Notes and Excursions on Christopher Alexanders “The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth”

So, Facebook is good for something: A friend of mine posted on Christopher Alexander’s new book, The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World Systems, and since I like beautiful books, I ordered a copy (Powells; Amazon). Alexander is doing the sort of architecture that a permaculturist would like: Site specific, but also do-able if we can’t get dry wall from China, lumber from Canada, hardwood flooring from Indonesia, and if petroleum products like Pex or fiberglass insulation have gotten very, very expensive, along with anything (meaning everything) that depends on a petroleum-fueled supply chain. Alexander’s “vernacular” method of building — he calls it “System A” — is, one might say, “collapse-ready,” in a way that conventional architecture (the Manichean “System B”) can never be. Like permaculture.

Battle is a “riveting case study” of how one “System A” site came to be: The Eishin Higashino High School Campus in Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, Japan, near Tokyo, winner of the “Best Building in Japan” award by the Japanese Institute of Architects. But I’m not going to do a full-dress review of Battle here; I don’t feel ready. What I will do is briefly describe the system Alexander used to create, in collaboration with its users, the plan for the campus. Then, we’ll examine the question of whether Eishin Higashino is a success for its users. Finally, I’ll point to some political implications for champions of alternative systems. I should caveat that I know almost nothing of Japanese culture, so there are probably many nuances that I have missed.

But first, let me situate Eishin Higashino:

View Larger Map

It was not a little thrilling to zoom in via the Satellite view and see the buildings described and beautifully photographed in Alexander’s text, right there, on the ground. (I had visions that the entire site, which was, after all, built in 1985, had been bulldozed and turned into a golf-course or a mall.) Here’s how an architectural guidebook describes the campus:


Here is a Google Street View that shows the front gate to the campus and, to the right, part of the checkerboard building (the page may take a minute to build). Interestingly, Google’s camera car seems not to have been allowed inside the school; I thought I could do a video capture to create a fly through, but such was not to be.

System A at Eishin Higashino HS: A pattern language

Here’s what a pattern language (116: “A word picture that describes the wholeness of a place”) reads like: The main headings of the pattern language evolved for the Eishin Higahino campus.

  • 1. Global Character of Campus
    • 1.1. An outer boundary surrounds campus.
    • 1.2. Contained by this outer boundary there is a outer precinct. The outer precinct surrounds an inner precinct.
    • 1.3. The inner precinct is a densely built area where School and College have their major buildings and activities.
    • 1.4. The Outer Precinct is an area for relaxation, sport, outdoor activities and recreation.
    • 1.5. As a whole the Campus is given its character by stone foundation walls, natural concrete walls, wood columns, white plaster surfaces, some green surfaces, wide overhanging roofs, dark roofs, stones and grass and pebbles on the ground.
    • 2.1. The Entrance Street to the campus is a highly visible pedestrian Way. It begins at the Outer Boundary of the Campus, and ends at the Inner Precinct.
    • 2.2. The Small Gate marks the outer end of the Entrance Street.
    • 2.3. The Entrance Street is flanked with walls and trees. It is extremely quiet.
    • 2.4. Where the Entrance Street meets the Inner Precinct, there is a second, much larger, Main Gate. It is three stories high.
    • 2.5. Beyond the Main Gate, there is a Public Yard. Opening onto this Public Yard, there is an immense building, the great Hall. The Great Hall shapes and forms the Public Yard.
    • 2.6. Etc. (2.6-2.14)
  • 3. Buildings of Inner Precinct (3.1-3.12)
  • 4. Streets of Inner Precinct (4.1-4.15)
  • 5. Outer Precinct (5.1-5.25)
  • 6. Features of Inner Precinct (6.1-6.22)
  • 7. Special Outdoor Details (7.1-7.8)
  • 8. Interior Building Character (8.1-8.9)

Pattern numbers mentioned in the text are preceded with a hash mark: “#.”

[Sidebar: Mehaffy, in an interesting series beginning here, makes much of the influence of Alexander’s pattern language on software engineering (” If you have an iPhone, you may be surprised to know that you have Alexander’s technology in your pocket. The software that runs the apps is built on a pattern language programming system.”) While it is true that Ward Cunningham invented the wiki for the express purpose of developing a pattern language for software engineering (see, e.g., PatternLanguage) I think Mehaffy’s collapsing several layers of abstraction by calling Alexander’s practice a technology instead of a craft or an art. Biological systems are, after all, not digital.]

Here’s Alexander’s description of how the pattern language was made. (Here’s a short summary with sketches.) 117 et seq.:

Our work on the Eishin Project began, as promised in the contract, with the construction of a pattern language. We spent four to five months engaging students, teachers, and administrators in creating this new pattern language, which would spring from their hopes and dreams as well as the land itself.

The very first thing we did was spend two weeks just talking to different teachers and students, to get a feeling for their hopes and dreams. These talks were one-on-one and often laster for an hour, for any one interview, during which we asked questions, talked, probed, explored dreams of an ideal campus, and tried to understand each person’s deepest visions as a teacher, or as a student…. 

This was not easy to do. It required much of both the interviewer and the person being interviewed. … In the context of present-day Japan, where most schools are massive concrete boxes, with an asphalt playground on one side, it was hard to overcome this difficulty.  In any case, I always gently insisted…. In answer to this kind of gentle invitation, most people would begin to say something. Relucantly, hesitatingly, often with some embarrassment, they would begin to describe their feelings about things — shyly, as if it was not allowed, or if it was crazy for them to attempt it. …. For example, one teacher said something like this to me: “I imagine walking by a stream, small streams and islands, perhaps bridges, and trees hanging in the water — a place where I can walk quietly and think about my class, or collect my thoughts as I prepare to teach.”

We shall see that many of these shyly presented, hesitating thoughts and feelings, were deeply true. They represented a real truth, which was demonstrated empirically once the school was built.

But was it?

Results of the pattern language at Eishin Higashino

It must be said that the Eishin campus is deeply beautiful. One might perhaps discount the “family pictures” in Alexander’s book or related sites, but there are other pictures online; this Flickr set is excellent; as is this set, where the Small Gate (#2.2) starts the campus part of the show at slide 13; the earlier slides are useful to show the context in Japan. Here is an image of the Public Yard (#2.5), showing the Great Hall in the background. The materials used conform to #1.5: 


However, just because a building is beautiful, even site-specific, doesn’t mean it’s pleasant or even practical. The owner of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic masterpiece, Fallingwater, labelled it a “seven-bucket building,” nicknaming it “Rising Mildew,” and it was prone to sagging from the beginning (a “concrete Titanic”). Did Alexander’s pattern enable the hopes and dreams for a good school?

Here I’m handicapped, again, by my absolute ignorance of Japanese culture and language. (Readers?) I don’t know where Eishin Higashino ranks in Japanese school league tables, for example. I can say that although the buildings, as viewed through Google Street View, show wear and tear, there’s nothing excessive, especially given that the buildings are at least twenty years old. None of the photographs I’ve seen show buckets for leaks, or frames out of true, plywood windows, flapping tarpaper, temporary but permanent scaffolding, or any of the other kludges used to shore up a degrading structure. 

Nor do I see signs of unhappiness on the part of teachers or students, or institutional unhealthiness. The school’s website shows institutional pride in their unique site; there are lively pictures that don’t seem posed; artists come on sketch tours; there are pets buried on the grounds; there is an alumni association with an office on site; a designer seems to have done some rebranding. 

And we have at least one comment on the feeling the Eishin campus induces:

I did have a remarkable feeling when I left, that relates to another experience I had a long time ago. On a trip to London right after I graduated from architecture school, I paid a visit to Roehampton, a modernist housing estate that we had been taught about and advised to visit. I went out there by bus, and spent a couple of hours looking at its Corbusian scheme—high rises here, row houses there, shopping there, schools there, pedestrians separated from cars, large green areas, everything very orderly in a modernist way.

When I left to take the bus back to London, I went out to the main road, with garbage trucks and newsagents and cars and buses and a little disorder—and had a conscious feeling of being back in the real world and glad to be there. 

When we left the Eishin School it was the reverse, and I was immediately reminded of the London experience so many years ago. I felt a little bit let down: that the street lined with ordinary stucco houses, not particularly beautiful, was a disappointment compared to the place I’d just left. I might not ordinarily mention this, but the immediate connection to that London memory was so striking to me that I had to make the comparison.

[Sidebar: See here for Google-translated “reconsideration” of Alexander’s oeuvre, including the comment that the campus has “an Oriental [ouch!] look of unknown nationality, [which gives] the impression of a cardboard stage.” This resonates with me, since the stucco and wood exteriors reminded me forcibly of Sam Wanamaker’s reconstituted Globe theatre. But so what? Let it be said, however, that if there were serious problems with the school, this author would certainly have cited them.]

Implications for champions of pattern languages

Here it is sufficient for me to quote from the book. Hosoi was the managing director of the Eishin Campus from 1981 through 1990, and the person who brought Alexander in, and backed his ideas. Pages 291-292:

[I]t became clear that the antipathy toward Hosoi had not abated. In 1986, Hosoi and his felllow trustees on the Eishin Board were meeting when, quite suddenly, there was a knock at the door, and a demand by some thugs and judo students that Hosoi must join them outside. The sounds of the beating could be heard by the Board members in their meeting room, nut they did not lift a finger to help, quite possibly out of fear. Hosoi was severely beaten. Hosoi’s injuries required a stay in the hospital for broken bones in his face, including a 15 cm crack in his lower jaw. During his hospital stay, I was told that his wife and I were the only two people who knew which hospital he was in.

System B in action, eh? As Machiavelli remarked:

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones. ”

Especially, a post-modern Prince might add, when the construction industry is involved.

Or Jamie Dimon’s private police force.

Nevertheless, the Eishin Higashino campus was built. Here is the entrance street (#2.1) from the Small Gate (#2.2) to the Main Gate (#2.4):


* * *

NOTE Alexander consistently refers to the project as “Eishin” (“Eishin Gakuen”; “Eishin Campus”). The Google prefers “Eishin Higashino,” which I finally discovered through Pinterest, of all places.

UPDATE One might wonder if Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Non-Violent Protest and Persuasion could serve as a pattern language. Certainly they look a lot like patterns, and they are numbered… I’m guessing not, because Alexander’s patterns seem fractal (scale-free) and in some ways carry the rules by which they are to be assembled into a larger whole within themselves. Alexander’s patterns seem relational in a way that Sharp’s patterns are not. Then again, that could be a failure of perception on my part, or a success on my part but a creative failure on the part of practitioners, as if one had a gate without a street, for example. Hard to know, absent bold, persistent experimentation.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Alex SL

    Wait, this architectural guidebook considers “rationalist” and “empirical” to be contradictory? Either they or the schools of design that have appropriated these terms do not know what they mean. I’s say if somebody does not think empirically they can by definition not be rationalist.

    1. Richard Kline

      ‘Rationalist’ and ’empirical’ ARE oppositional categories; yes, really. Not complete contradictions but near opposed extremes in a concept-space. I guess philosophy wasn’t your principal course at univesity. . . . But then 95% of the population nowadays has no idea what conceptual basics like this mean, so it’s no wonder that our public discourse is shriekingly incoherent . . . .

      1. Eric Patton

        so it’s no wonder that our public discourse is shriekingly incoherent

        At least there’s no classism inherent in that statement.

        1. Richard Kline

          85% of the population at least has never understood what either concept means. But now that rhetoric has sunk to an obscure academic fetish and those in public life are incompetent in using the references of our culture, yeah, nobody really knows what they just said. And that is a larger problem. But don’t let the substance in the remark get in the way of your agenda.

          Eric, buddy . . . If you have something relevant to the subject, or to your own insight, by all means comment. Maybe we’ll learn something. Maybe I’ll learn something. If you want to grind a personal axe, and you do disticntly seem to, you’re making a real mistake.

        2. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

          Possibly a gentler rejoinder than Richard’s would be that words have specific meanings which are often several ticks in nuance away from popular understanding and usage. It’s rewarding to get this stuff right. That 80% or whatever of the population doesn’t know the difference because they don’t need to. Not a value judgement to say it. Itd be a more interesting and dare i say better world if more people were interested in economics or architectural design issues, but it’s not. More people are interested in shagging the neighbors wife, or watching other people have fun on teevee.

          1. scraping_by

            To riff on R Kline’s sniff, rationalism generally describes a style of thought that’s been connected to the upper classes since the time of Plato. It’s characterized by lack of emotion, severe reductivism, verbal learning, and narrow ideal states.

            Empirical thought is more the rule-of-thumb, outcome-oriented, wholistic, pictoral, social thinking. It’s closer to what was call the traditional mindset, before that phrase became the replacement insult for ‘pederast’ and ‘cannibal.’

            It would be a poorer world without either, but for purposes of this blog, The Washington Consensus is strongly rational, while the New Deal is often a bureaucratic embrace of traditional roles and patterns.

  2. Richard Kline

    I can’t recommend Alexander’s work strongly enough as a philosophical orientation to a built human environment. I own many of his texts, and though anything but inexpensive they are among the few that I buy full price. His early work, _A Pattern Language_ has influenced my thought, if subtlely, perhaps more than any other text, and I can’t imagine a thinking person’s personal library not including a copy. His three part work from a few years ago, _The Nature of Order_, might properly be described as metaphysics of craft for a human environment, and parts of it are rather a stiff read. That said, there is a great deal in it also regarding his practice of design, including detailed discussions of other projects in Japan similar to this one (and including this one).

    I would tend to agree that Alexander would call his systemic approach very much a craft and not at all a technology. While he has an overall conceptual system of design, in the practice of getting projects built over decades he has strongly stressed letting the projects emerge from the processes of the users; his work is very need-directed rather than theoretical or in any way ‘heroic.’ And his system has always been adapted to ‘go low[-tech].’ Large, screaming, look-at-me buildings are anathema in his system. Modest, human-scale, liveable spaces: those he’s got down.

    I’m not sure that I would describe many of his projects as ‘beautiful.’ There are many architects who are far more elegant, even those whose work is much more harmonic or spatially arresting. Those aren’t his goals, nor do they fit well in his philosophy of urban design. No one, however, is more ‘human-centric’ in conception, and that to me is the most interesting aspect of following his work, both in specific projects and over his career. What are the psychological and functional needs of human beings as a species for the constructs in which they dwell? That has been the concern of his long career, as I understand it. And his designs are exceedingly ‘comfortable’ to inhabit, not just in the ergonomic sense or in physical design but in things such as the effect the surfaces have on the mood of those around them or the optimal interplay of light.

    Alexander’s work is of deep philosophical interest. I don’t know that I’d call him my favorite ‘architect,’ but if I ever had the funds to have a home designed and built, his would be the first number I’d call.

    1. Jefemt

      A Pattern Language: pure brilliance, one of my most dog-eared, adored, cited books. Ever. Browse it from the library, then buy a copy. From the oil patch

  3. Charles LeSeau

    I’m pleased to see this entry here, especially since I just wrote yesterday about the influence of public spaces on citizen psyche (specifically my own). I’ve always admired traditional Japanese aesthetics and will be looking into Alexander’s work. Thanks, NC.

  4. steve from virginia

    Sorry, it’s hard to become enthused after the cloying preciousness wrapped around what appears to be a pretty ordinary ‘suburban-style’ set of institutional buildings.

    No doubt, there is a big payout somewhere … under a table or two.

    “Our work on the Eishin Project began, as promised in the contract, with the construction of a pattern language. We spent four to five months engaging students, teachers, and administrators in creating this new pattern language, which would spring from their hopes and dreams as well as the land itself.”

    Gag me with a spoon. What is a ‘pattern language? Some smoke-and-mirrors blither the architect came up with to pimp his project? How about a cost schedule and a comparison to other, similar projects?

    Meanwhile, one problem that does not exist today on Planet Earth is a shortage of buildings. Why not repurpose an old one? Because of the ongoing population shrinkage in Japan, there are tens of thousands of ‘extra’ buildings waiting to be done-over … everywhere in Japan.

    More architectural onanism … irrelevant in a resource constrained world … in a totally bankrupt country (Japan) that dumps trillions of bequerels of strontium isotopes into the Pacific Ocean every day because it cannot afford to do otherwise … that is turning the forex- and yen denominated bond markets inside out as a desperate last gasp before collapse … a country which has mortgaged everything … everything … to the automobile and the auto industry … an industry that has cannibalized everything in sight … and finally turns upon itself.

    There are misplaced priorities all over the place, this project is simply another one.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Steve, had you considered reading the post? I define pattern language, give an example, discuss its influence on software engineering, and cite to a five part series on it. I think you need to get that knee seen to.

  5. Andrea

    I don’t know much about the architect etc. detailed in the top post, which was very interesting, I have some reading to do.

    However, I can report that in Switzerland, ‘ecological housing’ – which is built under stringent energy standards so as to ‘save energy’ (MINERGIE standards) has the following characteristics (not all always, of course, and this is just my generalization, I am all for energy savings..):

    1) it is basically for the higher middles and uppers, let’s make that clear at the start.

    2) Is geographically (not always) “out” as buyers want greenery about. (aka Land prices are cheaper.) This usually > 3 car family (mom, pop, au pair with the clunker) as well as odd exploitations of suburbia or exburbia, patches of buildings that make no sense, defigure – according to some – the landscape

    3) Rooms are about 25% larger than usual (see 1) and follow the trend of more and more individual space for all, space which has practically doubled since 50 years for the Swiss (off the cuff, happy to be corrected.) All that space needs heat, light, cleaning, sometimes even air conditioning (!!), maintenance…and garages for the cars. Note homes are unoccupied for much of the day and for weeks on end (vacations.)

    4) Have symbolic solar panels, but basically are heated per the usual. (In CH: fossil fuels.)

    5) Follow a functionalist and snobby esthetic of ‘large spaces’ – the space itself is a mark of superiority – and it is bare, anonymous, grey..

    6) Spaces are built for individuals, no (or little, this being CH after all) room is made for ‘community’ ..

    7) Are quite expensive to build (and rent/buy.) That also means energy intensive. Bigger, better, costs more. Sure the investment is long term, but I haven’t seen any good calculations of that for existing homes.

    That was all the negs. I don’t know how the positives would stack up in comparison. I fear not well.

    1. Andrea

      In case it wasn’t clear: The point being that some philosophical, airy ideas, or more pragmatically, in CH, partial number crunching, marketing moves, are very often a gimmick to use more, extract more, spend more, offer better for more profits, to some segments of the population.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Alexander would call that “System B” stuff, and oppose it. I assume that was the implication of your post. I mean, come on. “Airy ideas”? The complex was built. And did you read the post? The Yakuza (one assumes) beat up the project lead!

  6. Dave of Maryland

    Hard to grasp the architecture from all the posturing. Philosophically this dates back to Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities, which is a half-century old and still a must read.

    Architecturally this appears to be a version of the Spanish courtyard system, the study of which is highly recommended. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, there are – or were, when I was last there – two surviving courtyard complexes, both among the most sought-after properties in the entire city. One of them is just to the north of the cathedral. Modern American zoning generally discourages this kind of development, in favor of parking.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, Jane Jacobs is a must-read. Still wondering whether you actually read the post, or just scanned for trigger words. What does “posturing” mean to you?

      1. Dave of Maryland

        Hello Lambert, “System A” vs “System B” is posturing. (We must have enemies! How boring.) I agree that it is necessary for architecture to separate the outside world from the inside world. That’s an old concept, not a new one.

        1.5. As a whole the Campus is given its character by stone foundation walls, natural concrete walls, wood columns, white plaster surfaces, some green surfaces, wide overhanging roofs, dark roofs, stones and grass and pebbles on the ground.

        This shows that we have money and can afford the “good things.” It does not tell us about the needs of the individuals, nor how the architecture satisfies them. The Swiss comment is appropriate.

        makes much of the influence of Alexander’s pattern language on software engineering

        Is gibberish. Alexander is an architect? Let him use architectural language. It’s well-established. There is a generalized name for back-to-basics, unpretentious architecture: Vernacular.

        What I see is a simple gated compound. The number of gates and walls tells me the relative hostility of the outside environment, or the isolation of those inside, alas. I could not help comparisons to Beijing.

        quite suddenly, there was a knock at the door, and a demand by some thugs and judo students that Hosoi must join them outside. The sounds of the beating could be heard by the Board members in their meeting room, nut they did not lift a finger to help, quite possibly out of fear.

        Wasn’t there a recent case of this in India? Some woman raped in public? Anyone think to call the police? What? The police won’t come? How curious.

        What is the design, what was it based on, how well has it served the needs of those who use it, how can we adapt it to our own needs?

      2. jrs

        The pictures are beautiful, looked at them a long time, granted I’m used to staring mostly at ugly visas. Still there’s something a bit creepy especially about that green building, it’s kind factory-like, of a dark satanic sort.

        As for walls and stuff, it’s gotten to the point where it’s hard to imagine a school not having some sort of seperation (protection from the outside world). Though I am more used to barbed wire on top of chain link fences than artistically impressive gates.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Adding on “philosophically” — yes, Jacobs like Alexander is a fan of Berra’s dictum: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” All about using your eyes to find the ground truth. No whiff of blackboard chalk from either of them.

  7. kevinearick

    ah, the life of kernel programmers: trust me; it’s no walk in the park.

    World Bank McNamara’s Legacy: A Global Wrecking Ball

    Jump you f-in’ rats, jump:

    Let’s see, who is Zarsion Holding Company and Tangshan Railway Vehicle Company…

    “The GAO could not assess whether the [California High-Speed Rail] authority’s projected costs are feasible but said that the California agency is following most of the government’s best practices in making its predictions.”

    So long as you follow the process of feudalism, with majority consent, who cares what the numbers are. We can always print more money…and find the economic slave labor to pay for it later. Just don’t be surprised when you are left with a crackhead at the helm, because that is the only joker stupid enough to sail with a ship of fools. It’s 9:30am; F- the children; where’s your cocaine Machiavelli?

    If the Admirals want to work for Kissinger and those a-s in Europe, we’ll build a new Navy, and they can take their scumbag union leaders down with them on the ship they built for the purpose. Funny, how temporary employment comes and goes, through labor arbitrage volatility, called free trade, and real estate price inflation, capital subsidy, soars upward on a sea of debt, until the system crashes, when the participants “couldn’t see it, the iceberg, coming.” The United States is no exception.

    Yes, it’s your body and you can do with it as you please, but keep it away from my kids. I don’t want anything of yours crawling on them. Don’t evacuate the city and expect a warm, fuzzy welcome elsewhere. Empires are one-way rides. Careful, when you allow capital to define what labor is and is not. The majority does not have an equal right to the fruit of my labor, but it is welcome to take by it force anyway, and see what happens.

    That was quite the opening act on Neptune Ave to begin the show, but it’s not turning out quite the way Flag expected. N-E-P-T-U-N-E. Careful when you cross that line…

    1. kevinearick

      System B in action, eh? As Machiavelli remarked:

      “It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones. ”

      Especially, a post-modern Prince might add, when the construction industry is involved.

  8. scraping_by

    In another post, I pointed out empiricism as another name for vernacular thinking, experiential and concerned with final states. Looking at that photo of the buildings again, I see that experience seems to push people the same directions. That’s a dead ringer for the little mining towns in western US, a row of commercial buildings strung along one main street. East of the Missouri, a village would be built around a town square, From Omaha west, it’s a double rank of house fronts and build out both ways.

    When asked, people create a village. As opposed to a factory, or a castle.

  9. Twonine

    At least one permaculturist likes Alexander’s work. Dave Jacke’s “Edible Forest Gardens” has a chapter building on “A Pattern Language”.

    I think of my dog eared copy every time I gravitate toward the light, get anxious when the entrance to a building isn’t obvious, or can’t put my back to the wall in a bar or restaurant. I told my current employer that a windowless office was a deal breaker.

  10. hb

    ‘deeply beautiful’? looks like a bowlderized version of traditional japanese architecture with some western-style columns and stuff added on. i don’t say it’s ugly, but the referents (and if you’ve spent any time in japan, they’re very obvious) are far superior.

    i guess it’s supposed to mimic the layout of a traditional japanese town, but functionally it doesn’t make sense — particularly the narrow outside corridors between buildings mimicking old-fashioned alley-like streets — where i presume, lots students will be walking between classes. what’s the point?

    a high school is not a village.

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