The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems

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The purpose of all architecture, writes Christopher Alexander, is to encourage and support life-giving activity, dreams, and playfulness. But in recent decades, while our buildings are technically better--more sturdy, more waterproof, more energy efficient-- they have also became progressively more sterile, rarely providing the kind of environment in which people are emotionally nourished, genuinely happy, and deeply contented. Using the example of his building of the Eishin Campus in Japan, Christopher Alexander and his collaborators reveal an ongoing dispute between two fundamentally different ways of shaping our world. One system places emphasis on subtleties, on finesse, on the structure of adaptation that makes each tiny part fit into the larger context. The other system is concerned with efficiency, with money, power and control, stressing the more gross aspects of size, speed, and profit. This second, "business-as-usual" system, Alexander argues, is incapable of creating the kind of environment that is able to genuinely support the emotional, whole-making side of human life. To confront this sterile system, the book presents a new architecture that we--both as a world-wide civilization, and as individual people and cultures--can create, using new processes that allow us to build places of human energy and beauty. The book outlines nine ways of working, each one fully dedicated to wholeness, and able to support day-to-day activities that will make planning, design and construction possible in an entirely new way, and in more humane ways. An innovative thinker about building techniques and planning, Christopher Alexander has attracted a devoted following. Here he introduces a way of building that includes the best current practices, enriched by a range of new processes that support the houses, communities, and health of all who inhabit the Earth.

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This 2012 book describes a construction project in Japan, led by Christopher Alexander circa 1985. To someone new to Christopher Alexander's writings, this should be the FIRST book to read, as it described how the builder actually conducted his work (in comparison to the 1970s-era "A Pattern Language", "The Timeless Way of Building" and "The Oregon Experiment" that prescribed methods).
In the writing from the 1960s through to this book, Christopher Alexander evolved his thinking as a scientist. This shows up in changes in language and definitions over time, leading to a lot of sensemaking for readers -- with some counterproductive notions that stray from Alexander's focus on built physical environments.
This book describes a project from inception, through design and construction. The building continues to operate as a school, and has since been modified. The capability for unfolding wholeness comes from decisions made some decades earlier, in the maintenance and evolution of the buildings and site.



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About the author (2012)

Christopher Alexander's series of groundbreaking books--including The Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language--have illuminated fundamental truths of traditional ways of building, revealing what gives life and beauty and true functionality to buildings and towns.

HansJoachim Neis is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Oregon in Portland, and the Director of the Portland Urban Architecture Research Laboratory.

Maggie Moore Alexander serves on the Center for Environmental Structure Board of Directors.

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