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The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems (Center for Environmental Structure) 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199898077
ISBN-10: 0199898073
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Alexander, again, does what he does so well: in the process of adult argument, weave biology, theology, art appreciation, and geometry, plus cultural call outs from Jung to Fellini, into his tale." - Architect's Newspaper


About the Author


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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Product Details

  • Series: Center for Environmental Structure
  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199898073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199898077
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.1 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael W. Mehaffy on October 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The 1977 book A Pattern Language remains a classic in humane and sustainable design, along with series companions including The Timeless Way of Building and A New Theory of Urban Design. But the books left many readers wanting to know more. How do we actually build such places? What are the challenges, and how do we overcome them? In this long-awaited response - over 25 years in the making - the authors deliver the goods, and then some.

The book is a fascinating case study of a remarkable project "from the trenches" - the authors' design and construction of the Eishin School campus near Tokyo, Japan. But it is, more broadly, a moving and compelling essay on what has happened to our built environment over the last century. It joins other cautionary books of recent years - Jane Jacobs' Dark Age Ahead comes to mind - warning that we have a choice, and indeed a struggle, if we want to avert an unfolding planetary disaster. The choice is between a more beautiful, more humane, and more sustainable basis for design, or a continuation of the status quo - a default option that looks increasingly untenable.

The principal author, Christopher Alexander, knows a little something about the subject of design, having played a major role in several design fields including software, urban planning and architecture. Indeed, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential design theorists and practitioners of the last century, as principal author of Notes on the Synthesis of Form, "A City is Not a Tree," the aforementioned A Pattern Language, and other landmarks. Here he offers concrete ideas about what will be required for a sustainable future, and his case study is an acid test, vividly illustrating the complex issues we face.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am not a professional architect, although when I was young, that was my aim. I could not hope to write a better review than Mr. Mahaffy's about this book. I do, however, own every book Amazon sells (and some they didn't) by Christopher Alexander. They are never-ending sources of wisdom and hope for me. They live on my wisdom shelf, apart from the majority of my thousands of other books, and I turn to them for the sort of deep-seeing that is found in this book. I also find myself near weeping for joy at the depth of seeing, expressed in carefully-chosen words, that reveals the respect for the humans whose lives intertwine with the buildings, and the respect for a building that supports the leading of humane life.

There are some "experts" who arrogantly assume that they, and they only, know what the rest of us "should" do, but Alexander makes the assumption that we are all experts in our own lives, and that we all have the ability to create truthfully and beautifully. We may lack the skills and processes to do so in the contemporary world, but we do not lack the impetus or talent. The work described in this book, as in his others, is essentially the very detailed equivalent of a sculptor's identifying and removing all the bits of marble that are not The Piéta, of getting deeply in to where the truth and beauty live. In describing the processes, both physical an mental, so minutely, Alexander gives us a blueprint or road map for manifesting our own abilities.

I am saying this badly, and I'm sorry for that, but so much of what this book gives to me is not-yet-speech-ripe. This book, as have its predecessors, leaves me overwhelmed with joy. Instead of acting individualistically to put another silk suit in their closets, the authors appear to be struggling with how best to cooperate with the structure of the Universe. I can't tell you how very much I hope that many follow them in that undertaking.
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Format: Hardcover
Alexander is a visionary. Battle reads like the rantings of somebody at the end of a frustrating career. At one level, it is about the design and building of a school campus in Japan in the 1980's. He spends over 300 pages providing a blow-by-blow history of the project. By his own accounts, he had extreme difficulty working with the (rather corrupt) Japanese construction companies. He blames this on their 'System B' methods, focused on engineering and profit (and pretty pictures in architecture magazines). However, it seems to me Alexander is intolerant of anybody, and any company, which doesn't have his extraordinary vision. This excessive expectation lessens the practicality of his vision.

At another level, the book is about 'the old way' of building, 'System A'. In this system, the goal is creating an environment (buildings, benches, foliage, light, etc.) which is highly livable - a place people want to be. It requires constantly adjusting during construction, feeling how the pieces work together and making decisions and changes as you go. Obviously, this is an uncertain and expensive proposition. I admire the vision, but Alexander's constant ravings at the failings of the construction company to work within this system (and on a fixed budget, no less) is a great distraction.

After reading hundreds of pages of Alexander complaining about how impossible it was to work correctly with tight timelines, limited budget, constant politicking, and especially 'System B' construction companies, one would expect a conclusion about how the result was a mediocre campus. Quite the opposite: Chapter 19 is dedicated to extolling the virtues of the finished product. Which is fine, except: doesn't that rather weaken the argument? He lost the battles but won the war?
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