generate Sequences “Anything short of a language is a dead end”.  Languages come after patterns.
  • John Vlissides said anything short of a pattern language is a dead end
  • John actually didn’t write a pattern language in the Design Patterns book, but understood this
Co-Development of the Language in the PLoP
  • Write lots of patlets, then try to put them together
Hardly any languages.  Those that succeed evolve outside of PLoP.
  • A pattern language is always evolving
  • How many have AsianPLoP created, and then discarded?
  • In ScrumPLoP have created and published 60 patterns
  • In AsianPLoP, probably haven’t created 60 patterns yet
  • POSA is kind of a pattern language
  • Organizational patterns were a book
  • None of these works were developed in a PLoP, as the PLoP has become a club
  • In 20 years, can count the number of pattern languages that come out of PLoP on two hands
Piecemeal growth + local adaptation Piecemeal Growth Focus on Adaptation (e.g. going outside SW)
  • Go outside of software
  • Alexander believes in collective consciousness, a Buddhist feel of things
  • First met Alexander, when invited into community, spoke at OOPSLA
  • When read Timeless Way of Building, it uses the same language as Tao De Ching; Alexander said it’s obvious
Out of scope?
  • Japan is at the roots of this, or at least the parents where
Geometry:  the importance of driving into the unconscious Not really Value stream, organizational geometry
  • Concern
Vary rare
  • Alexander’s regret:  at U. of Oregon, they insisted he operate a command-and-control leader
Our primary concern.  The origin of Wikis
  • WikiWikiWeb was invented to support patterns, to build an online community
Community works together on patterns
  • Community contributes to Scrum
  • Jeff Sutherland is now using Scrum patterns in his training of 10,000s of people
  • There’s a company here in Japan using Scrum patterns, don’t know Christopher Alexander or patterns
Vibrant internal community, — no outreach.
  • Haven’t seen outreach
Body of literature
  • The goal
Our focus Vision from the Beginning Anthology only
Long term refinement Not really Sometimes 4 years to publication, web-based
Started with org patterns –> Scrum
Usually one-time publication after weeks of work
Quality bar:  Rejected many patterns (no ….) The vision was right Have rejected 60-100 patterns
  • Rejected more than have published
Lowering the standards to support attendance
  • Why did Cope stop attending PLoPs?
  • Program chair wanted a big confernce
Compromise:  BATTLE, no; Oregon, yes
  • Alexander didn’t compromise with the Eishin school in The Battle for Life and Beauty on the Earth; he did compromise in The Oregon Experiment.
Distance ourselves from academia
  • Academic publication is corrupting
  • Want nothing to do with false economy
  • Our standards have to be higher than academic, have to have shimojitsu, no compromise
Doing Scrum rather than what the Scrum Alliance enforces Sometimes difficult to differentiate from IEEE papers
A working community
  • Alexander beat on his students
Adamant about no Powerpoints, no “talks” or keynotes
  • Don’t want to be higher up
  • Not standing up in front
ScrumPLoP has a working community
  • Cope and Sutherland each spend half time on ScrumPLoP
  • Some contributors spend one month per year, others spend more
Starting to look more like normal conferences; co-location with SPLASH for survival
  • In 2015, are moving outside of SPLASH
  • Last 2 years, PLoP has been at Allerton
Community authoring and maintenance Ne-mawashi, Yoriais and Mikoshi, Wikis
  • Come together to discuss
  • Didn’t want academics originally, as a pattern can become a cheap way of publishing
Community authoring, review and publication
  • A way to come
  • Swarming
  • Started with an academic model where one person comes with a model, but now starting to use wikis
  • Still community review
  • At ScrumPLoP, will have a struggle, as some people will say that “this is my pattern”, because they need an academic approach
Individual authoring, community  review
  • See a lot of patterns not socialized in a community
  • In Chicago, used to have a group that would meet once a month


“Language of Harmony” by Masanari Motohashi (2010):  probably the best pattern language ever written

There are a lot of deep ideas that Alexander understands

  • What is the place of time in architecture?
  • What is the geometry of time?  Japanese may have insight, ma [see Wikipedia entry on ma as “negative space”]
  • In Danish, read the wind, put the finger in the ground
  • Read the kabuki of the community

At ScrumPLoP have first day that doesn’t do patterns

  • Then second day, do planning, create trust (translated as empathy), sense of one culture, not-separateness

As your professor, now give you a homework assignment to read Motohashi’s paper

  • Beauty that emerges from a community, and its activities


In the old days in Japan, the meeting were more open

  • Then had a scandal, as gangs would come into mikoshi — not just a community but the neighbouring community — but then a moratorium on mikoshi
  • Now people carrying mikoshi have to wear uniforms, it’s too hard

Problem starting with students, is people won’t have experience to judge

[David stopped taking notes, and joined the circle for 10 minutes of discussion]

#asianplop2015, #christopher-alexander, #jim-coplien, #pattern-language

2015/03/06 09:55 Hiroshi Nakano, “Japanese Spirituality and Pattern Language”, AsianPLoP

Hiroshi Nakano, Center for Environmental Structure

Keynote presentation at the 4th Asian Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs, Waseda University, Tokyo

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the web by David Ing.


Call him super-Hiro (as opposed to normal Hiro, the conference chair)

An architect, not a software developer

Not an expert on explaining Japanese spirituality, it’s part of being Japanese

Gauguin painting:  From where do we come from?  Where are we?  To where are we going?

Taisetsu Suzuki, Buddhist philospoher, book:  Japanese Spirituality

  • Every object either organic or non-organic, has its own life in itself
  • Some are clearly visible, others are hidden it only show up when some indicators effects upon it


  • Patterns
  • Centering

Zen teaching:

  • A is not A, therefore A is A
  • When A is denied, you have to reflect about why it is not A
  • Look for another way to look at A
  • Get a new paradigm
  • See A from a new paradigm
  • Then you know what is A

You have to look for the new way of looking at things

Christopher Alexander:

  • Seeking the answer to:  What is beauty? What is good?

Kurosawa movie (pre-war)

  • Two men come to shrine, see lady praying at shrine
  • Master asks:  what makes the beauty?
  • There’s nothing more beautiful
  • Where does that beauty come from?
  • It’s from her ego
  • She’s praying, giving up herself, throwing away her ego, concentrating on her praying, then the beauty comes out

You may not have religion, but praying for something, concentrating on it, without thinking yourself in it, then beauty comes automatically

By concentrating on the process, then beauty comes automatically

What Alexander found was patterns

  • First started (at Notes on the Synthesis of Form) with mathematical logical processes through hierarchical decomposition
  • At this point, patterns was rational
  • Divided pattern into tiny elements, combined them to solve problems
  • Later, he added semi-lattice of real world, changed to illustrate as A Pattern Language
  • Each pattern in itself has almost a completely presently shared patterns
  • Each pattern shows a different seeing world
  • A story that gives motivation, why to use this pattern language

Patterns are a simple structure that everyone can use and learn them

  • Context:  Forces hidden in the related field, not just inside the pattern but also from outside the pattern (could be human) as well as internal
  • Form:  By what kind of geometry of relations
  • Conflict between forces:  How to set forces equilibrium
  • So each pattern is combined or fused by the aid of forces context indicates.  here patterns funcdtoin are integrated

Now call project language rather than pattern language:  a specific goal

  • Project languages add up to become a history of pattern languages

Not simple

  • #197 is Thick Walls — not just Walls
  • Thick means to change the way you think about walls
  • Pattern gives the motive to see the world differently
  • Without such force, patterns are weak


  • Not a dent in the wall
  • Private work in a small room with community work on the large room
  • Doesn’t separate out the private from the community
  • Presented as visual
  • All have visual forms
  • Patterns came from how to build buildings, but can use in human world
  • To make a pattern language, have to use technical stuff

Language is a complex way of expression

  • Pattern language makes a story
  • Selected good patterns give a motivation to move
  • A collection of patterns give strong motives, with a narrative story

Idea of repair, fixing a broken system

  • From Oregon Experiment:  an injury healing system as an example
  • When have an injury in the hand, will have automatic fix, but don’t know how it works
  • An injury is monitored by the whole body
  • Skin injury has contact with the brain, order will come on how fix it
  • Before injury, have a scheme to fix
  • This is a healing process
  • All processes in the pattern language are healing processes: we must fix something, change something
  • The whole process is changing the world
  • A repair system is a centering process in the nature of order

2011.3.11 had a disaster

  • How to fix?
  • Four years have passed, nothing has changed
  • Problems are the same as before it happened
  • These villages were already dead end villages
  • They lived in dead end houses
  • People don’t have have funeral ceremonies in the temporary houses

Story:  young mother threw newly born baby over the top of the hill, as tsunami chased right after her

  • She survived, the grandmother and father died in car
  • How to get a new recovery of human life should be the first thing in the morning
  • Photography of concentration camp train in WWII, sending Jewish prisoners, where mother threw baby out of train
  • Auschwitz tragedy similar to Japanese tragedy
  • Have to change the situation
  • Global situation, people are suffering, how to live on?

Pattern language is how to solve conflicting forces into the balanced situation

  • Make good stories to change the world
  • Step by step of generating the pattern language is critical to change

Patterns are found through direct people’s communications

  • Sometimes can be found in local culture, traditions, history, daily lives, and sometimes through logics
  • Real good patterns are extracted from strong visions
  • A is not A, then can see what A is A

Two perspectives:

  • Disaster victims (landowners) and office bureaucrats (who have procedures, seeking written applications)
  • People are dying, most people are over 70 years old
  • Some officials are also victims, they know what the disaster victims are saying, but they are following the bureaucratic red tape

Made a plan after 3 months, but bureaucrats said no.

  • Road first, then houses
  • Have to figure out how to pay
  • Why do the bureaucrats keep giving some terrible answers to a mother who threw her baby to the hill?

Bureaucratic response:  flatten the mountain, work against nature

AsianPLoP Day 1 plenary

The relations of a human network has a visual form configuration:  sub-symmetry

  • Landowners <–> Intermediate Aid Organization <–> Disaster Victims
  • Proposed 6 months after disaster
  • Said okay
  • Just formal organization didn’t work

They lack a vision

  • They lack a whole
  • They lack to get back a life.

What is important is how to repair a life

  • Get a house

Proposing a project language, as an intermediate aid organization doesn’t work, what should we do

First, need a clear, healthy vision

  • Where is a healthy body, then will know how to repair
  • Japanese spirituality clearly insists how to see this vision
  • Only though this spirituality we may have be able to grasp this vision
  • We tend to see the world based on dualism, in a Cartesian way of thinking, from philosopher Descartes
  • Hard to deny Descartes these days
  • Today, schools are based on dualism:  subjects, objects
  • Make things as far away from emotions
  • Cool attitudes
  • We must stop this

In order to understand this idea, the center is useful

  • In the Nature of Order, it’s described in a complicated way
  • Could read again and again, won’t get it.
  • Easier way:  a center has properties
  • e.g. hand is connected the body, not isolated
  • Center is not isolated, it’s connected to the other world
  • Connected, the hand is alive
  • The center is alive
  • At the same time, it’s the one whole
  • Hand and fingers come together as a whole
  • This is a way of synthesizing parts all together as a whole
  • A is not A
  • Each hand is a center

This idea of center is different from Cartesian

  • Have to see the whole and part at the same time
  • In the development of the world, this emerges
  • A pattern itself can become a center, but the pattern is a repetitive entity
  • Can generate a process of centering, so that get objects with life
  • Everything has life in it
  • Have to create or generate life with the aid of a centering process
  • Can we give life?  Be a Frankenstein?

Diagram of plant

  • Every pattern is a leaf
  • Forces comes from the outside
  • Some leaves gather in a same place
  • Context is an outside forces with push each pattern towards a certain direction

Centering process:  (a manual for a centering process)

  • First episode is ambiguous
  • Second episode is connect with the first, and then enhances the first
  • This can be repeated endlessly, aggregation goes on — which is the timeless way

Good movies are made of several chapters or stories, but they are all correlated with each other

  • This is a process
  • Try this

Each centering episode can be a project language

  • It has life

Patterns are selected for a certain vision, aiming at repairing the existing world to a world with life

  • Could be a paradigm shift

In the book Battle for Life and Beauty, everything is a fight

  • Such battles may not be necessary, if have piecemeal growth
  • Create a project language
  • Helping a lady on a bus, or homeless people into a shelter
  • Small acts will add up to a whole world

Another diagram:  project language for goals

From the side of Process From the side of Form
Centering process
Pattern language
Project language

Eight houses in Okayama prefecture

  • Hot springs
  • Ocean view
  • Had preserved trees, didn’t cut one pine
  • Shape of the house is strange, as it avoids the trees
  • Designed bath house for community
  • All designed with pattern language
  • This group was succeeded through interesting media
  • After making pattern language for homes and shops, wrote an imaginary future letter, as if sent 10 years after the project:  a whole story of a town in the future
  • Not just form, can appreciate the town
  • Read this imaginary letter to the future town at a meeting, and they understood the story made of patterns, without understanding a pattern language
  • Dream letter became a great motive to move on, make a new town
  • 12 years ago, this town was deserted in the summer, and even in the winter despite being a hot spring center
  • Made walkways around town, to visit many hot springs
  • Now, the town is active, can’t make an appointment at a hotel, so busy

Centering process and making vision sounds difficult, but can imagine a reality with a strong message to change people’s motives

Photographs of houses and shops

  • Pension hotel
  • Houses have similarity, but different:  roofs, windows, facades in hidden order coming out
  • Each house has a different pattern language

In order to change the stream, it’s like a big river

  • One small stream will branch off
  • Then can have another breakthrough
  • Will have more branches off the main stream
  • This is what I want you to demonstrate
  • The world is full of tragedy, each person should make some effort to create a strong message with life in it
  • Have to know what is life in an object:  can read a difficult book

Whole world, whole nature, whole human

  • We are all connected together
  • We should seek order, peaceful life
  • Change the world with beauty, step by step
  • Some day you can change the whole world


Repairing the world requires effort.  How can we make bureaucrats see?

  • Taking pictures of town
  • Which ones have life?

Make something that makes me feel?

Changing bureaucrats?

  • Pattern language as a strong tool
  • First, have to change own awareness
  • Now getting old, next year may not be able to see you, so want to see you take action now
  • Read Oregon Experiment and Nature of Order
  • Some artists know which ones are alive:  this town is dead, this hotel is dead
  • Intuitively know, but not at a continuous level

Where can find more material on centers?

  • From workshops
  • When you see the hand, how do you organize the hand?  By vision, by hand, by wisdom, by knowledge?  My hand is alive, it’s connected
  • A center is a way of looking at the world
  • When someone speaks, how can you tell it’s her voice?  It’s by looking at her as a whole.

In the Battle for Life and Beauty of the Earth, would you describe that as a project language rather than a pattern language?

  • Yes.
  • Have been working on this for 50 years.
  • Christopher Alexander is old now, he can’t work
  • Feel repeating the same thing.

#asianplop2015, #christopher-alexander, #pattern-language

2011/05/02 Christopher Alexander, “The Battle To Bring Life and Beauty to the Earth”, Center for New Media, University of California, Berkeley

In 2011, Christopher Alexander was 75 years old, and fighting jet lag to talk about the book to would be released in 2012.  The pace of this lecture is slow.

Video posted as “Christopher Alexander Lecture at Berkeley, California” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDwbK_rqyGM .

This digest was created in real-time watching the recorded web video, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the Coevolving Innovations web site by David Ing.

Lecture hosted by The Art, Technology and Culture Colloquium, at http://atc.berkeley.edu/bio/Christopher_Alexander/ .

[00:10]  Welcome by Ken Goldberg

[02:30] Introduction on Greg Niemeyer

Notes on the Synthesis of Form

  • There is a context, and there is a function.  The form is in between.
  • Both the context and the function are both unknown.  The trick is the find the form that matches both.

What is a pattern for an introduction?

  • To bring you into the event


  • Alexander as a father and grandfather
  • Pattern language web site http://www.patternlanguage.com/
  • Berkeley 1963-2001, where Alexander taught, connecting art, math, computer science
  • It makes no sense for all chairs to be the same, because we’re all different where we sit, so we should all have dining chairs that are slightly different to accommodate sizes and style.
  • Literature:  Notes on a Synthesis of Form 1968; A Pattern Language; Timeless Way of Building, Nature of Order

[06:00] Pattern Language:

  • People will say they will use pattern 23 to figure out an architectural problem
  • I’m going to use pattern 56 to solve my computer science problem
  • I’m going to use pattern 21 to solve something like Facebook

The pattern was not the message, the message was to find patterns, and to look for patterns, and to think about patterns.

  • And to see how patterns gradually emerge from the organic life that unfolds between  form and intention and context and function.

Can look as buildings as well

  • Has created 200 or more buildings
  • Tokyo, Berkeley family houses, Albany, Oregon campus, Eishin campus in Tokyo

Object oriented programming asks how methods exist independently of the space that they are created for.

Versioning:  how many versions have you seen in the past?

  • Software, cars, products, things that you buy
  • Things always will change, we just have to admit they change, and embrace the change

Another path:  awards

[08:20] In Siena, there’s a wonderful plaza, valley of streets lead to the Piazzo del Campo

[09:20] Please welcome Professor Christopher Alexander

[Christopher Alexander comes on stage, puts microphone in pocket

[10:45] Topic is so confusing, so complicated

  • At Berkeley, didn’t give a talk prepared in advance for 4 years

[12:15] The discipline known as architecture has gone off the rails with some momentum, for 80 to 90 years

[13:15] [Asked for pictures on mass production, takes a few minutes to organize]

  • B17 hangars in Seattle, 1940, not the first time mass production was done

[14:50]:  An erector set for kids made around 1915

Since then, the attempt to build buildings has been swamped with the use of mass-produced components

  • Seen as a blessing by some
  • Claims that it will be efficient and cheap are overblown
  • Nevertheless, it’s taken over the whole field of architecture

The way that architecture is transmitted is through drawings

  • Architect doesn’t know how to make things
  • He or she draws, and some other organization makes buildings from the drawings
  • We’re so deeply into this way of thinking, it doesn’t sound like a blunder, it sounds like a practical thing to do

[17:30] I’m bit wobbly.  [sits down]

The organization of nature is essentially not modular, in a sense that architecture has been made modular

  • Molecules and atoms?  They’re different, from a quantum level

The reality of things — dwelling on reality — comes from structure of something, which at every level, is highly complex and unique.

  • The idea that things can be made by assembly is a crackpot idea which does not work
  • It’s simply an idea that has swelled and expanded
  • From the child’s erector set, one gets a whole vision of the world, and how things in the world are to be made, and are made
  • They are made this way now

[19:50] From the structural point of view, you can have this assembly, or arrangement of prefabricated parts — which to many architects is a gift from heaven, in a weird and meaningless intellectual pattern.

[requests a picture of the 6 blossoms opening]

A spray of flowers

  • Buds opening [showing 6 slides]

In a situation like that, the whole is being transformed by many many processes that are going on roughly at the same time

  • And because of the way that that continuous unfolding is taking place, you have the beauty of the hawthorne bush coming about, as result of the unfolding process where everything develops together, and where its detailed organization is created by transformations that occur in the wholeness in the branch or plant
  • Architecture used to be like that, up to a couple of hundred years ago

The complexity that a building needs and can be enjoyed and loved by the people who live there, or by the people who look at this or that window or rail … all has been cut short

  • You go out on the street and see nothing but crap
  • Large scale crap and small scale crap
  • It’s all be pieced together by simple-minded methods

The ability of a building to work as a whole, and as something that is nurturing to human beings who live there or work there, or use it — all of that has been damanged collosally.

  • No one has had the courage, or the common sense to recognize this difficulty

There are a few visionaries, or seers, who understand this, but can’t really find a way in contemporary society to earn a living in this way

  • The whole vehicle of construction does not have the capacity to deal with type of context-dependent creation of part and wholes and parts and wholes, and wholes nested within other wholes

The vast majority of metropolitan areas are blackened by this disease.

  • Mental health is plummetting
  • The capacity to love — not necessarily one person to another — to love a dandelion or a mouse, or the front steps of the remnant of a building that might have been built 100 years ago, with the steps built by hand
  • The stairs, the treads, the risers, the lip, the overhand were all shaped in such a way that each piece precisely fit into the context that was being created with this evolving structure.

[27:30] I am a person that builds

  • Some people who I have trained are doing their best to work this way
  • The question of large scale production on society has really not been tackled at all
  • We are prisoners of this calamitous situation

The environment that we live in plays a colossal role in our lives

[27:45] The main subject of this lecture is a project that we undertook in Japan in the early 1980s to build a campus outside Tokyo

Unless one turns the methods and processes and production methods around, there is no way that human life on Earth can maintain itself or be a success.

[31:45] The methods by which the human environment are built are damaged to an extreme and extraordinary dimension.

I first began work on this issue in 1958.

If you live in a systems of boxes, as most people do, you can barely struggle to achieve an effective life

[33:50]  Saint Francis, who loved animals and birds, built a little chapel outside Assisi

  • It’s a tiny building, a marvellous place, made by Francis and his brethren over a number of years
  • In around the end of the 16th century, people thought St. Francis was so important that they would do the ultimate honour of building him a large baroque church, in which the tiny chapel was literally encased.
  • The baroque church was massive and ugly as hell, and rarely visited.
  • It was a foretelling of the forms of production which now exist in our society
  • This was a crackpot and unsuitable way to deal with Francis’ loving created

[37:50] Can we, at all, hope to create a world in which things are made with judgement, with love, with adaptation, with continuous modification, with everything than transpires in what I have come to call System A.

  • Systems B is the production world of B17s, computers, prefabricated houses, supermarkets, factories, all of which we benefit from in a material level
  • But it does take away our birthright and heritage, and makes it almost impossible to be a full human being

[39:50] I’m just going to show you some pictures that will run without my comments.

  • You’ll see this place which my colleagues and I have built, but still not finished
  • After you have looked at these pictures, I will tell you about the conditions under which these things can be done

[42:45] Of course these buildings were not built from drawings in the normal fashion

[photos shown in silence through to about 0:56:15]

[57:30] The tea bushes with the white flags

  • The size of this campus is about 9 city blocks
  • After we had worked with our clients to produce a pattern language (which I won’t go into any detail on), what happened next was to lay out the buildings
  • We walked that site, dozens if not hundreds of times over
  • We tried to place ourselves in such a way that one could visualize very simple questions:  where is the best place to enter this campus; what is the first thing that you might want to come to
  • The flags were mostly about 6 foot high, bamboo stakes
  • We planted these flags and looked at them
  • We then planted them some more and looked at them again
  • We continued that operation until we felt comfortable walking the whole

There were virtually no drawings at that time

  • There were some doodles
  • We paid attention to the position of the buildings, the height, the width
  • We were creating the space between the buildings with equal care and intensity
  • Gradually, we collectively formed a vision of what kinds of places there were, where they were
  • Our client client, Hosoi, was quite stunned, by the time we were finished — the flagging out phase was several month
  • He said, several times, in the months that had been passing:  we could see the buildings standing there — there were no buildings, at that point — but the situation was so real, he could see exactly what was happening, and what did happen

[63:30] The staking out of these complex buildings would have been completely impossible in System B

  • If you were the employee or owner of a large planning firm, and were placing pencil to paper, or CAD-lines to printout, there would have been no possibility of creating the feeling that happened within any one single building of the whole lot
  • It would not have been conceivable to create a drawing
  • You can only do that kind of work with your own body, your own heart, with communications with the building crews
  • This is already one example of the huge departure from the current way of doing architecture
  • Currently, architecture is a discipline that has to do with making drawings, which are then transmitted to construction companies
  • The idea that one could actually inject profound feeling into such a process is quite funny

It’s the most commonsensical thing you could possibly do, if you really want to lay out some buildings and build them

[66:20] Once were we done the flagging, we began work on the individual buildings

  • Rudimentary paper and cardboard models, once we had the position and general dimensions from flagging out
  • Had hundreds of models, you don’t have to do them over or use an eraser
  • You can use glue and paper and balsa wood
  • Sometimes you can make one of the models in a day
  • They are extremely rough
  • The buildings follow this rudimentary models, so that the feelings that are being carried by each of us on the project, went all the way through to the execution of the buildings

[69:00] We were the builders of this place, although we had some help, as we needed Japanese crews

  • The number of architecture students in the U.S. or England that could do this are probably 2%
  • What we did, did succeed, to a large degree

Of course, during the course of construction, there were changes being made continuously

  • We were prudent with the money
  • We were skilled enough, so that when something came along on the site, and it because it was obvious it was too long or too short, or where were the windows, or the roof pitch — these were all being tested as they were going along — changes were made along the way, consistent with the budget that we carried

[72:00]  The yakuza, the Japanese mafia were connected with the large construction organizations

  • The companies are huge, larger than American construction companies
  • It was said that they could swing a motion in Japanese parliament, on almost any issue
  • Mr. Hosoi, our chief client, was called to a meeting in Shinjuku, and sat down with some of the Japanese contractors and their representatives
  • They wanted him to get Alexander out of Japan
  • The reason wasn’t because we were doing better work
  • The reason was our work was lower in price than the going rate
  • It was a colossal potential embarrassment for the Japanese construction industry.
  • The failed to get me out of Japan
  • They were not incompetent from an engineering point of view
  • They feared the whole industry would collapse from its present form, if they were not able to stop the types of activities were were engaging in.
  • They knew we were responsible people
  • We had to make a number of political deals to continue and complete the work
  • It wasn’t quite completed, as there were 2 college buildings and a library that were not built

[79:20] We had been writing a book — it’s about 500 pages — describing this production system we created, and how it worked

  • They did manage to force us to a compromise

This book might have the effect of altering the path of construction companies in all of the countries of the world

  • It’s possible, but I doubt that I’ll see it in my lifetime

[81:40] The real issue is life is the only criterion for the construction of the environment

  • That’s not what is happening today

[82:20] I’m getting tired now

I’m going to read you a short page

The creation of life and of the living is and must be the fundamental criterion for our activities when we build the environment

  • Whether they be freeway building, housing projects, tracts, etc.

Now, can we truthfully say that the Eishin campus is a living structure, and that any structure that is living (like the Eishin campus) is a very rare event, difficult to achieve in practice, a kind of structure not easy to replicate?

  • The theory of replicating this structure, an achievable structure, can be made actual, practical, and workable.
  • We must make this available in our present day society
  • Even though it is hard, it is useless for us to see it only as a target, not realizable in practice
  • The non-living structures which have surrounded us on earth for about a hundred years have undermined human society at a gigantic cost to us, our fellow beings
  • The paradigm of the robot, or simulation of living structure, do not have the attributes of living structure, and are not and cannot be living environments.
  • This must be achieved, now.
  • Social disorder, mental illness, failure to keep pace with spiritual understanding, children, animals, plants form a rich fabric.  This rich fabric does not its own bill of rights
  • Although artificial, complex layered structure of our environment are forms of life, and useful semi-living machines are helpful in medicine.
  • But we are not yet living as living soulful creatures and will not be until the necessary structures of living society and living environments are soulfully present.
  • This is not only a criticism of the physical structure of buildings and towns.
  • We have the information to reach this state.
  • Many books written in the last 100 years have by now spelled out detailed information about living structure, how the structure must be supported, cared for, regulated, how the structure can be maintained in vibrant and living state of hell.
  • We have no excuse for neglecting our knowledge.
  • We must act on what we know, and we must make use of the rich field of architecture with the information that is now available.

I’ve tired myself out.


I was curious about how can buildings create unconditional love.

  • Did I say that?  I said some pretty crappy things, but I don’t think that I said as bananas as that.
  • Unconditional?
  • When a building is being properly made, its internal organization — its human organization — that means that whoever the people are that are working on that building, are in a position where they speak and make from love.
  • This does not mean some soupy romanticism.
  • If we love honesty, our fellowing beings and the places where we are, then the kinds of things that you see on the screen will arise.
  • It’s not magic, it has to do with the intensity and dedication to which you do your best

I had a girlfriend that I loved intensely, and it went horribly wrong.  I wish for something passionate and lasting.

  • Of course it can go wrong.  You think I’m a magician?

In computer programming and in art, to get people to spend the time with passion, it will be a type of spiritualism?  I hear what you’re saying, it’s hard, we’re trying.

  • Trying takes certain forms.
  • It just depends how far you’re willing to go.
  • People who have experienced this way of making things won’t give it up

Where do you see the next 200 years?

  • Attention to detail.
  • If you want to make a room — a livingroom in a house — can you concentrate enough to make that room a nest or something.
  • It’s a real task
  • It’s not nonsense
  • It’s not, generally speaking, being taught by architecture professors
  • It’s a perfectly feasible and practical venture

[96:00] Examples of how the campus was built with love? Materials or design?

  • Fairly ordinary, but put together in somewhat unusual ways.

Structural plan, different for each environment?  Carry over to architecture.

  • In an organism, there are wholes at many different levels.
  • There are wholes within those wholes.
  • It’s not possible to attempt to build a structure by just arranging these things
  • They butt up against their context, they butt up against the container.  If the container can not give up flexibly, you’ll be looking at a monkey’s ass.
  • You need the positions of the doors, and the windows, and the nature of the floor:  there is give-and-take between the larger wholes, and the wholes you’ll fill them up with.
  • If you say, let’s have the container be a rigid factory-made entity, the size of a house, then how are going to place the front door, given this lunatic shell, because this isn’t where the door wants to be.
  • The small wholes and the large wholes have to be in a give and take relationship.

#christopher-alexander, #pattern-language