Skip to main content

Positive Space

By Christopher Alexander. Original article here.

Published at P2P-Foundation on 11th December 2014.
Space, especially outdoor space, is positive when you experience its embrace. You feel its inside, and its outside, you experience its boundary, you can feel its center.
It has definite shape, it has a character that arises only from the land itself and what is there, it is a comfortable place to be, it is in some respects “convex”.
What matters most, is that you feel the place has a heart, you want to be there, something is going on — it makes you feel a world of some kind, with its life, is happening there.
You can make space positive, one step at a time, by making corrections. This works very well, you can feel your way into it, and you can watch the effects of what you are doing.
Step by step, you make every piece of every part of outdoor space turn into something well-shaped and positive.

  • Walk the site alone.
  • Notice all the places and features which give it its character, and its uniqueness, its center, and its boundary.
  • Are you clear in your mind where the boundary of this particular space ought to be?
  • If the boundary needs emphasizing, try putting an additional bit of “something” to increase the enclosure of the place.
  • A big piece of cardboard, a chair, a couple of chairs, a log, a couple of concrete blocks — any of these can be used, to help you to “see” whether a slight increase in enclosure will make it feel better to be there.
  • In the same way, see if the space needs a center to embellish the feeling of being there. This center does not need to be in the middle. It could be a stone, a tree, a seat, a flowering bush, a place with a view, a place where the sunshine falls. If it needs it, you might try to embellish it, very subtly, by making something that makes the center feel more solid, something you can connect yourself to, when you are there.
  • Above all, work to make sure that whatever you do there leaves the beauty of what is there now, intact.
  • When you are done thinking about it, and testing it, take one small step which is a permanent or semi-permanent thing, which will affect the place in this way you have discovered, to make it more positive.

Here is a second view of the Mhlongo farm. Now we see several positive spaces, not just the one we saw before. They are distinct, but overlapping. The positive spaces are made positive by a variety of elements, including fence, bushes, tree, woodpile — all useful, and all accumulated over time.
The Mhlongo family is a traditional Zulu family that lives on a small farm located midway between the townships of Esikhawini and Port Dunford near Richard’s Bay, South Africa. Their home is located about one kilometer off the paved road. Access is via a sandy pot holed road that winds out through a grove of eucalyptus trees across a pasture and then through a sugar cane field. 

Benard (pronounced ben-urd not “ben-ard”), the father, works as a gardener for a housing complex in Richards Bay where he earns 605 Rand ($81) per month after transport costs. Since he doesn’t have a car he takes a bus to work and back. He also grows a hectare(abt 2.5 acres) of sugarcane to supplement his income. They raise chickens, grow bananas, mangos, papayas, and tangerines, and have a small garden. Poor as they are in dollars, they are rich in beauty — and they have time, the will, and the intelligence, to make every space positive.
And the very same process can equally well be used for a great and magnificent place. Just as it can be informal, the process of creating positive space can also be formal and grand. Let us consider St Mark’s Square in Venice. It was made in about ten steps, over a period of a thousand years, each one roughly occuring every hundred years. The Square has a kind of L shape or hammerhead shape, and is composed of three main “containers.” Yet we also experience it as one container. How then, does this manage to be positive? It is, I think, because of the Campanile, built before the main space was shaped, and shown as a small black square in the right-hand plan below.
The campanile forms a virtual center at the corner which has the effect of generating three independent spaces, each with good shape (shown gray in the right-hand plan below), rather than being a single space with bad shape.
Click here, to watch a interactive movie showing the spaces and volumes of St. Mark’s Square unfolding over the period from 560 AD to about 1600 AD.
St Mark’s Square seen from the water


Popular posts from this blog

Paddehoa og plassen min

Kjære plassen min, kvalt du vart, lik ei paddehoe alle paddehannane kasta seg over i dammen om våren.
Dei ville alle bu ved dine grøne enger, då dei tykte det her var so vent og fredeleg. Men dei vørde deg ikkje, og no er du kvalt til daude.
Herr Fossemøllens augnestein stend utan låven sin, her gjeng ikkje lenger dyr og beitar i dine grøne enger. Berre grasklipparar beitar her no.
Dei elska deg til daude, og med deg i grava di tok du den rike
grendearven din.
No stend vi ribba attende.

Venter metankatastrofen oss?

I dag inneholder atmosfæren 5 gigatonn metan. Et estimat anslår at rundt 50 gigatonn metan kan være i ferd med å frigis i Arktis, dvs. en tidobling. Flere tusen gigatonn ligger lagret i den arktiske permafrosten, i den Øst-Sibirske arktiske havhylla alene ligger det 500 - 5000 gigatonn metan.

Metan er ved frigjøring mer enn 150 ganger sterkere som klimagass enn CO2, etter 20 år 86 ganger sterkere i gjennomsnitt, og etter 100 år 23 ganger sterkere. Dette fordi den blir til H2O og CO2.

Mennesket er et produkt av ilden, dette ser nå ut til å bli vår bane. Imens er det søndagsåpne butikker som debatteres, selvsagt en uting og et pådriv for konsumerismen, men allikevel et bevis på menneskets korte tidshorisont.

"Geoengineering" kan ikke hjelpe oss, det er langt mer fornuftig å lagre karbon i jordsmonnet. Det er 5-6 ganger mer karbon i jorda enn i atmosfæren og vegetasjonen sammenlagt. Her kan biokull (terra preta) spille en viktig rolle.

Biokull kan bli i jorda i flere hundre tu…

Den djupe grenda

Underleg er det å vera i fedregrenda, og frykte at den djupe grenda bakom skal ta det siste andedraget. Då har vi berre att den grunne grenda, som er ein illusjon frå Amerika.
I den grunne grenda har plassmålaren vorte ein kulissemålar, for kulisseplassar, lik fototapet med sponplatar bakom.
I den djupe grenda syng ein songane åt fedrane sine. Ein vyrder og aktar dei gamle plassane, lik levande historiemåleri i landskapet. Måla med kraftfulle penslar, av autonomi, krinslaup og retrovasjon.
I den grunne grenda har dei gamle plassane vorte villaparkar. Ein dyrkar ikkje permakultur, men får alle behov dekte utanifrå, gjennom røyr, kablar, bilar og pumpehus.
I den djupe grenda rår stilla, og elden bakom, frå dei som gjekk føre, brenn sterk og klår. Viss denne elden sloknar, rår berre den grunne grenda, og då kjem kulden snikande.