Order and construction in Christopher Alexander, exploring the living building process

  • Maria Pia VIDOLI

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The research tackles the crisis of architecture in its two main areas of operation: education and profession. It starts with identifying the themes of the crisis and it first causes, which are found in the separation of the self from the outer world, a defining character of modernity. It then progresses to uncovering the most important manifestations of such separation in everyday design practice, to focus on reintegrating the self in a different design process.The researcher is guided in this voyage by a profound exploration of Christopher Alexander's work, conducted with Alexander himself, his wife and co-author Maggie Moore Alexander, and his inner circle of life-long collaborators. From Alexander, the research embarked in short extra-disciplinary explorations in areas such as psychomotricity, art-therapy and disciplines of the body-mind. The method is however far from pure secondary investigation. The research starts from practice to distill the questions that the literature review is called to help answering, in a proper Project-Based Learning approach. The backbone of the research is in fact four real-world projects undertaken both in educational and professional contexts. Located in a sequence of successive experiences, each of these projects led to the definition of a "model process" of design, which allowed to systematize and enrich, step-by-step, a consistent body of knowledge based on actual practice. Eventually, the research comes to formalize a "final" model-process around the for basic modules of "Land Exploration", "Pattern Language", "Composition" and "Conception and Construction", with a clear understanding that such synthesis is "final"only as long as the PhD study is concerned, but it is essentially one of the many steps of an "unfolding" pathway towards the radical refoundation of architectural practice in the XXIst century.
Date of Award14 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorSergio Porta (Supervisor) & Ombretta Romice (Supervisor)

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