Christopher Alexander

Christopher Alexander

About Himself

I’m a very ordinary person: a very sort of plain down to earth person. And if something isn’t plain and down to earth, I don’t get it.

I had a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. I’m not a particularly good practicing Catholic in the defined sense. I’m an intensely religious person, but not in the sense of those disciplines.

(from an interview by Wendy Kohn)

His Love of Traditional Cultures

I deeply love and understand the beauties of the classical tradition. I learned Latin and Greek when I was eight years old, and was nurtured in the classic European tradition in England and Austria. My parents were both classical archeologists, and I grew up with respect for all these things. But I learned anthropology, too, and have lived all over the world, and I have joy in the paintings of aborigines in Australia, and in the starry friezes of Islamic buildings, and in the beasts of Persepolis, and the long houses of Borneo, and the mud houses of the Cameroon.

(from an open letter to architects)

His Goal in Life

Among other things, I want to find a way of talking about God in scientific terms that even Richard Dawkins might understand.

I really have as my long-distance target the desire to create a basis from which humankind can build and rebuild a beautiful world.

His Struggles and Inspiration

I think about it and worry about it every day. And too often I find myself afraid that I may not succeed sufficiently. Not long ago, I was a little bit gloomy and fed up. I went up to Inverness [on the northern California coast], had an okay meal, stayed at a motel, and went to sleep, which didn’t improve my mood. And then in the morning, I decided to drive to the northern end of Point Reyes—out where you sometimes see herds of Tule Elk.

I was getting to a place where the land falls away sharply on both sides of the road. It was misty, and I decided not to continue. I pulled off into a field, popped out of the car, and right next to the car was a patch of long grass. I lay down in the grass, looking through the stems and blades of grass, out at Tomales Bay.

I was lying there looking at this, and the perfection of it gradually began to impress itself on me. There was a faint sense of light in each of the bits of grass. It wasn’t a revelation in any literal sense, and yet as I was looking through these grass stems, myself almost part of the grass, suddenly the thought came to me, So this is what you’re trying to do! What the grass does: it is effortlessly creating a beautiful and complex environment. And it isn’t just capable of it, but it is doing it, everywhere, and every day, and so easily. I was comforted, because the grass found it so easy.

So there’s nothing for me to worry about at all. Even if I fail in my lifetime, it is so obvious. Surely people will understand it sooner or later.

(from an interview by Katy Butler)

Book Digests and Reviews

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2 thoughts on “Christopher Alexander

  1. I’m putting together notes and photographs from the five years I worked with Chris to build a house on Whidbey Island. The last sentence in this interview is now spurring me on. I’ll do all I can to see that people understand, sooner, rather than later.

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