“The Nature of Order: The Phenomenon of Life” by Christopher Alexander

Living Centers

Centers arise in space and each center has life to a certain degree. It is not inherent in the center by itself, but is a function of the whole configuration in which the center occurs. The life of one center is increased or decreased according to the position and intensity of other nearby centers. The centers are the fundamental elements of the wholeness.

Fundamental Properties of Life

The fifteen ways in which centers help each other come to life: Levels of Scale, Strong Centers, Boundaries, Alternating Repetition, Positive Space, Good Shape, Local Symmetries, Deep Interlock and Ambiguity, Contrast, Gradients, Roughness, Echoes, The Void, Simplicity and Inner Calm, Non-Separateness.

Snow-covered World

1. Levels of Scale

A center becomes most intense in its life when other centers near it have a definite size relation to it at a scale which is not enormous. Smaller centers intensify the large ones, and vice versa.

4. Alternating Repetition

A kind of repetition where two systems of centers repeat in parallel. The rhythm of the first system is underlined and intensified by the alternating rhythm of the second system, which interlocks with the first.

5. Positive Space

Every single part of space has positive shape as a center. There are no amorphous meaningless leftovers.

6. Good Shape

A good shape is a center which is made up of intense centers, which have good shape themselves, built from elementary figures.

7. Local Symmetries

It is not overall symmetry, but the number of local symmetries, and their continuous overlapping that makes the design whole.

8. Deep Interlock and Ambiguity

The center and its surrounding centers interpenetrate each other, and become more deeply unified.

10. Gradients

A geometric gradient occurs in an environment where a true “field” exists with respect to a functionally important variable. The slow variation reveals inner wholeness.

11. Roughness

The result of exact adaption to the demands and constraints which happen locally in different parts of the design.

12. Echoes

Often the similar structural geometry derives from deep similarities of process that have created it.


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