More Alexander

Finished reading Christopher Alexander’s Notes on the Synthesis Of Form. (See some previous comments) While this book demonstrates Alexander’s dissatisfaction with current practice, and a desire to do something about, the book is almost more a statement of the problem, then a presentation of a compelling solution, as in his later work. The arguments are less compelling, and lack the exemplary clean and clear style found later.

One of the things I found out reading patternlangauge.com is that Alexander actually started out in mathematics and later moved to the field of architecture. This fact, completely un-discernible from reading his later work (expect, perhaps, in the attempt to make design systematic) is painfully evident in Notes. Nearly the second half of the book is devoted to two appendices, the first of which is a large example, mostly presented as raw data, which most readers will probably not undertake the effort of fully understanding. The second appendix betrays the mathematical background, with formulas, sums, and greek letters in their full obfuscating glory.

Also missing from Notes is the focus on human factors that predominates in his later work. Once again, this looks like a borrow, not a buy, for most, and very few readers will wish to put forth the effort that would be needed to understand the appendices.

Posted Sunday, December 8th, 2002 under Review.

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