Next Article in Journal
Addressing Urban Sprawl from the Complexity Sciences
Next Article in Special Issue
A Search for Beauty/A Struggle with Complexity: Christopher Alexander
Previous Article in Journal
Charting Participatory Action and Interventionist Research Processes for Community-Based Stakeholders in Peri-Urban Contexts: The Proposed St. Cuthbert’s Community Centre, Lorne, Australia
Previous Article in Special Issue
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
Article Menu
Issue 2 (June) cover image

Export Article

Open AccessReview

Assessing Alexander’s Later Contributions to a Science of Cities

KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 114 28 Stockholm, Sweden
Urban Sci. 2019, 3(2), 59;
Received: 23 April 2019 / Revised: 15 May 2019 / Accepted: 28 May 2019 / Published: 30 May 2019
PDF [1587 KB, uploaded 30 May 2019]


Christopher Alexander published his longest and arguably most philosophical work, The Nature of Order, beginning in 2003. Early criticism assessed that text to be a speculative failure; at best, unrelated to Alexander’s earlier, mathematically grounded work. On the contrary, this review presents evidence that the newer work was a logically consistent culmination of a lifelong and remarkably useful inquiry into part-whole relations—an ancient but still-relevant and even urgent topic of design, architecture, urbanism, and science. Further evidence demonstrates that Alexander’s practical contributions are remarkably prodigious beyond architecture, in fields as diverse as computer science, biology and organization theory, and that these contributions continue today. This review assesses the potential for more particular contributions to the urban professions from the later work, and specifically, to an emerging “science of cities.” It examines the practical, as well as philosophical contributions of Alexander’s proposed tools and methodologies for the design process, considering both their quantitative and qualitative aspects, and their potential compatibility with other tools and strategies now emerging from the science of cities. Finally, it highlights Alexander’s challenge to an architecture profession that seems increasingly isolated, mired in abstraction, and incapable of effectively responding to larger technological and philosophical challenges. View Full-Text
Keywords: Christopher Alexander; The Nature of Order; pattern language; structure-preserving transformations; science of cities Christopher Alexander; The Nature of Order; pattern language; structure-preserving transformations; science of cities

Figure 1

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Mehaffy, M.W. Assessing Alexander’s Later Contributions to a Science of Cities. Urban Sci. 2019, 3, 59.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Urban Sci. EISSN 2413-8851 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top