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The Timeless Way of Building

55 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195024029
ISBN-10: 0195024028
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Editorial Reviews


"Excellent text for architectural theory and design--a must for design students."--Brad Grant, California Polytechnic State University

About the Author

Christopher Alexander is a builder, craftsman, general contractor, architect, painter, and teacher. He taught from 1963 to 2002 as Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and is now Professor Emeritus. He has spent his life running construction projects, experimenting with new building methods and materials, and crafting carefully articulated buildings--all to advance the idea that people can build environments in which they will thrive.

Acting on his deeply-held conviction that, as a society, we must recover the means by which we can build and maintain healthy living environments, he has lived and worked in many cultures, and built buildings all over the world.

Making neighborhoods, building-complexes, building, balustrades, columns, ceilings, windows, tiles, ornaments, models and mockups, paintings, furniture, castings and carvings--all this has been his passion, and is the cornerstone from which his paradigm-changing principles have been derived.

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Product Details

  • Series: Center for Environmental Structure (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195024028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195024029
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.2 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

312 of 326 people found the following review helpful By Leonard R Budney on August 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
``The Timeless Way of Building'' explains the idea of patterns in architecture. A pattern is a way to solve a specific problem, by bringing two conflicting forces into balance.
Here's a very simple example of a pattern. When a room has a window with a view, the window becomes a focal point: people are attracted to the window and want to look through it. The furniture in the room creates a second focal point: everyone is attracted toward whatever point the furniture aims them at (usually the center of the room or a TV). This makes people feel uncomfortable. They want to look out the window, and toward the other focus at the same time. If you rearrange the furniture, so that its focal point becomes the window, then everyone will suddenly notice that the room is much more ``comfortable''.
I applied that pattern to my own living room, by moving the TV under the window and rearranging the furniture, and I was amazed what a difference it made! That's a very simple example, and there are literally hundreds more in this book and its sequel. Simply reading them is fascinating; it will convince you that you can make your own home into something as wonderful in its own way as the Taj Mahal--which is Alexander's whole point.
In fact, the book's main idea is much more powerful than that. It applies to almost every aspect of life, not just to architecture. When a situation makes us unhappy, it is usually because we have two conflicting goals, and we aren't balancing them properly. Alexander's idea is to identify those ``conflicting forces'', and then find a solution which brings them into harmony. It's a simple concept, but once you appreciate it you realize how deep it really is.
This is definitely one of the best books on my shelf. It has really changed the way I look at...everything.
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139 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Mark Wieczorek on December 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I come to this book as a designer, as a technology professional, as a manager, and as a person who has always been interested in gaining an understanding of the patterns and systems governing our universe.
The book is organized into three sections, I'll summarize each of them for you.
The Quality
The author postulates a Quality without a Name. "The fact that this quality cannot be named does not mean that it is vague or imprecise... I shall try to show you now, why words can never capture it, by circling around it, through the medium of a half a dozen words." These words are "Alive" "Whole" "Comfortable" "Free" "Exact" "Egoless" "Eternal." The Quality is related to yet is none of those things.
My take on this section is that this Quality Without a Name is very sort of touchy feely. It seems to boil down to trusting your emotions - if something feels good it is good.
The Gate
In the introduction the author says that there is only one way of building. "There is one timeless way of building... It is... powerful and fundamental... And there is no other way in which a building or a town which lives can possibly be made." The author states that because architects and city planners are removed from the community, unlike the way people once built things, that we've lost this way, this language.
He then proposes a Pattern Language, which is the heart of the book (In my humble opinion). A Pattern is a way to identify, build, and share this precies way of making buildings and towns that are alive.
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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. McDonald VINE VOICE on August 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book will overwhelm the uninitiated reader with its sheer volume of information and organization. Getting the most from this book requires understanding its underpinnings -- else it is a giant list of stuff.

Those underpinnings are in Alexander's book "Notes on Synthesis and Form" Unfortunately from an Amazon perspective the Author's middle initial is in that citation, so it does not show up here. Christopher W. Alexander's Notes on Synthesis and form makes all of the follow-on books understandable and more useful to you.

The additional time and money for this work are well worth it.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Alan Shalloway on July 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am a software development consultant and trainer specializing in design patterns (to give you some perspective). Design patterns are the translation of Christopher's work to software development and involves finding recurring patterns in software development (forgive me for the oversimplified definition). This book has given me incredible insights into building software in ways previously beyond my skills. However, to be honest, I think I may appreciate the esthetics of the book even more. It is so enjoyable to read. I recommend this book to my students, associates and friends all the time and I get many, many "thank you"s for doing so. A note about reading it. Christopher recommends reading the italicized sections if you don't have time to read the whole book as opposed to just reading the first few chapters. This gives you a sense of the entire book as opposed to only the first few chapters in detail. I suggest reading the book through this way first anyway (italicized sections only), and then going back and reading the entire thing. It will take a couple of hours, but then when you go back and read it normally, you will understand and enjoy it much better.
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