Special Issue "New Applications and Development of Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order"

A special issue of Urban Science (ISSN 2413-8851).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Bin Jiang
Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Division of GIScience, University of Gävle, SE-801 76 Gävle, Sweden
Interests: geospatial analysis and modeling; structure and dynamics of urban systems; geoinformatics and computational geography
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Nikos Salingaros
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mathematics, University of Texas at San Antonio, One UTSA Circle San Antonio, Texas 78249, USA
Interests: pattern languages; design complexity; architectural design; architectural theory; biophilia, fractals; urbanism; urban design; planning; neuroarchitecture; mathematics of architecture; adaptive architecture; resilience; social housing; architecture and religion
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The work of the architect Christopher Alexander has proven enormously influential, if sometimes controversial, spanning from his early work on Notes on the Synthesis of Form, through his seminal paper “A City is Not a Tree”, to later books A Pattern Language and A New Theory of Urban Design.  His ideas have found remarkable applications in software engineering, communications, management theory, and many other fields. Among the spinoff innovations are design patterns (also known as “pattern languages of programming”), popular software programs like “The Sims”, platforms like wikis (and Wikipedia), and new methodologies like Agile, Scrum and others.

Later in his career, Alexander devoted over 27 years to his most ambitious work of all: The four-volume magnum opus, The Nature of Order: An essay on the art of building and the nature of the universe (Alexander 2002–2005). In this far-ranging book, Alexander presents an intriguing account of the fundamental phenomenon of order, the processes of creating order, and even a new cosmology—as he describes it, a deeper conception of how the physical universe is put together. The book argues that order in nature is essentially the same as that in what we build or make, and underlying order-creating processes of building or making of architecture and design are no less important than those of physics and biology. The book presents an argument for a new kind of beauty—structural beauty—that exists in fine structure of space and matter, and subsequently it argues for a new basis of doing architecture for creating more beautiful and more sustainable buildings, gardens, streets and cities.

While the applications of his earlier works are well-documented, the potential applications of his later work are still unclear. A number of tantalizing indications suggest a promise that may equal or even exceed the benefits of his earlier work. However, there is a need to develop further peer-reviewed research on this question. We invite papers on Alexander’s work and its potential applications and development, with a focus on The Nature of Order but also addressing other aspects of his contributions related to urban science including both understanding and making of better built environments. The purpose of this Special Issue is not only to debate Alexander’s legacy, but also to try to assess previously-unrecognized potential applications of this later work. Submissions may include research papers, reviews, or case studies. The editors will curate the selection of submissions, and if appropriate, the selected submissions will follow the subsequent peer review processes.

Advisors: Michael Mehaffy, PhD and Executive Director of Sustasis Foundation, Portland, USA; Yodan Rofe, PhD and Senior Lecturer at Ben-Gurion University, Israel

Prof. Dr. Bin Jiang
Prof. Dr. Nikos Salingaros
Guest Editors

More information can be found here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326919948_CALL_FOR_PAPERS_New_Applications_and_Development_of_
Christopher_Alexander%27s_The_Nature_of_Order

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Urban Science is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • life
  • beauty
  • wholeness
  • living structure
  • 15 fundamental properties
  • wholeness-extending transformation
  • organic view of space

Published Papers (6 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Editorial

Jump to: Research, Review, Other

Open AccessEditorial
Christopher Alexander and His Life’s Work: The Nature of Order
Urban Sci. 2019, 3(1), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci3010030 - 07 Mar 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
This editorial briefly introduces Christopher Alexander, as a theorist, as a design practitioner, as an architect, and importantly as a scientist, as well as his life’s work—The Nature of Order—focusing not only on the trinity of wholeness, life, beauty, but also [...] Read more.
This editorial briefly introduces Christopher Alexander, as a theorist, as a design practitioner, as an architect, and importantly as a scientist, as well as his life’s work—The Nature of Order—focusing not only on the trinity of wholeness, life, beauty, but also on his new organic cosmology. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review, Other

Open AccessArticle
Christopher Alexander and the Inadequacy of Genius in the Architecture of the Coming Age
Urban Sci. 2020, 4(2), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci4020017 - 13 Apr 2020
Abstract
There are only two ways of looking at any design problem despite all the elaborations evolved from these two paths. Either a designer directs an outcome and creates a product, or a solution is derived from a process involving the people and circumstances [...] Read more.
There are only two ways of looking at any design problem despite all the elaborations evolved from these two paths. Either a designer directs an outcome and creates a product, or a solution is derived from a process involving the people and circumstances of the problem. The first way is object focused and is celebrated in architectural criticism and journalism. It is the way of the salvational Genius, whose personal insight pierces all preconceptions and launches into innovation. This operational model is called the architectural canon. The second way, working through a process, is how the rest of us grapple with any issue. The power of Christopher Alexander’s life is not about the distillation of a personal perspective (the profession’s stereotypical Genius model) but his vital focus is on the second way a design is created. Alexander is a polymath, open to a process using human criteria and universal opportunities that can discern and convey the way to create. His life efforts show the future of the practice of architecture in a world soon overwhelmed by technology. Alexander’s “15 Fundamental Properties of Wholeness” describes criteria in architecture—but also in the ways designs can evolve in the wholistic realities of any creation. The Building Beauty Program Alexander helped create responds to the present dysfunctional model of architectural education that often ignores these simple verities in favor of following the architectural canon. Meaning in any creation comes from connection to the world around it. A visceral, essential, human response in design is not anti-intellectual, because it can be understood and taught. No matter what its validity is today, the Genius model of advocating a design savior is being replaced by the coming explosion of technology. What remains after that explosion is all we humans, and we are all polymaths. We see, hear, think, and offer what the technology cannot. Therein lies the meaning of Christopher Alexander’s extraordinary life’s mission. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Living Structure Down to Earth and Up to Heaven: Christopher Alexander
Urban Sci. 2019, 3(3), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci3030096 - 29 Aug 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Discovered by Christopher Alexander, living structure is a physical phenomenon, through which the quality of the built environment or artifacts can be judged objectively. It has two distinguishing properties just like a tree: “Far more small things than large ones” across all scales [...] Read more.
Discovered by Christopher Alexander, living structure is a physical phenomenon, through which the quality of the built environment or artifacts can be judged objectively. It has two distinguishing properties just like a tree: “Far more small things than large ones” across all scales from the smallest to the largest, and “more or less similar things” on each scale. As a physical phenomenon, and mathematical concept, living structure is essentially empirical, discovered and developed from miniscule observation in nature- and human-made things, and it affects our daily lives in some practical ways, such as where to put a table or a flower vase in a room, helping us to make beautiful things and environments. Living structure is not only empirical, but also philosophical and visionary, enabling us to see the world and space in more meaningful ways. This paper is intended to defend living structure as a physical phenomenon, and a mathematical concept, clarifying some common questions and misgivings surrounding Alexander’s design thoughts, such as the objective or structural nature of beauty, building styles advocated by Alexander, and mysterious nature of his concepts. For this purpose, we first illustrate living structure—essentially organized complexity, as advocated by the late Jane Jacobs (1916–2006)—that is governed by two fundamental laws (scaling law and Tobler’s law), and generated in some step by step fashion by two design principles (differentiation and adaptation) through the 15 structural properties. We then verify why living structure is primarily empirical, drawing evidence from Alexander’s own work, as well as our case studies applied to the Earth’s surface including cities, streets, and buildings, and two logos. Before reaching conclusions, we concentrate on the most mysterious part of Alexander’s work—the luminous ground or the hypothesized “I”—as a substance that pervasively exists everywhere, in space and matter including our bodies, in order to make better sense of living structure in our minds. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
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(2), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci3020046 - 21 Apr 2019
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Review

Jump to: Editorial, Research, Other

Open AccessReview
Assessing Alexander’s Later Contributions to a Science of Cities
Urban Sci. 2019, 3(2), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci3020059 - 30 May 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Other

Open AccessEssay
A Search for Beauty/A Struggle with Complexity: Christopher Alexander
Urban Sci. 2019, 3(2), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci3020064 - 16 Jun 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Beauty. Christopher Alexander’s prolific journey in building, writing, and teaching was fueled by a relentless search for Beauty and its meaning. While all around him the world was intent on figuring out how to simplify, Alexander came to embrace complexity as the only [...] Read more.
Beauty. Christopher Alexander’s prolific journey in building, writing, and teaching was fueled by a relentless search for Beauty and its meaning. While all around him the world was intent on figuring out how to simplify, Alexander came to embrace complexity as the only path to his goal. The Beauty and life of that which he encountered and appreciated—an Indian village, a city, a subway network, an old Turkish carpet, or a campus—lay in its well-ordered complexity. As a designer and maker he found that simplicity came from choosing—at every step—the simplest way to add the necessary complexity. The failure of so much of our modern world, in Alexander’s eyes, was oversimplification, wantonly bulldozing context, misunderstanding the relationships of part and whole, ignoring the required role of time in the shaping of shapes, and ultimately dismissing, like Esau, our birthright of Value in favor of a lentil pottage of mere Fact. Ever elusive, Beauty demands of her suitors a constant return of attention to see what might be newly revealed, and Alexander duly returned again and again in pursuit of the mystery. In this essay—essentially biographical and descriptive of one man’s endeavors—we examine the full arc of his work from dissertation to most recent memoir. We don’t shy away from his failures, and we don’t simplify his journey. We leave work done by other scholars for another day. We reach no conclusion, rather, we invite readers to reflect on what Alexander’s lifelong effort suggests to them about their own path, their own sense of aesthetics and order, innate cognitive shortfalls, and professional blind alleys. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop