The Process of Creating Life

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Excerpts from Christopher Alexander's magnum opus The Nature Of Order, Book 2, The Process of Creating Life

Chapter 1—Structure-Preserving Transformations

Let us now consider the fifteen properties, not merely as results of structure-preserving transformations, but as the names of particular types of structure-preserving transformations themselves.

In general, all the geometric properties identified in Book i are also associated with dynamic transformations which will inject these geometric properties into the system of centers of any emerging, growing whole.

Chapter 13—Patterns: Generic Rules for Making Centers, or, Making Life Enjoyable

The word 'center' below refers to the fifteen fundamental properties. Each property is such a center.

The essential ideas of pattern language theory are the following:

  1. In traditional cultures, successful environments were always built by using pattern languages [subconsciously, often by using idom - Martien].
  2. Each culture had its own pattern language.
  3. The patterns were, for the most part, always based on human needs, understanding, necessity.
  4. At the same time, there is a core of material—a central invariant structure—which is common to all cultures. A portion of this invariant core—or at least a sketch of such a thing— is described in A Pattern Language and is prescriptive rather than descriptive.
  5. It is possible to create pattern languages for our own time, which, like traditional languages, embody knowledge, cultural subtlety, human need, and emperical information about the structure of living environments, in a form which may then be used to generate living centers by a combination of unfolding process.
  6. It is possible to invent and create new pattern languages, artificially…
  7. The objectivity of the patterns is context-sensitive, and always includes the built-in reference for which that pattern works.
  8. The patterns, because of their explicitness, allow discussion, debate, and gradual improvement of the material.
  9. The artificial language will work well only to the extent that it embraces a whole.
  10. These artificial languages, like traditional languages, can then be used to steer processes of design and building, just as traditional languages played that role in society.
  11. For any new building project it is necessary to construct such a language, merely to provide a clear functional basis for the character and organization of the building.

Patterns are memorized nuggets of solution, like the patterns in traditional society, like genes in the growth of organisms. are necessary to any complex adaptive system and its process.

It is necessary that the systems of centers works as a whole, emanates as a whole from the situation, and has the capacity to create a holisitic and ordered systems which is coherent and complete.

A pattern language is a created thing. It is a work of poetry. a work of art. It is potentially as profound in its way as a building can be.

A well-constructed, deeply constructed pattern language has the power, within it, to help people visualize geometric configurations that are whole. This arises, because, deep inside the elements of the pattern language there are references to, and hints of, the fifteen transformations.

Thus, the agenda of the pattern language not only aims to record and objectify the positive things and relationships which are needed by a given culture, or a given population, or a given group of people. If it is any good, it also has, within it, a driving force which will make geometric wholeness easily visible and more easily attainable. This arises because the fifteen properties are embedded, sometimes loosly, sometimes precisely, in the patterns.