After Nature

The world's most dangerous architect has his say

So space-matter is soul-like. To make great buildings, giggle as if you were a child. Fine, fine. But is Christopher Alexander dangerous? Consider, please, the parable of the insects. In 1992, a community in Nagoya, Japan, asked the architect to help them revamp their neighborhood. They handed him an ultimatum. "Our neighborhood must be fit for insects," it said. "It is the insects which are important. We want a world in which our insects are preserved." This bug-first manifesto beautifully encapsulated Alexander's entire philosophical oeuvre. The reverence for place, the enfoldedness of life, the brazen simplicity of it all—never before had the well-being of insects been declared a top urban-planning priority.

Think of Christopher Alexander as architecture's trippy elder uncle. A wrinkled ray of light for young architects hunched despairingly over their AutoCAD drawings, Alexander continues to seek "an archetypal quality—something savage," like the thorn of a wild bramble, untamed by chichi culture. Abandon the Cartesian dogma. Unleash your inner child. Revere insects. If these are dangerous notions, Christopher Alexander is the joy-boy with a metaphysical mean streak. The empire of tradition strikes back.

illustration: Jordin Isip


The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe
By Christopher Alexander
Center for Environmental Structure, 2,156 pp. (four volumes), $300

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