Christopher Alexander...Domestic Architecture...Doors2

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Though I've asked several people, I haven't been able to determine the cross-section of participants in this congress. But I've gathered that very few of you are in the same business as me--an architect and a general contractor. I build buildings. In this speech, I want to invite you to share the problem I face, in the hope that you will see the immense difficulties it entails.

In my view, the biggest problem in architecture in the 2nd half of the 20th century is the connection between people and the physical world--the building of streets and so forth. Essentially, what we miss right now is the connection that one could call `belonging' or possession in the true emotional sense.

Ask yourself, for instance, how you feel about the area right outside this congress hall, the open space where you drive up to this place, or about the foyers here where we stand around in the intervals. They may be adequate to their functions. This is a very efficient place. But I think it's obvious that you do not feel any sense of deep belonging to either one of those places. A tragic problem, but you might say: we have to accept this as an inevitable consequence of the tremendous practical problems involved in making a meeting centre this size work. But the truth of the matter is that the houses and apartments that we have now been building for half a century essentially have the same problem. It is very rare that a relationship of belonging exists between the family and the apartment or house they inherit. On some levels it exists, as always. But my aim is to construct a situation where a deep, profound belonging exists. That has proved incredibly hard to do.

By having people play a very large role in the design, layout and construction of their own houses and apartments, I've undertaken what are probably radical innovations in the evolution of new kinds of construction contracts that allow a building to evolve and adapt organically during construction. The sort of meaningful adaptation necessary to create this real home can exist, but it is incredibly hard to implement the kind of innovations in construction, administrative, financial and other processes that allow fluid adaptational construction contracts and still keep a tight hold on time and money.


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Last Updated: 7 feb 1995