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Nikos A. Salingaros: "The Legacy of Christopher Alexander and A New Conception of the Universe"

Dear friends,

Here is one of the two lectures I gave to Building Beauty, with a back link for publicizing the program. Could you please help to spread it on social media?

http://commonedge.org/the-legacy-of-christopher-alexander-and-a-new-conception-of-the-universe/

Thanks and best wishes,

Nikos
Great architecture—even modest architecture that possesses intensely human qualities—is an emergent phenomenon. We perceive a wholeness coming from the coherence among numerous design and physical elements. Alexander and his collaborators have derived techniques for generating the design components necessary for life, and also the rules for putting them together. But the final coherence—or lack of it—is a surprise that cannot be predicted or “designed.”

Alexander comes back to our visceral response to such wholeness. Our body responds subconsciously but strongly to the degrees of wholeness in our environment. We need to distinguish this positive reaction from a very different intellectual excitement due to transgressive forms, which instead trigger our fight-or-flight instinct. Alexander uses the word “sadness” for a deeply human feeling. Sadness links to physical tears, which, however, can be triggered also by an intense experience of joy. This positive feeling must come from the geometry, not from our inner emotions of the moment.

The Alexandrian method of design begins by dreaming: “imagine the most wonderful place in the world to be in so as to accomplish this function or task.” This is, after all, the basic criterion for extracting a design pattern from numerous observations. If a created structure actually succeeds in this goal, then naturally whoever experiences it will cry tears from the intensity of the positive emotion.

Alexander is insistent that this intense feeling is not a psychological reaction—it’s an actual, physical quality of the environment. This makes it independent of the emotional state of whoever experiences it. To prove this, Alexander points to the healing effect felt by anyone who attempts to generate living structure. This is the intense emotional reward for whoever creates living art, artifacts, music, and buildings in the pre-industrial sense. The production of beauty produces a healing effect on the maker. Alexander discovered a direct relationship between the creation of life and beauty, and an intense feeling of personal nourishment. Turning this affect around gives a test: “the best criterion for judging if you are creating wholeness is that you yourself feel whole and healed.”
- The Legacy of Christopher Alexander and A New Conception of the Universe

Alexander's Eishin Campus in Tokyo, where he combines the charm of the village with the romantic park, creating an unique fairy tale environment for the students.

At one side of the farmyard of my forefathers stands this "stabbur" (storehouse), filling my eyes with tears and having a strong healing effect on my soul. It celebrates its 100 years anniversary in 2020.

On the other side of the farmyard of my forefathers now stands this new pumping house, pumping water from 230 meters below the surface of Lake Mjøsa, or 110 meters below Sea level, up to 500 meters above Sea level. It stands almost where the old well was, where my forefathers swiveled water directly up from the ground with pure muscle power. Even at the renown drought of the summer of 1947 this well didn't go dry!

This structure creates a rather strong "flight and fight-reaction" in my mind, not as a result of my feelings, but as a result of the structure destroying influence of this structure on its surroundings.

It stands very oblique related to the farmyard, thus destroying the "positive space" of the farmyard, and in addition it's placed on a mound, like a pedestal, like a monument of victory, for destroying the unique rural culture of  my forefathers.

First I'll try to fight replacing it with living structure for the great jubilee of the beautiful "stabbur" in 2020, or in two years from now.

If I can't win I might choose to flight.

Anyway the technocrats of my municipality, Østre Toten in Oppland, Norway, failed their religious obligations.

"We have something like a religious obligation to create life whenever we make something."

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