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Complexity Theory

Complexity Theory

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Published by archkiranjith
concepts of complexity theory
concepts of complexity theory

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Published by: archkiranjith on Feb 20, 2009
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06/16/2009

 
N E W C O N C E P T SI N C O M P L E X I T Y T H E O R Y
a r i s i n g f r o m s t u d i e s i n t h ef i e l d o f a r c h i t e c t u r e
a n o v e r v i e w o f t h e f o u r b o o k s o
t h e n a t u r e o f o r d e r
w i t h e m p h a s i s o n t h e s c i e n t i f i c p r o b l e m sw h i c h a r e r a i s e dc h r i s t o p h e r a l e x a n d e r **m a y 20 0 3
** For those who know Christopher Alexander primarilyas an architect, it mayperhaps be useful to draw attention to the factthat his education started in physics, chemistry, and mathematics, and that he spent a considerable part of his life as a workingscientist. See endnote.
 
 In writing this short overview for a scientificaudience, it was very helpful to read preliminary commentsmadeby Brian Goodwin, Ian Stewart, and Philip Ball whohad just read selected pagesfrom proof copieso Book 1. Their commentscontained ideasand reactionsthat other scientificreadersmight sharewhen first ex-amining thefour bookso
The Nat ure of Order
. They werekind enough todraw attention, especially,tocertain di
  ffi 
cultiesascientificreadermight have, in consideringtheproblemsintroduced, orin makingthemusefultofieldssuchasbiology, ecology, physics, mathematics, orcomputerscience, andextendingtomanymat-terscurrentlycovered bycomplexitytheory. I havewritten thispaper tomaketheconnection tovariousscien-tificfieldsmoreclear, and toencouragecomment and debateby workingscientists.
P R E A M B L E
T
he four books of 
The Nature Of Orde
were tecture today, with Grigor Mendel’s garden of sweet peas in

. Sweet peas, then, were notwritten, originally, in order to lay a scientificfoundation for the field of architecture. In writ- part of science - merely a part of life potentiallycontaining questions, originally unassuming iningthem, overthecourseofthelast twentysevenyears, I found myself forced to confront unex- their content. Yet they implicitly containedquestions and focused our awareness on newpectedlydeep problems,touchingnot onlyarchi-tecture, but other scientific fields as well. Some questions which becameyears later whatwe now know as genetics. That is the role thatof these questions go so deep that they raisequestions rarely, if ever, faced in the scientific architecture, with its peculiar problems andchallenges, might playfor science today.community.I therefore found myself trying to give an- The situation iscomplicated bythe fact thatarchitecture itself (the field where I have mostswersto thesequestions;startingwith answersatleast adequate for the field of architecture. I was claim toexpertise)hasbeen in an atrociousmud-dle, intellectually. This muddle had to benever writing directly from the point of view of physics, or mathematics, or cosmology, or biol- cleaned up. And that was my main task duringthelast thirtyyearsasascientist;and asabuilderogy, or ecology or cognitive theory. Yet all thesefieldsare likely, in one wayor another, to be tou- of buildings and communities. (The hugedi
culties in architecture were reflected in theched bysome of the findings I have made.We thus have a situation, perhaps new, ugliness and soul-destroying chaos of the citiesand environments we were building during thewhere architecture, generally, in the past verymuch the recipient of received wisdom from the

th century - and in the mixed feelings of dis-maycaused bythesedevelopmentsat onetimeornatural sciences, is now generating new mate-rial, and new ideasof itsown , which have direct another in nearly every thinking person, in-deed — I would guess— in a very large fractionbearing on the solution of problems nowclassedas "complexity theory," and doing so in ways of all people on Earth).Trying to come to grips with these di
-which, though obviously helpful to anyone con-cerned with building, have not arisen before in culties, required construction of new concepts,able to cope with the massive and complex na-themother fieldsofscienceitself. Tounderstandexactly what I mean, we might compare archi- ture of the di
culties, and able to focus a ratio-
N E W C O N C E P T S I N C O M P L E X I T Y T H E O R Y
 
nal searchlight on questions which were, it configurations(i.e.theprocessesbywhich build-ings are conceived and made). So, whether Iseemed, largely beyond the reach of methodspreviously invented in other sciences. These wanted to or not, I had to deal with these di
-cult matters, because they lie at the very root of di
culties arose, in part, I graduallydiscovered,from widespread but wrong-headed assumptions architecture, and cannot be avoided: eventhough the scientific world view and establish-about the very nature of architecture— and, inconsiderable part, too, from the dry positivist ment had previouslynot encountered them.But this is where things get turned on theirview too typical of technical scientific thinkingin the most recent era. But they also required head where it is architecture that informssci-ence rather than vice versa. Architecture placesanewwaysofthinkingabout issueswhich had notreceived much attention in the natural sciences, newkind of searchlight on certain newscientificareas of thought fundamental to the study of simply because there was no need for them insuch fields as chemistryor biology. complexstructuresand thusbecomesrelevantto a large classof problemsrecentlybeginning toFacing problems of architecture frankly, re-quired conceptual breakthroughs in several ar- gain attention in the scientific communityitself.We therefore have the almost unprecedentedeas, because one could not honestlyconfront theproblems of design, without facing fundamental case of architecture raising scientific concepts,questions, and answers, that bear on matters of questions of human feeling, spirit, beauty, andabovealltwoareasofcontent: thenatureofcon- hard sciencebut which have not, previously,been entertained.figurations themselves, and the genesis of new
B A C K G R O U N D O N A R C H I T E C T U R E
W
hat are the essential problems of architecture
. Thereistheissue ofecologicaland sustainableand biological connection to the land.that require a new focus, as it might be under-stood byanyscientist who applied himselfto the
. There is the vital issue of social agreement re-garding decision making in regardsto a complexquestions of architecture.
. There are issues of value, that cannot be sepa- system: this arises naturally when hundreds of people need to make decisions together - oftenrated from the main task of serving functionalneeds. Thus, aestheticsdismissed as subjec- the case in the human environment.
. Thereistheissueofemergingbeautyofshape,tive in much contemporary science— lies at thecore of architecture. as the goal and outcome of all processes.
. There is the issue of context a buildinggrows out of, and must complement, the place Considered carefullyfrom a scientific view-point, these issues lead to certain questions, andwhere it appears. Thusthereisa concept ofheal-ing (or making whole) and building into a to certain conclusions.Architecture presents a new kind of insightcontext.
 
. There isthe issueofdesign and creation - pro- into complexity because it is one of the humanendeavors where we most explicitly deal withcesses capable of generating unity.
. There is the issue of human feeling: since, of complexityand haveto createit not typicalinphysics or biology, at least not yet. Creation of course, no building can be considered if it doesnot connect, somehow, to human feeling as an software in computer science, is another sucharena; and organization theoryis another. In or-objective matter.
 
N E W C O N C E P T S I N C O M P L E X I T Y T H E O R Y

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