Final Thesis Abstract

By Demetrius Gonzalez

Christopher Alexander's theories represent an attempt to solve a fundamental crisis facing architectural culture today. This crisis runs deep. To challenge it is to challenge the basic cosmology of the modern person. This cosmology, this worldview, many believe, is not only the root cause of the current ills in architectural culture (fewer and fewer commissions and jobs, a public which does not respect or trust the profession, growing ugliness in the built environment, buildings which don't perform well) but is also the root cause of the problems facing the world as a whole (environmental degradation, war, famine, crime). Alexander's theory posits a reorientation of individual cosmology which has profound ramifications on both individual and collective levels which in turn potentially change drastically architectural culture.

This thesis has 3 interrelated parts:

Part I

An essay will exploring the development of Alexander's theories, discussing his influences and adversaries, explicating the current crisis, the root cosmological dilemma, Alexander's solution, other similar solutions both historical and contemporary and concluding with an analysis of the viability of the theory to solve the aforementioned problems. A building built by Alexander and his colleagues—The West Dean Visitor's Centre—will be used as a case study to critique the theory in practice.

Part II

Presentation of a craft project, a leaded glass window, which was designed and built guided by Alexander's theories. The process of design and construction will be illustrated and diagrammatic sketches analyzing the geometry will be included.

Part III

An account of the personal transformation Alexander's theories can bring about, based on personal experience. The account will trace the evolution of perspective, over the course of almost 10 years, that the introduction to, and study of, Alexander's work contributed to. The account will have the following underlying themes:

  • Unity, Wholeness, "God"
  • Process: Thinking/Doing Schism, Unfolding
  • Balancing Feeling/Thinking, Masculine/Feminine
  • Subjective/Objective Dilemma --> Value ---> Morality
  • Self-development: Cooperation, Compassion, Responsibility, Love --> an Independent Mind, Fear ---> Integrity
  • Geometry

Appendix 1

Comparison and contrast of two master planning schemes: one by Alexander at Sturton-by-Stow, Lincolshire, England and another with Leon Krier at Viterbo, Italy.

Appendix 2

A 'Vision Statement' and Pattern Language for the town of Sala Baganza, Italy, produced as part of a POWIA Task Force.

© Demetrius Gonzalez and The Center for Environmental Structure