Material about Christopher Alexander

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This is a bibliography of topics related to the work of Christopher Alexander. Although in the beginning Alexander wrote his theories for Architecture, later they started to get used in novel ways in other fields: computer science, life sciences, permaculture, social sciences.

My own material

Software that has the Quality Without a Name (book chapter) — This is from the book Open Advice. Introduction to Alexander's theories as applied to software development.

Software that has the Quality Without a Name (presentation) (ODP) — Presentation given at the 2011 Desktop Summit, Berlin.

Legacy Systems as Old Cities, an article for Issue 4 of The Recompiler magazine. Compares parts of the GNOME project's history with the evolution of cities and buildings, using an analogy from Stewart Brand's "How Buildings Learn".

Blog entry on the interaction between designers and builders; an introduction to Alexander's work.

Richard P. Gabriel

He is one of the first people to analyze Alexander's theories and apply them to software development. All his material is extremely valuable and legible.

Patterns of Software is an excellent book with essays about software, programming languages, and Alexander's theories as applied to software. It has a foreword written by Alexander himself; in it he describes his surprise at finding out that he is a household name in the world of software, unlike the world of architecture. Here I've written a little summary of Patterns of Software in terms of what it says about Alexander's theories.

Christopher Alexander: The Search for Beauty — introductory presentation about Alexander's work. This is an excellent presentation, with lots of material condensed into a small space.

The Nature of Order: The Post-Patterns World — Introduction to The Nature of Order and how it may be applied to sofware.

The Nature of Order — A very extensive presentation on The Nature of Order. How to think and feel like Alexander, how to see the world as an evolving process. How Darwin's theory of evolution does not explain intermediate steps in the evolution of complex organs in living beings, and has to be complemented by a generative process. Alexander's theory of color. An explanation of why "architecture with life" is not equal to "ancient architecture". If you cannot read or obtain the whole of The Nature of Order, read this presentation.

Fine Points of Pattern Writing — if you write new patterns, how they must feel. Richard Gabriel is also a poet, so he has a lot to say about the form and flow of a piece of text.

Designed as Designer — Essay about individual genius in contrast with the genius of teamwork. The most beautiful thing in the essay is the (ficticious) story of Filippo Brunelleschi, who built the dome of the cathedral in Florence. In addition, this article presents Richard Gabriel's ideas about the Nature of Order as applied to poetry.

Jini Community Pattern Language — Example of a pattern language created by Gabriel for a software development community. It talks about how to work together in a large project, not about the software itself.

People with similar ideas

Nikos Salingaros, mathematician and architect, does science during the day and fights postmodern crime during the night. Nikos has continued Alexander's work, with a mathematical and geometrical foundation for his ideas, and he has tied everything with Biophilia — the discovery that human beings prefer environments with the same fractal characteristics as those that are created by nature.

Léon Krier, from the New Urbanism movement. This is not his official page, but someone keeps it updated with Léon's doings.

Emergent Urbanism by Mathieu Helie — An excellent blog about urbanism, generative processes, computer simulations of the evolution of urban spaces. Start by perusing his reading guide.

Øyvind Holmstad, scholar of permaculture and Alexander's/Salingaros's ideas. His articles at; his articles at the Permaculture Research Institute; his blog.

Pattern languages

A Pattern Language at Jacana. This works as a quick reference of Alexander's original pattern language; each pattern has links to its super-patterns and sub-patterns, and each has a description of the problem and its solution. It does not have the illustrations nor the discussion of each pattern.

A Pattern Language for Human-Computer Interface Design, by Jennifer Tidwell (author of Designing Interfaces). Excellent book of patterns for human-computer interfaces.

Human-Computer Interaction Patterns — pattern languages for human-computer interaction.

Patterns for personal web sites — proto-language for personal web pages.

A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution.

A pattern language for autonomous ecological communities.

Pedagogical Patterns.

A pattern language for bringing life to meetings and other gatherings.

A pattern language for online trainings.

How to write pattern languages

Seven Habits of Successful Pattern Writers, by John Vlissides.

Patternity Test at the C2 wiki — How to evaluate if something is a pattern or not.

Tips for writing pattern languages.

Fine Points of Pattern Writing, by Richard Gabriel.

A Pattern Language for Pattern Language, by Gerard Meszaros and Jim Doble. A meta-language for describing pattern languages.

Interesting material

Harmony-seeking Computations, article on The Nature of Order based on a keynote which summarizes its ideas.

The Interaction Design Patterns Page by Tom Erickson. Many links to design materials that use patterns, especially human-computer interaction design.

Metaphors Are Similes. Similes Are Like Metaphors. Talk by Coraline Ada Ehmke about how we construct vocabularies and our understanding of the world, mainly for software developers.

Lingua Francas for Design: Sacred Places and Pattern Languages, by Tom Erickson. How a pattern language defines a lingua franca to talk about design issues. It describes the process used to find the "sacred places" in the city of Manteo, North Carolina, so that a pattern language could be built to resurrect the moribund town.

Designing with Forces: how to apply Christopher Alexander in everyday work (article) — presentation by Ryan Singer. This is based on Alexander's book and thesis Notes on the Synthesis of Form, which is in turn an attempt to mathematize the process of design.

Building Beauty, Architecture Master's degree in Naples.


I would like to find web pages for all the buildings and urban environments that have been done using Alexander's methods, by himself or by other people. If you find any, please mail me and I'll put them here!

Eishin campus, Iruma city, Saitama prefecture, Japan

Center for Environmental Structure, Berkeley

View in Google Maps

The Vineyard Farmer's Market, Fresno

Christopher Alexander's official web pages

There are several official web pages for Alexander and his associates, dedicated to the material in his books and to the design of urban spaces. I must admit that they are not very good web pages. They would be very useful if someone polished them and structured them according to modern web practices. — Promotional page for the book A Pattern Language. With a paid subscription, it has the whole contents of the book. — Promotional page for the four books of The Nature of Order. Has photos, but not much textual content. — Generative codes based on the pattern language and the 15 properties of living environments. The page is somewhat incomplete; it has internal links that don't work and some halfway-written tools. Nevertheless it is good to take a look; this page has good practical ideas.