Pattern language christopher alexander pdf

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    PATTERN. LANGUAGE. 'TOWNS • B U II, D J N GS • CONSTRUCTION. Christopher Alexander. Sara Ishikawa Murray Silverstein with. Max Jacobson Ingrid. PDF | A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander is renowned for providing simple, conveniently formatted, humanist solutions to complex. Christopher Alexander. Sara Ishikawa Murray Silverstein volume I THE TIMELESS WAY OF BUILDING volume 2 A PATTERN LANGUAGE. Volume 3 THE.

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    Pattern Language Christopher Alexander Pdf

    After a ten-year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Way of Building, The Oregon Experiment, and this book,A Pattern Language. A Pattern Language - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf) or read book online. A Pattern The Timeless Way of Building [Christopher Alexander] []. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction is a book on architecture, urban design, and community livability. It was authored by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray . Print/export. Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version.

    This text is also believed to be the most widely read architectural treatise ever published. Thus, while A Pattern Language is widely referenced in architectural scholarship, most of these references simply acknowledge its existence and fail to engage with its content. The intent of this paper is to facilitate a deeper understanding of these criticisms and the relationships between them. The relationships between these criticisms are then mapped diagrammatically thereby forming the basis for thematic groupings within each hierarchical tier. However, the relentless pursuit of the modernist aesthetic also produced examples of uncomfortable and inhospitable spaces. Christopher Alexander was amongst the most vocal critics of these spaces and responded to them by devoting his career to developing three unique and closely related theories of architectural and urban design. A Pattern Language is significant for demystifying complex socio-spatial considerations through a simple building block format which makes this content accessible to non-professionals, and is one reason why this text is believed to be the most widely read architectural treatise ever published Lea ; Alexander ; Kohn ; Saunders b ; Hermann ; Mehaffy ; Silva and Paraizo A Pattern Language is also credited with inspiring the development of the object-oriented programming languages used to create the majority of current computer software in addition to partially inspiring the New Urbanist movement. Nevertheless, the scholars who do engage with the theory have identified substantial flaws, many of which are difficult to untangle without a substantial loss of meaning Dovey Indeed, several of the criticisms cited are acknowledged, if not accepted, by Alexander, as part of various counterarguments he offers.

    Alexander alleges that this disparity arises from the use of radically different design processes. When applied in practice, Alexander discovered that this process was too demanding for all but the largest design projects. Collectively these three works constitute one of the s and s most sustained criticisms of modernism.

    Here it is argued that the shared values and customs of traditional societies provide a guiding framework, or design language, that restrains the many small acts of individual construction and integrates them into a larger cohesive environment. Alexander argues that this quality exists, to some extent, in every individual, and this allows us to recognise its presence in the environment and each other.

    The theory states that places which exhibit this quality will awaken it in people, and people who have found the quality will embed it into the places they help to create. However, Alexander also argues that the traditional languages and values that once guided this process have been lost over time, or else have become so corrupted as to be utterly dysfunctional Salingaros A Pattern Language details patterns which serve as generic guiding principles for design.

    In order to enable this synthesis, each pattern in the language follows a consistent format of five sections. Second is a list of connections to other patterns it helps to complete. The third section comprises a description of the context in which the pattern is relevant and the empirical evidence that supports it.

    This text focuses primarily on bureaucratic processes that are required to ensure that small scale projects and piecemeal development can occur in large scale projects for a single client. Ultimately however, Alexander rejected his second theory of architectural beauty as he felt it had too little generative power and too little focus on geometry.

    Criticisms are further organised into thematic groupings within each tier and the relationships between patterns signified by listing the number of any antecedent [A ] and subsequent [S ] criticisms.

    This is significant because many of the criticisms are founded on, or lead to, other critical responses. However, it is also important to realise that these antecedent [A ] and subsequent [S ] links, are determined by the scale and logic of the criticism, not the date when the criticism was published, or any references it might make to other critical scholarship.

    The procedure for evaluating and mapping criticisms involves three stages. First, a literature review to identify criticisms. Second, an examination and classification of the criticisms. Third, identifying and mapping the connections between criticisms. The second stage examines the criticisms and classifies them into one of three hierarchical tiers, and where applicable, organises them into thematic groups. The second tier focuses on criticisms relating to the actual development of his second theory and comprises three thematic groups relating to scholastic standards, the testing of patterns, and the reasoning supporting his decisions.

    The final or lowest tier documents criticisms relating to the implementation of the theory including claims that it is overly controlling, flawed, and unsuccessful.

    There are, however, several criticisms which are broad enough in scope to include aspects of more than one tier. Some of the literature discussing this criticism points to this tendency as evidence of a limiting ontology that impacts the conceptualisation of the theory. I could have argued, therefore, that there was no single core idea. But this is wrong, of course. All insiders could name the one core idea but, in the same moment, they would hesitate because of the difficulties that result from their choice.

    The obvious core idea is also the most controversial. Let us quickly flip through the plausible candidates. The pattern concept is important as the building block of the pattern languages. In fact, a pattern language often seem to be little more than a collection of patterns. All pattern researchers refer to the canonical definition of the pattern given by Alexander, although they use different pattern forms for their pattern descriptions.

    Discussions about a standard form of pattern description have led to no results. The pattern concept looks like a formal tool lacking profoundness. It would not work, therefore, as the one core idea. It is generally accepted that it is unique and that there is no use of the term in other disciplines. Fine choice — but Alexander did not continue his research on the pattern language concept, even though he continued to use patterns.

    While he wrote a dozen books after A Pattern Language, he never again focused on the topic and neither refined nor extended his pattern approach, not even in his magnum opus The Nature of Order. So, it would be difficult to argue for the pattern language as the one core idea. The generative process is meant to ensure top-quality design. Alexander builds on outstanding examples of traditional building processes that serve as role models, such as that used for the design of Japanese Tea Gardens.

    The main problem with the generative process as the core idea is that Alexander believes to have failed in communicating it well enough to colleagues to achieve the expected results. This is the fundamental value, the goal he defines for all design. In addition, Alexander claims two discoveries in his rhetoric related to it.

    First, that the quality without a name exists; second, that everyone has an inborn feeling and Christopher Alexander — An Introduction 15 a natural competency for it. But there are problems with promoting this concept as the one core idea.

    First problem: quite literally, the quality without a name has no name. This means, basically, that no word directly represents it, no word provides a natural plausibility for its existence. Lengthy explanations are needed to describe it. But, note that this problem does not necessarily exist in all languages; it definitely does not exist in German which has the word Lebendigkeit which fits perfectly. Second problem: in the field of software, where the pattern method has become mainstream, the quality without a name has never been adopted.

    This must be explained if the quality without a name is taken as the core idea. This is an undesirable conclusion to all kinds of pattern researchers, inside and outside the software domain.

    Third problem: the quality without a name is obviously related to the phenomenon of life and, thus, to the open scientific questions regarding the essence of the life. To research living systems — and research always involves not just insights but also open questions and speculations — puts the quality without a name in the overlap of natural science, theology and esoteric.

    Here one must understand that there is nothing less desirable to a scientist than to move into this area and become a suspect of esoteric speculation. This is a strong reason for avoiding the quality without a name as the core idea. When pondering over this problem of the one core idea, I suddenly saw the solution to the problem. Everything had been discussed and laid clearly on the table. The solution to the problem is that there is not one core idea but four.

    In different projects or subdomains, depending on the focus of research, one or two of the paradigms may be in the focus while the other ideas may remain in the background. Here I have drawn a diagram showing the four paradigms of Christopher Alexander and puts them in relation to each other: a pyramid of four levels, one building on the other see Illustration 2.

    This adds the slight suggestion of a higher and lower, as discussed before, otherwise, one could have put the four ideas in a circle.

    One can start with an overview, like that of Illustration 2, but then the teachers and learners have to deal with the concepts one by one. This applies just one insight of Alexander to teaching — that all living processes are essentially stepwise. This also accords with Descartes, who originally described the steps of analysis and synthesis in his Discourse on the Method Descartes, Only after progressing through stages of separation, at intermediate milestones or at the end, can teachers and learners synthesize the four paradigms to form again a complete picture.

    It is natural to learn a complex system this way, step by step. In software the focus was on the two lower levels, on the pattern and pattern language concept, just as a matter of the stage of development. The main problem of software was reducing complexity; the systematic description of tacit knowledge was the most urgent need.

    A Pattern Language

    In education, where collections of teaching methods or scenarios already existed, the focus is on the generative process and the quality without a name. Domains can share common experiences and insights but they can also develop their own characteristics. These four paradigms not only concern architecture, but all design activities related to human culture and environment.

    I repeat this because it Christopher Alexander — An Introduction 17 is important. Many people do not see this immediately when they are introduced to the work of Alexander. Some of his messages are very explicit, like his critique of post-modern architecture. But other messages are somewhat implicit, read between the lines.

    And some messages only become visible in his later books, those that have not been read as much as his early ones. To generalize, one could say that architecture is just one part of human creative activity, which is itself a part of the big, evolutionary process of nature.

    Therefore, one can expect that many principles of this big field of natural evolution will also apply to human design activities. Based on this pyramid model, I will explain the four paradigms in the following sections one by one. Each paradigm can work to some extent on its own and does not require the others for its basic functioning. But each level is connected to the neighboring levels and can be strengthened by them.

    So, let us look at some detail of the four levels, from the bottom up. This is the core idea that most researcher directly relate to. They read pattern descriptions and put their insights into pattern form, maybe by writing a pattern paper.

    Communicating the pattern concept to newcomers is sometimes difficult because the everyday word pattern — in heavy use for numerous purposes — has a different meaning.

    The everyday pattern can be specified as a perception pattern, as a combination of characteristic features.

    A Pattern Language - Wikipedia

    It is advisable to use the term design pattern where any misunderstanding is possible. Many design patterns are also perception patterns, for example an entrance door or a school building. We recognize them and they are created for a purpose. But this is not necessarily true the other way round. Many perception patterns are not design patterns, for example a sunset or a traffic jam; they are not designed and they are not solutions to problems.

    Design patterns are generic concepts of design. As an element in the world, each pattern is a relationship between a certain context, a certain system of forces which occurs repeatedly in that context, and a certain spatial configuration which allows these forces to resolve themselves. The pattern is, in short, at the same time a thing, which happens in the world, and the rule which tells us how to create that thing, and when we must create it.

    It is both a process and a thing; both a description of a thing which is alive, and a 18 Christopher Alexander — An Introduction description of the process which will generate that thing. Alexander makes the tacit difference between the pattern as a reusable concept, the pattern description as we may find it in a book, and the pattern instance that we may create or find in the world.

    These are not physical forces; they stand for all possible kinds of relationships and interactions — logical, spacial and causal connections. Compare this to the row headings of Illustration 4. The Alexandrian form — as the pattern form above is sometimes called — was discussed as a standard but was never adopted as such.

    Researchers of other domains developed their own pattern forms because of the needs of their domains and their target audiences. A pattern form offers three main advantages. Firstly, it helps pattern researchers in their systematical work because it obliges them to ask and answer certain questions for each and every one of their patterns. This clear structure helps a single researcher but it can also help a group of researchers to co-ordinate their work. Secondly, it is a guideline for writing pattern language books.

    Each element of the pattern form transforms into corresponding sections of the pattern chapters in the book. Thirdly, the readers can rely on getting information in a systematic and ordered way. Even without knowing the rules behind the scene, the readers of a pattern language book intuitively understand, after reading a few patterns, that they can expect a consistent structure of information throughout the whole pattern collection. Up to this point the pattern concept, as introduced by Alexander, seems powerful but trivial at the same time.

    It has a bureaucratic touch, comparable to grammatical structure in relation to a natural language text. But the concept of the pattern has also a hidden philosophical facet which reaches deep into the core of our cultural traditions and habits of thinking. This makes the concept of the pattern extremely important — a paradigm of its own — as I will explain in the following. Among other contributions he invented the cartesian coordinate system and introduced the analytical method of science.

    He suggested that science has to be cleaned from speculation by using the concept of methodological doubt. Descartes also used the concept of an objective reality which is accessible through the strict separation of the observer and the observed, the subject and the object. The positive side of this historic development was a liberation from religious narrow-mindedness and the development of science and all its contributions to modern life and society, medicine and technology.

    There are also negative aspects of this development, like nuclear weapons and the acceleration of global developments that threaten to tear our planet apart, both ecologically and socially.

    These problems have to do with the separation between the human observer and the nature he observes. This separation leads to an alienation and to a value-free science that denies responsibilities for its findings. These problems have been depicted as the subject-object-gap, a typical deficiency of Western thinking. Countless scientists and philosophers have argued against this in one way or the other, for example Alfred North Whitehead in his book Process and Reality Whitehead, He argues that an object-oriented world model is faulty and all thinking must start with forces, interactions, or relationships instead.

    My own work led me to understand that we look in the wrong direction when we attribute this problem to Descartes and his era alone.

    It is true that he promoted subject-object thinking, but he built on much older tools of thinking which added a counter-productive touch to his ideas. I am talking about the categorical thinking of ancient Greek origin. Categorical thinking is at the very root of Western culture and is something which I think has to be reconsidered and reframed if we want to cope with the challenges of our future. I will explain this in brief; please take Illustration 3 as a background. Thinking in categories is attributed to Aristotle and has dominated Western thinking for the last 2, years.

    It has been well described by the Roman philosopher Porphyrio in his Introduction to Categories also known as Isagoge; a very recommended reading. The entities of the world are modelled as objects which have properties. The main organization principle is the genealogical tree which orders objects in genera, species, sub-species maybe even sub-sub-species and so on , and individuals. The properties of objects are analyzed and they decide on the placement of all the objects in the tree.

    A world thus ordered is an understandable world, a world where every thing has its name and its place — a good world, as it seems. In categorial thinking, some properties of objects have an outstanding importance. These properties are the so-called differences differencia that are used to make the separation between species. For example, the Greeks saw humans and gods in one group of rational beings, separated by the 20 Christopher Alexander — An Introduction property of mortality; humans were mortal, gods were not.

    The property of mortality was the difference, the ordering principle, the key to make this distinction. Other properties are less important; they are classified as propria and accidentia but there is no need to go into detail here. All humans are mortal. Therefore: Socrates is mortal. The relation of the human individual to the gods, who were ruling the life of all humans, was thus a central topic of Greek thinking, literature, and theater. This example of logic thus points to a central issue of ancient Greek world view.

    Logic, rules and laws can be built on these differences. So, the differences and the system of categories became more and more important. This way of thinking proved very successful and has been exploited by the Roman Empire and its legal system, which continues to be the backbone of all our Western legal systems. You may note that only few of the Greek categories still hold, however.

    Nobody would define humans by their mortality today, or birds by their ability to fly through the air, just to give two examples. Nevertheless, the method of categorical thinking and logical reasoning has become a success story and second nature to us. Many people think that when they have ordered some phenomena, when they have given them names and put them into boxes, they then already have solved an important problem.

    On the contrary, though, systemic thinkers Christopher Alexander — An Introduction 21 know that the creation of categories and the naming process is a trivial preparation — often even an arbitrary construction — and the real problem- solving only starts after that step.

    So, while categorial thinking has brought great success, it is now more of a hindrance than a help to solve the systemic problems of the world. It is not a good start to focus on the distinctions and differences; we need to understand how things are connected and how they can work together to create positive effects in a sustainable way. But it is difficult for people to move away from from categorial thinking.

    We can liken this to breaking the habit of smoking after being addicted to it for decades. Often this is only possible in face of a deadly health problem.

    As the human race we face such deadly threats, and we must motivate ourselves to improve our way of thinking when it fails to solve our problems. The entities of the world are modelled by patterns which are connected to each other in manyfold ways.

    Patterns are connected by forces to other parts of our systems, up and down a spatial hierarchy.


    They are also connected to us, almost by definition, because we see them related to us as problems. The patterns explain the inner workings of living systems like cities, societies and ecospheres. These are the kinds of systems that we need to understand and that we should want to unfold.

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    Pattern thinking means to look at how things are connected in systems and not primarily at how things can be separated into categories. Many philosophers have suggested that we do so, in theory, without actually putting this into practice. Now there is a specific way to implement a relational model of the world using pattern descriptions. The pattern view and thinking thus directly competes with the older paradigm of categories.

    Example one: categorial thinking supports the idea that white people and black people are different because of the single property, skin color, and that this difference is important. Rules or laws can then be applied, transforming this perceptional difference into a social difference, for example as masters and slaves.

    This seems simply natural on the basis of the logic of Aristotle and our traditional thinking inherited from ancient Greece. This logic obviously lends itself, without much ado, to all kinds of inhumanity and discrimination. We are not forced to do so, but it is very easy to fall into the trap.

    In pattern thinking, on the contrary, the differences in properties are insignificant because differences do not point to relationships or interactions. All human beings are connected parts of society and form a living system because of all the interactions that bind them all together. To use a different picture, society should be modelled as an organism or an ecology, not as a machine. The primary thoughts are to unfold, improve design and co-create — not to control. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.

    This quotation does not talk about objects and their properties and, therefore, it does not contain first- order categorial data. It is of secondary importance in the world of categories. This is relational information, top-priority in pattern thinking, usable directly in pattern descriptions. This is a different focus and perspective. It suggests a picture of the bees as our neighbors or little brothers in nature that we should care for, whether motivated by self- interest or by deeper feelings.

    These two simple examples show the difference between the old thinking in categories and a new thinking in patterns. The subject-object-gap just ceases to exist because it exists only in the framework of categorial thinking which is an intellectual construction. In pattern thinking, mankind and nature are thought inseparable; humans are part of nature and nature is to be protected and not exploited because we are totally dependent on a flourishing natural world.

    This change in thinking is also overdue as a change from linear thinking to a networked thinking, in accordance with systems theory and cybernetics.

    We are now, at the beginning of the 21st century, just at the verge of understanding the full implications of the pattern concept. Most pattern researchers still perceive the pattern concept as a purely formal device. I have tried to show that the pattern concept is substantial, reaching deep into the core of Western culture. It is a challenge to change the way of Western thinking — to change the priorities of how we look at the world.

    This includes the unlearning of old thinking habits, and this might take generations. But if humankind stands with its back to the wall — and this is how I assess the situation — it may happen sooner. Core idea 2: pattern language The second level of the pyramid is the pattern language. This is the clearest and least controversial concept. It is unambiguous because the term is neither used in everyday language nor in other disciplines. Every pattern researcher relates to the concept of the pattern language and, apart from quality issues, there is no potential for conflict.

    So, what is it all about? In his book, A Pattern Language, Alexander describes patterns of architecture across 1, pages. This is an enormous amount of architectural expertise brought to the readers in a systematic way. But the book is also very readable, a piece of literature, a model for a new non-fiction genre; it served as a prototype for more than pattern language books, and thousands of books of this type will follow.

    A pattern language book contains, as its main body, a collection of related pattern descriptions. Each pattern description is a small independent chapter Christopher Alexander — An Introduction 23 that follows the same outline. All elements of the pattern form, for example problem and solution, are repeated as sections of each chapter. Each pattern description can be understood on its own, like a building block for learning and designing. Pattern descriptions should be clear, so that laypersons can understand them.

    Pattern descriptions should also have a dramatic arc of suspense, so they are interesting to read. The more story-like patterns are, the easier they are to remember.

    Illustration 4: A pattern language embodies design expertise Most important in pattern descriptions is how the patterns are related to each other, how they influence and support each other. This is especially obvious in the context, forces, and resulting context sections. But, in principle, each and every section of a pattern description can contain such connections. Illustration 4 shows these two main aspects of the pattern language, the array structure and the network structure.

    The array structure, shown in blue, reflects the systematic information. We can liken this to a big spreadsheet with the field elements of the spreadsheet containing all the information. But, contrary to a typical spreadsheet, the contents of the field elements are not restricted to short strings of characters. A single field element can contain a text of arbitrary length, for example a few pages including diagrams and pictures.

    If we transform this array into the sequential text of a pattern language book, each column becomes a chapter about one pattern, a story about some optional part of the system. Each pattern is also described in the same way, using the same sequence of headings and markups.

    It is the task of a pattern researcher 24 Christopher Alexander — An Introduction to set up such an array and to fill every field with information. This array is also a reliable framework for the readers. The second aspect of a pattern language is the network structure see Illustration 4. This results from the given information about the connections between the patterns contained in all the array elements.

    Each element can contain an arbitrary number of connections which form a network in the mind of the readers, but they can also be explicitly converted into a visual diagram like that shown in Illustration 4. Our world can thus be understood as a network of patterns, each pattern linked to other patterns.

    Some interacting patterns are like neighbors, some are part of the environment, some are internal like organs of an organism.

    We can also think about this as a fractal structure, as patterns on all levels of scale. Changes to our world appear either as new patterns that come into existence or as changes to existing patterns.

    A pattern language can be used to change the world, for example by designing or building, and, therefore, it is a toolbox for designers. A pattern language is, thus, a generic solution to the problem of providing design expertise; this can be done for thousands of design tasks in uncountable ways, therefore a pattern language is a pattern itself.

    We could do a thought experiment and take all design patterns from all conceivable pattern languages together. Now they appear as a common historic cultural heritage. Pattern descriptions and pattern language books are new and efficient ways to share this heritage, to make the knowledge accessible to all people who can then use these patterns in their own lives and environments.

    Pattern languages are also foundations for dialogue between everyone involved, between all kinds of stakeholders. Pattern descriptions are tools to involve people, to invite people to become part of co-creation and decision- making, to make the world a better place by using an open and consensual process model. People around the world have only started to do so, however, and it needs to be done more systematically, in more domains and at a larger scale.

    It is urgent that the pattern method is accepted as a standard method at universities and that it can be used in the public and political discourse.

    Core idea 3: creative cycle The third level of the pyramid is the creative cycle. Alexander uses the term generative process.

    I prefer the metaphor of a cycle because it emphasizes the continuous and evolutionary character of development that any system, any society, any human, any city is in; based on a current situation and repeating in a cycle, without beginning and end, like the evolution of nature. The creative cycle see Illustration 5 shows a system that is changing step by step, as it happens in design.

    In each step, a pattern is selected and adapted and new features become part of the system. In addition, each single Christopher Alexander — An Introduction 25 step can be imagined to pass through six phases, shown as six sectors in the circular arrangement. These are the six sectors: Sector 1, the system is perceived holistically; Sector 2, a point for approaching the next developmental step is sought out; Sector 3, a pattern from the relevant pattern language is selected; Sector 4, the generic pattern is adapted to the concrete situation; Sector 5, the newly developed system situation is tested for success or failure; and Sector 6, the transformation result is either accepted or undone.

    Then, after Sector 6, the creative cycle can restart with Sector 1. Illustration 5: the scheme of the creative cycle This is a formal scheme I have drawn to make the textual descriptions of The Timeless Way of Building and The Process of Creating Life easier to understand. Of course one can argue that this is a simplification and formalization. But I think such a scheme is an important reference, on which more detailed discussions can be based. Alexander argues that a good design process cannot happen at the drawing board, remote from the place and the people involved.

    A good design process needs the constant perception and evaluation of the design as it is unfolding. It also needs critical eyes to recognize the errors that are made. Errors should be recognized and removed as soon as possible because the costs to do so increase dramatically over time. This is a well-researched insight of software development. But errors are not only negative, they are also chances to learn.

    A remote designer at the drawing board — now talking about architecture — will not recognize many of the errors in his thousands of design decisions; often he will either get the feedback late when the project has been built or, even, not at all. It can be used in all domains where creative freedoms exist. There is no essential difference whether we are building a house or writing a novel; planning a holiday trip or painting a portrait; creating a lesson for pupils or seeking to strengthen a relationship to a beloved partner.

    It is always the same process, seeking the next plausible step, making a choice among the available options, adapting it to the situation as well as possible and trying to be fully alive, sensitive, alert in perception and resonance — then correcting the errors, as quickly as possible, when they happen. Many people think that they themselves are not creative.

    This is wrong, because nobody could even survive without being creative. This negative attitude is just a sign of a damaged self-confidence and defensive pessimism. This one aspect of the creative cycle seems especially important to me, therefore: to think about creativity as a simple scheme that everybody can follow without a need for a specific talent or mystic inspiration. Maybe geniuses use shortcuts or act unconsciously — that is all possible and in no way reduces the value of this model.

    The point is, all people can follow this simple model of the creative cycle by using the attitude and patience of a craftsperson, having the self-confidence to be able to be creative, and increasing the quality of what they are designing and doing. Core idea 4: ethics of design The fourth level of the pyramid is the level of ethics which is displayed as an overlay to the scheme of the creative cycle because it is so tightly related to it see Illustration 6, and compare Illustrations 5 and 6.

    The creative process is assumed to work best together with ethics, so that ethics appears as a natural extension. The creative cycle is needed, like a soil, to root the ethical principles. Firstly, successful design requires holistic system knowledge, and part of it comes from the perception of the target system and its potentials.

    Designers can only succeed if they get involved in the specific situation on the ground that includes the involved people and their needs. Even more: the designers should motivate involved people to participate in the design process.

    In stating this, Alexander became an early proponent of participatory design. This theoretically founded openness for participation is the reason why, for example, the contemporary phenomena of open source, open knowledge, and open everything are so successful.

    To extend on the Wikipedia example given, few people know that there was a predecessor project named Nupedia that had hopelessly failed using the concept articles written by a closed group of experts.

    While these principles have now become commonplace in social media, they were revolutionary at that time. Christopher Alexander — An Introduction 27 Illustration 6: ethics of design on the background of the creative cycle Secondly, patterns are our common cultural heritage. Each and every person uses the knowledge that is passed from generation to generation, whether he or she is aware of it or not.

    They learn it from their families, their teachers and their colleagues. Whether the patterns are explicitly known and taught — or just implicitly used as tacit knowledge — is irrelevant. Even if a designer invents a new pattern, which is rare, the new pattern becomes only effective as another option in the concert of existing patterns. To keep pattern knowledge secret is a counter-productive strategy of some designers which limits the fruitfulness of their own design efforts. To the contrary, by imparting competence in the use of patterns, by sharing the explicit descriptions of patterns and pattern languages, people are enabled to contribute their creativity to the benefit of their environments and societies and add life to the design effort.

    I already explained that the English language lacks a word for this quality without a name and how this makes the acceptance of Alexander more difficult in the Anglo-American culture. This quality of living systems is the value upon which the search for system improvements, the selection and adaptation of patterns and the final decision about all transformations should be founded.

    Understood properly, this concept also integrates sustainability and resilience and rounds them out. Fourthly, this design theory results in giving priority to life in general and to the life of the people involved. This is an optimization goal which is in contrast to simple-minded profit maximization. I have put this into the form 28 Christopher Alexander — An Introduction of a creative imperative. It also does not mean that a project should not make profit.

    This does not mean that a designer who makes profit is immoral. No, it just sets the priorities and states what designers must focus on, if they want to create top-quality designs. Fifthly, Alexander systematically opens up the creative field to all people. He suggests that everyone affected should have access to all design knowledge. This way, all can participate in designing the world and all can improve their creativity in their personal contexts.


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