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The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander  RSS feed

 
Bill Bradbury
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For those of you attending or anyone else who reads this, I have a book that I would like to discuss

The Timeless Way of Building






 
Bill Bradbury
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Hello All,

Sorry I haven't been updating this thread, I've been busier than a 1 legged man in a butt kicking contest!

The first thing that I would like to talk about is the Timeless Way of Building. We're going to jump right in the deep end!

What are people's thoughts on what it means to utilize a language of patterns to describe the incredible diversity of our common ancestral building heritage in order to manifest our living heritage and come into harmony with the myriad creatures and forces that inhabit our world?

A building or town will only be alive to the extent that it is governed by the timeless way.

To seek the timeless way, we must first know the quality without a name.

To reach the quality without a name, we must then build a living pattern language as a gate.

The referenced book is online at the link above. Please respond even if you don't think that your answers are very good.

All Blessings,
Bill

 
Jennifer Richardson
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Please respond even if you don't think that your answers are very good.


Okay, I will jump in and try to articulate some of my thoughts to get things started, although I have only just begun to wade into the book...

One of the first things that comes to mind is universality vs. particularity...I usually think of natural building as being very specific to its site, locale, the people who created it (their social organization, religious beliefs, etc.), the materials it is built from...not something that can just be "generalized"...a contrast to modern "cookie cutter" architecture.

And yet, you see certain methods and styles and ways of solving problems cropping up again and again in many different cultures (there are many good examples of this in the Raised Earth Foundations thread, which I have been reading over the last day or two...also, I have been looking into bousillage construction for a build I am planning, and all of a sudden I start noticing a general theme of timber frames infilled with some sort of earth/clay/cob mix everywhere, in many different cultures and architectural styles). I am reminded of Noam Chomsky's thoughts on human language, that there is a sort of universal grammar that is inborn, so that despite all the many nuances of human language and its specificity to different cultures, and the way it shapes and is shaped by the human groups who create and use it in different ways...there are indeed patterns that apply to all of human language.

Another thing I am reminded of in reading the book, especially the quote you included ("the timeless way"..."the quality without a name"...), is Taoism, and its way of circumnavigating a concept in order to bring one closer to understanding it, and its emphasis on working with the forces and flows of nature rather than opposing them. I am only part of the way through the section where the authors begin discussing various words ("alive," "whole," etc.) that bring us closer to being able to describe the "quality without a name", so others may have more to say about this...
 
Gabriel Grace
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Hey all,
What a question Bill, a lot to think about, but I'll put down just a couple thoughts now and try to come back with a more thought out answer.
I would like to dive into how building the timeless way interacts with the native creatures and forces. what common characteristics do you find between traditionally built homes? One commonality is the ability for a house to breathe. just like we have skin that is designed to interact with a myriad of different things, buildings must have the similiar qualities. Breath is probably one of the most important ways to connect to your environment. Depending on the environment, houses are designed to breathe appropriately. That's all I have now. My phone is dying. Looking forward to talking more about it.
Gabe
 
Bill Bradbury
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Jennifer Richardson wrote:
One of the first things that comes to mind is universality vs. particularity...I usually think of natural building as being very specific to its site, locale, the people who created it (their social organization, religious beliefs, etc.), the materials it is built from...not something that can just be "generalized"...a contrast to modern "cookie cutter" architecture.

Yes, this is the first hurdle; going deep into understanding our world and the subtle energies that surround us, both locally and universally, is a requirement for living architecture.
Jennifer Richardson wrote:
And yet, you see certain methods and styles and ways of solving problems cropping up again and again in many different cultures (there are many good examples of this in the Raised Earth Foundations thread, which I have been reading over the last day or two...also, I have been looking into bousillage construction for a build I am planning, and all of a sudden I start noticing a general theme of timber frames infilled with some sort of earth/clay/cob mix everywhere, in many different cultures and architectural styles). I am reminded of Noam Chomsky's thoughts on human language, that there is a sort of universal grammar that is inborn, so that despite all the many nuances of human language and its specificity to different cultures, and the way it shapes and is shaped by the human groups who create and use it in different ways...there are indeed patterns that apply to all of human language.

Oh my!!! You've already realized that spoken language is a manifestation of pattern language and in doing so open yourself to the wisdom of indigenous, intact thinking.
Jennifer Richardson wrote:
Another thing I am reminded of in reading the book, especially the quote you included ("the timeless way"..."the quality without a name"...), is Taoism, and its way of circumnavigating a concept in order to bring one closer to understanding it, and its emphasis on working with the forces and flows of nature rather than opposing them. I am only part of the way through the section where the authors begin discussing various words ("alive," "whole," etc.) that bring us closer to being able to describe the "quality without a name", so others may have more to say about this...

Yes, the Tao is the timeless way. As you say; natural forces ebb and flow, so one can not build with a rigid mindset, doing the same thing the same way every time, and still be in this eternal ebb and flow.
Two words that I like for the quality without a name are intact and unselfconscious.

All Blessings,
Bill
 
Bill Bradbury
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Gabriel Grace wrote:Hey all,
What a question Bill, a lot to think about, but I'll put down just a couple thoughts now and try to come back with a more thought out answer.
I would like to dive into how building the timeless way interacts with the native creatures and forces. what common characteristics do you find between traditionally built homes? One commonality is the ability for a house to breathe. just like we have skin that is designed to interact with a myriad of different things, buildings must have the similiar qualities. Breath is probably one of the most important ways to connect to your environment. Depending on the environment, houses are designed to breathe appropriately. That's all I have now. My phone is dying. Looking forward to talking more about it.
Gabe


Hi Gabe,

Breath=Prana
Prana is life, no Prana=no life.
Living architecture is not possible without breath.
When you walk into a newly built modern home, all you smell is stale, chemical deathodor; this is not alive.

Keep on walking brother,
Bill
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Expanding on the spoken language vs...architectural language?...theme...

One of the really useful and (if you think about it) kind of amazing things about spoken language is that it allows us to express unique thoughts, thoughts we have never thought or expressed before, thoughts that are very situational and/or personal...and allows us to be very precise in our expression...using patterns that we have already assimilated and internalized--grammatical forms, certain phrases, idioms, or metaphors, etc. And of course, others who share our language and are familiar with its general patterns can understand us easily and respond. So our use of language is generative, not mere mimicry or regurgitation of what we have heard, even if we use common forms and a limited selection of patterns to say what we want to say.

When we are children, we often mimic what adults say without understanding it...we may pretend to write letters when really we are just scribbling...or talk into a play phone with the tone of voice our mother uses, her rising and falling intonations, while speaking nonsense...but once we have internalized these patterns and come to understand them, we can easily generate infinite unique expressions that are coherent and graceful.

So if architecture is like this...when our understanding is not complete, we might just be sticking rooms together or adding a staircase or some other feature like sticking Legos together, out of habit or just because we can, and making nonsensical or ugly or useless buildings that do not form integrated wholes, but when we understand what we are doing and have really taken in the patterns of "good" buildings...buildings that have "the nameless quality"--until they have become part of us the way our language is part of us, we should be able to generate good, beautiful buildings without painful striving or precise mimicry...to create new buildings that are perfectly suited for their surroundings and the events that take place in them and are whole in themselves.
 
Bill Bradbury
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Yes, exactly!

The majority of buildings in use today are gibberish; an over-analysed mish mash of toxic materials assembled with little skill or care. This has got to stop!

When we see ourselves as the manifestation of 2 million years' of ancestors building and living in the most appropriate homes possible for our technologies, resources and climates; the insanity of our current predicament becomes glaringly obvious.

But where did we go wrong?

When did we decide to deviate from traditional vernacular building styles incorporating only local materials to homogenized buildings sourced from a centralized distribution model?
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Well, I would have to say the Industrial Revolution was a big factor (but then, I blame it for a lot of things!).

The factory model of disparate parts being manufactured separately and then assembled into an end product (I hesitate to say that they are assembled into a "whole," because I think these end products are almost never "whole" in a meaningful sense) for the sake of "efficiency", economies of scale, homogenization so that goods can be distributed more widely, etc.

It resulted in a literal dis-integration of many things that once possessed coherence and integrity into the aforementioned "gibberish."


I also think a lot was lost with colonization (in various places and times), when indigenous ways of doing things were often deliberately stamped out or repressed, and the "settlers"/invaders imposed ways of doing things, building things, etc. that (while perhaps suited to the home country from which they were imported) did not make sense in their new locations, yet were assumed to be "superior" (although you do see adaptation and borrowing from native cultures, too). I could also say some things about post-Enlightenment European thinking and its reductionist tendencies, but I think the Industrial Revolution was probably the tipping point and culmination of these problematic tendencies.
 
Bill Bradbury
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Jennifer, what you say reminds me of the story of a group pioneers that stopped in the town I grew up in before starting on a new route through the desert instead of around it, called the Hasting's Cutoff. You've probably heard of the Donner party, but when they departed Twenty Springs(later Fort Grant and then Grantsville), they were the Donner-Reed party. They departed from the last outpost before the vast salt desert with rested oxen and full supplies, but soon ran into difficulty. The salt flats are often bottomless mud lakes and drinkable water or edible plants are only found in the surrounding mountains that they were in too much of a hurry to get across the interminable salty desert to spend the time hunting and gathering in. So they drove their oxen hard, with almost no water or food, until they gave out. Then they left the oxen to die, along with many wagons, tools and anything else they couldn't cram onto the other wagons. Unbeknownst to them the local indians, now called Goshute, were trailing them and watching. They decided that these people could not be trusted, so they didn't make contact, but later, they walked over to the oxen, gave them grass and water until they recovered and then led them off.
Two different mindsets in the same exact setting; one barely surviving(one death in the group) and the other thriving.
The point I am trying to make with this is; don't get so fixated on getting out of the desert(our current building paradigm), but take your time, look around at all the resources available and be open to knowledge from the traditional people that are often hiding their beauty from the hardened hearts of those with too little understanding to appreciate the ancestral ways of living in harmony with every portion of this great Earth.
DSC06694.jpg
[Thumbnail for DSC06694.jpg]
The Hastings' Cutoff at sunset
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Wow...when I miss something...I really miss it!!

What a great conversation. I haven't read this book in 20 years, but remember the many lessons learn from it and have gotten to see Dr. Alexander and speak with him a few times over the years after lectures. He is a foundational element of appropriate design in my view.

Bill Bradbury wrote:But where did we go wrong? When did we decide to deviate from traditional vernacular building styles incorporating only local materials to homogenized buildings sourced from a centralized distribution model?


Well....ooops...Jen beat me to it...

Jennifer wrote:Well, I would have to say the Industrial Revolution was a big factor (but then, I blame it for a lot of things!).


I could agree more, and a pivotal point in our history where much of today decline in infrastructure, consumerism and independence can be aquated to.

Bill...that was a great story, and metaphorically speaks on so many different levels. I just got done watching a "60 minutes" presentation on our failing infrastructure. In it an "expert" (??!) spoke of bridges from the 60's and 70's falling apart...Then they moved on to a railroad bridge that was in need of replacement (according to him...I say repair) after 140 years of service (I know the bridge.

Now here's the rub...that which is failing on the bridge are modern updates...What do they want to replace it with...?? Yep...the same kind of bridge they built in the 60's and 70's! If our level of collective ignorance wasn't such a threat to our species survival it would actually be funny...The hubris and greed we cling to and support among or political elite is breathtaking...

It really isn't that difficult to build a sustainable and natural building...It really isn't, but it appears in is much easier to consume the planet and build crap!


 
Jennifer Richardson
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As I've gotten further into the book (now almost halfway, heh--sorry so slow!) a couple of things have emerged that interest me:

The use of a pattern language does not by itself guarantee a "living" building/a building with the timeless quality

There is such a thing as a bad pattern language (the author talks about the one used to build his terrible office and many others like it)

So we might have the problem of creating "gibberish" buildings, or we might create buildings that follow a coherent pattern or set of rules, but the pattern is simply bad, and so is the building

So I am interested in how one can recognize when the pattern language inside one's own head is a bad one, and how to modify that...

If one creates things that are ugly and unpleasant to be in or fall apart quickly, that seems like a pretty big clue, but how to get to buildings that "live" or possess the timeless quality is another story...

Observation of buildings that do possess the quality would have to be the start of it, I think, and then from those observations formulating some of the generative "rules" that make up a pattern language...and then dealing with what happens when those rules conflict with the bad rules/assumptions one already has in one's head...

Well, I'll continue reading and see what the author has to say about all this!




 
Miles Flansburg
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Thought I would add a short video. Hope that is OK ?

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Thanks Miles......thanks for sharing that...
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Thanks for that video, Miles! I really enjoyed it.

I'm curious about y'all's thoughts on what seemed to be a theme in the talk--the counterproductivity of CAD & similar design tools, and maybe even of formal design in general...do you agree? Does one lose something in the building process by working from formal designs? Or do you think it's a useful tool after all in or maybe in certain circumstances?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Please note: there are actually 9 parts to this video that go into more detail of Dr. Alexander's thoughts and views...

Hi Jen,

I think Dr. Alexander's perspective on this is primarily a "big picture" issue in many ways when it comes to CAD. Architectural schools are just now beginning to move back to some of the foundational elements of teaching architecture that has been lost in the last 30 to 50 years of teaching it. The aim fundamentally in architecture has become "speed and profit" not necessarily good design or promoting it. This is a criminal act to folks like me et al. Dr. Alexander has been railing against and complaining about this stagnation and hubris among contemporary designers and what has become know as the "Starchitects" or "Ego architecture."

Most architects today know absolutely nothing about actually building a structure from materials to turnkey without major support from others, yet give them very little credit (not that I would want any from what they build.) Virtually zero of them could do it from raw materials to completed project, and neither can most professional contractors. Dr. Alexander is a "creative architect," and not a "historical or vernacular" architect alone. He takes from these but creates freely from his mind and the environment around it. Much of architecture today is an anathema to the structures that came before them. CAD has become the focus and bastardized the process of creativity. Now too many believe (professional and armature) that if they can render something in CAD (or on paper)...that means it can be built and it is a good idea to do so...which is a very false assumption. CAD and drawings have stagnated creativity, flexibility and homeostasis. Just...as he puts it..."building the damned thing...is just a fucked up mess!" Here is where we get to what he calls two systems of production:

System A:

This permits free thinking (within parameters) of creativity and seeking balance in the design as to how it will be lived/worked in and how it effects the environment it is built in.

System B: (80% or more of Architects and Builders)

A system that permits and encourages a formulated, bleak, and disingenuous approach to building with no real regard for the vernacular or the environment it will be placed.

So in short...its not the CAD per se that is the issue, but the person using it, and how they employ it, and the other skill sets they bring to it. For me it is just a simple tool like my chainsaw. It may speed up a process and "might" make discussions easier about something but it is not mandatory need nor will it render a perfect building just because it is in CAD or on paper. Architecture...good architecture...that is in balance with its environment is felt, discovered and listed to. This takes years of learning and listen to both oneself, the environment, and our ancestors...hubris must be check by the door with...I think I can do it this way better because I have a CAD model or something scratched onto paper...

Regards,

j
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Thanks for your response, Jay!

Regarding the two systems of production you mentioned, I see that he has another book out (published 2012) called "The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems" where it seems he develops that theme, through the lens of his Eishin School project in Japan. Here's another video dealing with that project for those who are interested:

 
Bill Bradbury
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Jennifer Richardson wrote:Well, I would have to say the Industrial Revolution was a big factor (but then, I blame it for a lot of things!).

The factory model of disparate parts being manufactured separately and then assembled into an end product (I hesitate to say that they are assembled into a "whole," because I think these end products are almost never "whole" in a meaningful sense) for the sake of "efficiency", economies of scale, homogenization so that goods can be distributed more widely, etc.

It resulted in a literal dis-integration of many things that once possessed coherence and integrity into the aforementioned "gibberish."


I also think a lot was lost with colonization (in various places and times), when indigenous ways of doing things were often deliberately stamped out or repressed, and the "settlers"/invaders imposed ways of doing things, building things, etc. that (while perhaps suited to the home country from which they were imported) did not make sense in their new locations, yet were assumed to be "superior" (although you do see adaptation and borrowing from native cultures, too). I could also say some things about post-Enlightenment European thinking and its reductionist tendencies, but I think the Industrial Revolution was probably the tipping point and culmination of these problematic tendencies.


Though I completely agree with you Jen, I believe that the emergence of empires was the start of our cultural disintegration that has resulted in the IR and the homogenized mess that we have become. This goes back to the Mayan, Incan and Egyptian pyramids, all those monstrous castles and obscene churches, everywhere that the people gave their energy and creativity to another class of people who ruled over them through the obfuscation of the divine by locking up God(s) in buildings and ceremonies. I know this is not a popular view, but I believe that is where the trouble came from. When we as a people decided that an idea of God(s) could supplant actual firsthand knowledge of the divine in nature, the connection to all living things began to deteriorate.

What Dr. Alexander is proposing in system A is to build in harmony with nature and thus restore the common connection to the divine in nature. This type of building makes you feel good in your soul. It feeds the divine instead of robbing from or covering over, which feeds the divine nature of the people who interact with this type of building. When you build in this system, it also feeds the soul of the workmen and so the expression of the divine nature of all who worked there is manifested for all to experience.

All Blessings,
Bill
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Hi Bill,

Sorry for the belated reply--things have been crazy here & we've all had some kind of summer flu.

What you're saying makes a lot of sense to me. My understanding is that in many cases, the emergence of hierarchy and social stratification in early societies often coincided with the development of a priest class who used religion & an allegedly privileged relationship to the divine as a tool of social & economic control--this seems especially true when there was an agricultural surplus available, and people were motivated to accumulate it. And then, later, the idea of the Great Chain of Being, the monarchs' divine right to rule, etc., and the need to put the "fear of God" into the people in order to reinforce those hierarchies, often reflected in the scale and design of the great religious buildings...art and sculpture and architecture being used as propaganda for Caesar or the Pharaoh or the Holy Roman Emperor or whomever, driven by ego and the need for control...the plundering of resources & labor from subjugated areas and classes to serve the ruling center...all that would have planted the seed of the hyper-specialization, exploitation, and globalization/homogenization of the Industrial Revolution.

Interesting that social control seems to have become much more secularized since then...but ideas like Social Darwinism and scientific racism emerged in their turn to fit the more "rational" spirit of the day...and I would say that some of our modern political and economic dogmas fill the same role today...but I probably shouldn't open that can of worms here.
 
Bill Bradbury
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So, if control by the powerful is maintained by socio-political and economic dogma, promulgated through the entertainment and advertisement industries; what is it that makes the people accept this preposterous way of living as normal?

Why do we proletariat work so had to elevate the entitled to the new royal?

Why do we give our gifts of sweat and creativity to those that only consume?

What can we change about the way we view our world that would cause the people to throw off these self-imposed shackles and assume their birthright?

Lastly; how does architecture reinforce the dogma of our oppressors or help to bring in the light of big-hearted charitable equanimity?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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So, if control by the powerful is maintained by socio-political and economic dogma, promulgated through the entertainment and advertisement industries; what is it that makes the people accept this preposterous way of living as normal?


Perhaps social and individual complacency and sloth? Combine that with an individual loss of motivation to change or accept change, as this is attached to sloth and lazyness of not caring to put forth effort to either "individual growth" let alone personal/spiritual growth?

Why do we proletariat work so had to elevate the entitled to the new royal?


I think there is a strong degree of "social coveting" especially by members of the GOP, that someday they too will be part of the "1%" and that what the "1%" should have the right to get whatever they want as they deserve and earned it. As ludicrous as some of us may think that is, it appears to be the underlying normative culture of the majority or at least 50.9% of us.

Why do we give our gifts of sweat and creativity to those that only consume?


When part of a social construct, where the majority of the members have either "no choice" or "no skills" then being part of the "serving class" (or "caregiver-teacher" class) is bound to fall upon the shoulders of those the understand change, and choice while at the same time having skills. Kinda like the "grasshopper and the ant" story...There are many versions of that...some dark and sinister, others more light, balanced and compassionate.

Many of us "tithe" either money, time or both...which is actually a selfish act. I give, because it makes me feel good. I try to hold compassion in my heart because it renders a more balanced state of being within me...Mindfulness, goes beyond the "childishness" and "egotism" of "objectivism," that Ann Rand preached...

What can we change about the way we view our world that would cause the people to throw off these self-imposed shackles and assume their birthright?


Role modeling...freely and compassionately...a different way of living. At the same time, changing the value matrix on a macro scale within communities. As permaculture concepts spread up the continuum of understanding the underlying social matrix of overall society has no other choice but to feel the impact...Just as a small pebble in a pond creates ripples that travel outward to great distance...One changes two, which changes four, and on word.

This may be rather too optimistic or over simplified and objective, yet it contains some elements that are bound to be meaningful in the long term...assuming that someone like Vladimir (ironically his first name meaning: ""peace, world") V. Putin doesn't blow us all up proving his ego is stronger than the rest of the world, or that the Yellow Stone Caldera decides to erupt...Nature is ultimately the decider in all of this.. and can shake us off like a bad cold at any second...

Lastly; how does architecture reinforce the dogma of our oppressors or help to bring in the light of big-hearted charitable equanimity?


How we are building "collectively" is a perfect reflection of how our society thinks and lives. I am actually not surprised at all by how we build and the materials we choose to build with. It actually reflects the sickness that permeates the social matrix we are trapped living next to or within. Only by role modeling (or nature stepping in) will effective change take place. Positive change is usually a slow thing...again...unless nature steps in, then it could be "adapt or die," time..
 
Judi Anne
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Thanks for pointing this out, Bill Bradley!
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Crawling out from under my rock temporarily to continue this discussion, which has been turning over in my mind...

I think that a lot of the way we are building today has to do with our national (possibly global now) mythology of progress--in which I'm defining "progress" as being "continuing to push on in the same direction we've been going".

The mythology I'm talking about revolves around he idea of ever-increasing levels of technological sophistication, increasing "standards of living" (as opposed to quality of life), continually increasing average lifespan and curing virtually every disease or disorder known to man, enfranchising/extending rights to more and more people (at least formally), quite possibly colonizing more and more planets and spreading ourselves throughout the universe (or at least the galaxy) in infinite shiny triumph over any suggestion of the limitation to human capacities, etc.

I think this is rooted to some degree in historical reality, but a lot of costs and horrors get erased from the myth (attempted (and in some cases successful or near-successful) genocide of Native peoples, horrific ecological destruction, the rise of chronic "diseases of civilization" to replace infectious ones, etc.) and often we pat ourselves on the back for coming up with ingenious solutions to problems that we ourselves caused in our shortsightedness, ignorance, and arrogance. Moreover, a lot (probably the vast majority) of the progress that we did make was a result of subsidization by vast amounts of stored energy in the form of petroleum and other fossil fuels, and I think that that abundant supply of very cheap energy encouraged a delusion in which the history of the human race looks something like a graph of a linear (or even exponential) function that just shoots off forever upwards until it hits the glorious, endless future amongst the stars I mentioned earlier.

So when your entire worldview, as a society, is based on the idea that "progress" (in the same direction you've been going) is the source of all good things and is inherently desirable, and that all things from the past are inherently inferior, "backward" (note the terminology), and undesirable, it is unsurprising that traditional ways of building are abandoned and shunned in favor of constant "innovations" that are assumed to be superior regardless of how they actually perform, how they affect people aesthetically, how much they cost to build, maintain, or buy, etc.

And people keep chugging away for the machine, because they think the machine is going to build the future they've come to envision as humanity's ultimate destiny, and withdrawing from that system in favor of something simpler and more equitable would mean giving up that mythology. Going "backward" is unthinkable; it's perverse; it's defeatist.

America of course is the ultimate symbol of this mythology (especially to Americans!). America = progress = democracy = capitalism. So that's the dream I think people keep working for, and their unconscious devotion to the mythology blinds them to their actual lived experience, and to the historical realities, and to the wisdom of people who are not valued in the narrative of progress. So they will live in hideous buildings that make them sick and that fall apart in 20 or 50 years, and sell their precious time and energy to pay the mortgages on those houses, and buy second houses (progress up the ladder of social status!) and scoff at people who would live in "squalor", and defend to the death the social/economic/political arrangements that are exploiting them, because they think that those arrangements are the only way to achieve the destiny they've come to believe that they're entitled to, both personally (the "American Dream") and societally, and in terms of the overarching myth of human destiny I outlined above.

At least that's what I've come to think.

Thus ends my screed.
 
August Hurtel
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Your screed is very accurate.

When I think of building this way, I inevitably think about the inter-generational nature of this thing- people from this generation have to teach some tentative version of the pattern language to their children, then it would be the children and grand-children who began to take off with it. This would be similar to a couple going to France and raising their children up to speak French- the child should end up being far more fluent than the parents.

The myth of progress is often anti-child, and tends to encourage impatience- thus the tendency is to evangelize, and mimic an algae bloom, so that they can point to that brief flash of life. Sadly, this merely wastes resources and potentially damages environment, making it harder for anything more balanced to take hold.
 
Pearl Sutton
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I read through this thread with interest, having just re-read A Pattern Language last year as part of designing the house we are (still brawling with builders about) building.

I was looking for my specific needs, and I saw the deep ideas y'all are discussing, but I also saw something that I don't see mentioned by anyone else. I saw how to look at buildings, and see "what patterns are working here, which are not, and why?" and I have used that to design our OWN patterns for ourselves. I took some of his patterns, some intact, some modified, and figured out some of my own, and used them to design what me and my mother want in a house. His patterns seem very focused on the family, kids, etc, we don't live with children, but we are not in his old age/retired category either. I do stuff that requires workshop space in the house, we want solar and thermal mass worked into the design, and accessibly stuff, and we like comfy places to read, and lots of light and air, but we aren't strong enough or rich enough to build out of totally moldable materials like cob, so his designs aren't very realistic for us.

To me the best part of the book was the CONCEPT "there are patterns, look for them, find your OWN." After reading it and telling my mom about it all, we started looking, seeing what patterns we we responding to when we loved or hated a feature or a whole building. I also took the pattern idea into our base permaculture layout, made sure the patterns that matter to us are designed into the landscape NOW, before the work on the dirt begins, so when it's farther along it will be growing up to be OUR patterns in the trees and land (as well as base permaculture patterns like "here be swales") and not the ones other people want or need.

And for me personally, I realized one of my MAJOR patterns that other people call "a godforsaken mess" is "tools within my reach" I use a lot of tools, in all my things I do, from computers and saws, to sewing machines, medical stuff, and a lot of kitchen supplies. If it's not within reach, I make it that way, whether it makes a "mess" or not, I'm a master of the "pile of chaos" system of living... Learning JUST that one thing about myself was worth the price of the book. I'm designing FOR that trait, not against it like normal houses seem to be (no idea who decided homes must be empty showplaces fit for a magazine.)

One more thought: I cried when I read it, there is SO much potential for neat, human friendly designs, and it's not common in this culture. I read his comments about what it would look like if it's allowed to continue like it was headed (70's I think, when it was written) and then I looked as I drove around, saw soul dead strip malls, suburbs not made for humans... And I cried, for what we COULD have, versus what we do.

 
Bill Bradbury
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Jennifer,
Yes, your screed is true!
That was very beautiful and I have nothing to add.

Pearl,
I too appreciate organized chaos and tools within reach. This is part of my pattern of living and seems to be the way of natural people everywhere.

Thirteen Thank You's,
Bill
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My workshop
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Though I completely agree with you Jen, I believe that the emergence of empires was the start of our cultural disintegration that has resulted in the IR and the homogenized mess that we have become. This goes back to the Mayan, Incan and Egyptian pyramids, all those monstrous castles and obscene churches, everywhere that the people gave their energy and creativity to another class of people who ruled over them through the obfuscation of the divine by locking up God(s) in buildings and ceremonies. I know this is not a popular view, but I believe that is where the trouble came from. When we as a people decided that an idea of God(s) could supplant actual firsthand knowledge of the divine in nature, the connection to all living things began to deteriorate.


I'm not sure if this is true; many religious buildings, and especially many European monastery complexes, seem to be harmonious and "timeless" buildings, to have worked for the people who inhabited them and to have withstood the test of time.
 
Bill Bradbury
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:
Though I completely agree with you Jen, I believe that the emergence of empires was the start of our cultural disintegration that has resulted in the IR and the homogenized mess that we have become. This goes back to the Mayan, Incan and Egyptian pyramids, all those monstrous castles and obscene churches, everywhere that the people gave their energy and creativity to another class of people who ruled over them through the obfuscation of the divine by locking up God(s) in buildings and ceremonies. I know this is not a popular view, but I believe that is where the trouble came from. When we as a people decided that an idea of God(s) could supplant actual firsthand knowledge of the divine in nature, the connection to all living things began to deteriorate.


I'm not sure if this is true; many religious buildings, and especially many European monastery complexes, seem to be harmonious and "timeless" buildings, to have worked for the people who inhabited them and to have withstood the test of time.


Hi Gilbert,

I am deeply sorry if I have offended you or any other religious folk out there, it was not my intent. I see that you are Catholic so this entire quote is probably offensive, but look into these things deeply before writing them off. Before empires and religions, there was just culture to connect the people to one another. This allowed people to express their spirituality in their own way without the judgement of "authority" to tell them that their path is wrong. The only wrong is to go against your internal compass, the little questioning voice that internally guides us all.
Basically, there are 2 kinds of buildings; the type where a team of people cooperatively build according to internal guidance and those built in a top down authoritative method utilizing force or coercion to obtain a symbol of status and the image of superiority.

All Blessings,
Bill
 
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