“Notes on the Synthesis of Form” by Christopher Alexander

A Real Design Problem

“We are searching for some kind of harmony between two intangibles: a form which we have not yet designed, and a context which we cannot properly describe.” The harmony / good fit between form and context can be regarded as the total absence of potential misfits, which can be represented by a finite set of binary variables all taking the value 0.

A Homeostatic Form-Making Process

“The greatest clue to the inner structure of any dynamic process lies in it’s reaction to change.” The homeostatic process consists of a series of subsystems, all interlinked yet sufficiently independent of one another. The subsystems are of equal scope, and are as small, specific and detailed as possible. The fast reaction to single failures, complemented by resistance to all other changes, allows the process to adjust subsystem by subsystem and reestablish equilibrium.

Constructive Diagram

A constructive diagram is a description of the form and of the functional requirements at the same time, i.e., a unified description of the field of forces. Each constructive diagram is a hypothesis about the nature of the context. A good diagram illuminates the context and the form. It is usually improved by clarity and economy of notation; it can not be obtained by deductive methods, but only by abstraction and invention; it is rejected when a discrepancy turns up.


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