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Christopher Alexander’s Theory of Wholeness as a Tetrad of Creative Activity: The Examples of A New Theory of Urban Design and The Nature of Order

Department of Architecture, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
Urban Sci. 2019, 3(2), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci3020046
Received: 1 March 2019 / Revised: 17 April 2019 / Accepted: 17 April 2019 / Published: 21 April 2019
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Abstract

To identify and evaluate architect Christopher Alexander’s theory of wholeness, this article draws on the work of British philosopher J.G. Bennett, who developed a conceptual method—what he called systematics—to clarify phenomena by drawing upon the qualitative significance of number. A central assumption of systematics is that there is something inherent in number itself that is fundamental to the way the world is and the way we can understand it. For Bennett, each whole number provides different but complementary modes for examining any phenomenon; thus, one-ness relates to the wholeness of the phenomenon; two-ness, to complementarity; three-ness, to relatedness, and so forth. This article draws on Bennett’s interpretation of four-ness, summarized by a diamond-shaped symbol that he called the tetrad. Bennett claimed that the tetrad provides an interpretive means for understanding any activity directed toward a focused outcome, for example, writing a book, designing a building, or planning a new city district. The tetrad is used in this article to probe and evaluate Alexander’s conceptual and practical efforts to recognize and fabricate wholeness, drawing on evidence from his Nature of Order and New Theory of Urban Design. The article first discusses the tetrad broadly and then considers how it helps to clarify Alexander’s efforts to understand and make wholeness. View Full-Text
Keywords: Christopher Alexander; wholeness; urban design; pattern language; tetrad; systems; J.G. Bennett Christopher Alexander; wholeness; urban design; pattern language; tetrad; systems; J.G. Bennett
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Seamon, D. Christopher Alexander’s Theory of Wholeness as a Tetrad of Creative Activity: The Examples of A New Theory of Urban Design and The Nature of Order. Urban Sci. 2019, 3, 46.

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