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The Process of Creating Life: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe [Anglais] [Relié]

Christopher Alexander

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Amazon.com: 4.7 étoiles sur 5  7 commentaires
100 internautes sur 102 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Landmark Book 31 octobre 2003
Par Nikos A. Salingaros - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Review by Nikos A. Salingaros.
PART A. REVIEW FOR ARCHITECTS.
Contemporary architecture is increasingly grounded in science and mathematics. Architectural discourse has shifted radically from the sometimes disorienting Derridean deconstruction, to engaging scientific terms such as fractals, chaos, complexity, nonlinearity, and evolving systems. That's where the architectural action is -- at least for cutting-edge architects and thinkers -- and every practicing architect and student needs to become conversant with these terms and know what they mean. Unfortunately, the vast majority of architecture faculty are unprepared to explain them to students, not having had a scientific education themselves.
Here is an architecture book by an architect/scientist, just in time to help architects in the new millennium. Alexander discusses many of the scientific terms arising in cutting-edge architecture, and explains them to those who don't have scientific training or advanced mathematical knowledge. We find discussions of the evolution of forms; the importance of process in design; iteration; genetic algorithms; sequences of transformations; different levels of scale (i.e. fractals); etc. They are explained here by an architect who is also a scientist, because he wants to change the way architects think and build. Alexander is not merely popularizing other scientists' results and making them accessible to architects: he is in fact presenting new and original scientific work that ties many of these concepts together in a way that will be useful to architects.
Alexander spends many of the 636 pages of this book talking about PROCESS. He describes the sequence of steps leading to a built form, and how each step depends on all previous steps. Alexander distinguishes between good and bad sequences of steps, where the latter are marked by some disruptive discontinuity, and which, as a result, cannot lead to coherent form. It follows that the method of design taught in architecture schools for decades -- "conceive an interesting image in your mind, then impose it onto the environment" -- is wrong. ALEXANDER ARGUES THAT COHERENCE CAN NEVER BE ACHIEVED EXCEPT BY THE SEQUENCE METHOD. Don't forget this is the Alexander who wrote "A Pattern Language", an equally revolutionary book. Therefore, every architect, especially those whose own design methodology clashes with Alexander's ideas, is well advised to become aware of what he says instead of simply dismissing him offhand.
The present volume is the second of four. I believe that, with some effort, it can be read independently from the first volume (not that I am suggesting this, but merely to encourage people to plunge into Volume 2 immediately). This is the one of the four volumes that is most likely to appeal to those who are already interested in and actively working in applying the New Sciences to architecture. I therefore urge innovative architects and architecture students to read this book. In my opinion, it should enlighten everyone's conception of the design process, and help to initiate a reexamination in one's mind of how new ideas for structures and buildings are generated. This book might well influence in a major way how buildings of the future are designed and built, hence how they will look. No-one who thinks deeply and conscientiously about design today should pass it by.
PART B. REVIEW FOR SCIENTISTS.
Alexander is famous in the architectural world, yet he trained in Physics and Mathematics in Cambridge, and was part of the group of scientists who developed systems theory along with Herbert Simon. He has been investigating the interaction between science and architecture all of his life, and the four-volume work "The Nature of Order" contains the results of his researches. Volume 2, in particular, contains the most science. It may surprise many professional scientists that Alexander has managed to conceive of new results by applying architecture to science, surely a development that is as unexpected as it is novel.
This book contains interesting scientific insights. For example, already by page 42, Alexander proposes a radical rethinking of the standard Neo-Darwinian synthesis. He suggests that, based on a broad range of examples, evolving form in any context is driven just as much by intrinsic long-range forces having to do with geometrical configurations, as by the usual random Darwinian selection process. He thus takes suggestions by Stuart Kauffman and Brian Goodwin and develops them into a proto-theory of morphogenesis. It is not complete, and Alexander knows that, but I believe that the evolutionary biology community will get very excited about this idea. He supports his arguments by using phenomenology, and providing a theoretical basis wherever he can. I believe we are going to see a lot of activity, as ideas from this book inspire other authors to try to prove or disprove them. All of that is healthy, and will eventually establish Alexander as a contributor to scientific thinking.
My own favorite part is the discussion of how generative sequences break symmetry: instead of producing identical components (i.e., windows, houses, office blocks, apartments), the same generative process gives rise to similar types of complex objects that are individualized and thus distinct. This helps us to understand natural complexity, where adaptation does indeed produce diversity within the same typology. The underlying problem is how to correlate the different scales in a complex system, hitherto unsolved in any discipline. Therefore, this discussion is of great interest to computer scientists, who are grappling with modularization in software so as to handle the increasing complexity of code.
I am a scientist, and I have profited from Alexander's efforts to understand very deep problems in complexity. The price to pay is having to read through all the architectural examples (which may or may not be of interest to many scientists). Alexander is like a moth circling around fascinating problems. Even when he does not give a solution, his circling in fact identifies the problem, and by approaching it, he gives nontrivial hints towards its eventual solution. And, don't forget that it's the architectural stuff that's going to inspire architects to build a more beautiful world for the rest of us.
17 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 fascinating approach to architecture 2 avril 2005
Par L. Mayger - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I originally only intended to read book one of this series because they are so expensive; however, after reading the first, and becoming interested in Alexander's ideas, I have committed to the entire series. There is a lot of food for thought in these books, from the idea that there is actually a universal consensus on what is beautiful when one looks at things on a fundamental level, to the concepts that we spend too much time in this society on ornamentation and rule making to the exclusion of building things that actually enhance life. Book 2 in this series goes in depth into the concept that things can only be built to enhance life and be truly beautiful and useful if they are built in a sequence of appropriate steps. Alexander is changing the way that I look at the world. This is not a book for someone who just wants to know how to decorate a pretty house.
16 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Inspirational ideas, but take it slowly 4 janvier 2007
Par Sally - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I first discovered Christopher Alexander's book "A Pattern Language" about eight years ago and it has been a treasured companion on my bedside table ever since. I would highly recommend it as an excellent introduction to the framework of design concepts proposed by Alexander in subsequent books.

I decided to start with Book 2 in the "Nature of Order" series as one Amazon reviewer described it as the most "practical" of the four. I can best describe my overall reactions as excitement regarding the implications of Alexander's ideas, and disappointment that the text is so dense and repetitive that I fear that only the most committed of readers will persevere. I don't mean to dissuade other readers at all, but merely to warn you that Alexander's motto seems to be "why use one word when you can use ten, and then repeat yourself ten times." I believe a rigorous editing of the book would render it far more digestible without losing any of its inspirational magic.

Alexander provides philosophical, logical and practical examples of concepts of wholeness and flow in design and how these lead to "living" end products, whether these products are buildings, interiors, works of art or simple household objects. I am currently using these ideas to renovate my home and I can now see why some rooms "work" and others don't and what I can do to improve them. There are many photos of "living design" scattered through the book, to reinforce the concepts. In addition, you don't need to be independently wealthy to apply the ideas - you just need to be willing to think about how you like to live, recognise what feels comfortable and "right" in your environment and experiment with small changes to see how they affect the "feel" of a room or space.

I can strongly recommend this book for any fans of "A Pattern Language", but read it slowly and you will see how it provides a strong conceptual framework for using the patterns described in his previous book. I have just ordered Book 1 in the series and will gradually work my way through the remaining books - I may resort to using a highlighter pen to make it easier to re-read and absorb the ideas. (I recently heard an interview with Alexander which was produced by a Canadian radio station - luckily he speaks succinctly and presents very well in conversation).
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A major achievement in aesthetics and architecture 22 juin 2006
Par Reader - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
One can make a strong case for Alexander's Nature of Order as one of the greatest advances in the entire history of aesthetics. Book 1 treats the expression of Life in art in its static form. Book 2 examines the dynamic process of life creation, in real life and in architecture. I can't do better than second what Professor Salingaros says below. He is a major figure in architectural aesthetics himself -- google him on the web and you will see.

In this volume, as in the others, Alexander presents his principles and gives examples both positive and negative, richly illustrated with hundreds of pictures, many in color. His examples are both historical, such as the evolution of St. Mark's Square in Venice over a period of a thousand years, and drawn from his own building experience, showing how he has gone about designing and building a structure in a way that maximizes its life.

Yes, it costs $75, but considering its aesthetic gravity and its 636 pages and all the illustrations, this is a bargain. I bought all four and am still benefitting by rereading them.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Poetry of Design 22 juillet 2014
Par L. King - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
In Book 1 (The Phenomenon of Life) of this series, architectural theorist and practitioner Christopher Alexander introduced a highly organic view of a natural process of architectural design based on 15 principles that played off against each other. Book 2 continues the conversation by discussing examples of how each of these principles can be correctly applied, and what happens if they are not. It's a somewhat mystical approach that evolves not from abstract geometry but from a profound sense of place, one that completely negates cookie-cutter replication that characterizes suburbia and most of modern planned urban development.

One begins with terrain, climate and the character of the surrounding structures, coaxing out the centres of interests, delineating boundaries and introducing strong focal centers and utilizing irregular almost fractal symmetries (fractals have infinite depth, and there are limits as to what can be done) who's effect echoes on different scales. Rather than have an architect draft a building, then pass it on to the builder, the architect and client and contractors work together throughout the building process to dynamically evolve not just a machine for living, but spaces that are evoke life, a fundamental change in the way that buildings and communities are made. Unlike contemporary design, the technique integrates feedback between the stakeholders throughout, down to the placement of individual elements, allowing for experimentation and changing of mind. Alexander's design process is highly explorative where each step transforms into the possibilities of the next.

The approach is not without problems, and IMV requires a leap of faith on the part of the client in an extremely high level of competence in the designer, because one might just as easily design oneself into a dead end. However to counter this, in my own experience, I've observed the evolution of these "little boxes on the hillside" , and through additions, landscaping, furnishings and decoration, one eventually can arrive at the similar effect creating liveable homes. Yet the end result is somewhat narcissistic as the suburban streets themselves are largely empty of life as life enhancing principles are not considered at the outset. The design of buildings has to give life to the community as well. This can highly evident in the design of office and public space - if it's dead it's probably because cost and manageability overrode the need to create liveable centres. For Alexander, rustic peasant society naturally adapted to communal living which 20th century architecture with its emphasis on Tayloristic deconstruction destroyed.

On one level the key to Alexander are the 15 transformation rules which are the basis of what he calls a "pattern language" and one evolves one's design from these. On another there are observable local cultural norms which one documents and builds on in order to create an aesthetic in tune with community, social cohesion and intended use. His critique of mid century American homes (pp355) with is excess formality of living and dining rooms turned them into dead spaces most of the day and the isolation of the kitchen from dens or playrooms discourages interaction and participation in food preparation, drives home the point that bad design fails to bring people together. Yet I note that his own web site patternlanguage.com, while having some open content is mostly paid subscription based, misses the pattern of the of the internet - the free exchange of information encourages aggregation and development of the same.

Throughout Alexander's theorizing is highly enjoyable and one emerges with a better eye for understanding how buildings can be altered to better serve our needs. He often repeats the same points in different ways , but the images he uses to illustrate are both beautiful and well chosen. I found treating the book as a poem (or paen) to organic design as opposed to a textbook made it all the more enjoyable and eminently rereadable.
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