Christopher Wolfgang Alexander, born on 4th October 1986 is a prominent British-American architect and design theorist. An architect, educator, and author of various books on the BUILDING AND DESIGN PROCESS, Christopher Alexander works with the theories about the nature of human-centered designs. Regarded as the father of “The Pattern Language Movement,” Alexander has designed more than 200 buildings across five continents. His projects always correlate to human beings and induce feelings of belongings in the place and structure he outlines, hence exceptional in quality. 

His book “The Pattern Language” is universally implemented and renowned for providing simple and humanist solutions to intricate design predicaments. His other notable works as an author include The Timeless Way of Building, The New Theory of Urban Design, The Oregon Experiment, and The Nature of Order (volumes I-IV). 

Here is a list of 12 projects to closely examine the architect’s perceptions and philosophy applied in his architectural practices.  

1. Julian Street Inn, Shelter for Homeless, San Jose, California | Christopher Alexander

The Julian Street Innas described by the people inhabiting it is a “building that plays an active role in the healing process.” One characterizes the built form by hand-painted tiles exterior and tile fountains with lions head on it. The building sets a tranquil environment for the people it shelters by orienting courtyards and gardens, which signify that the building is a testament to the natural world. As known for designing and establishing a connection between an individual and its surroundings, Christopher Alexander has structured the building as a medieval retreat, which simultaneously helps the homeless feel at home.

Christopher Alexander- Julian Street Inn, Shelter for Homeless, San Jose, California. - Sheet1
The front façade of Julian Street Inn. ©www.patternlanguage.com
Julian Street Inn, Shelter for Homeless, San Jose, California. - Sheet2
The dining area with a view of the gardens. ©www.patternlanguage.com
Christopher Alexander -Julian Street Inn, Shelter for Homeless, San Jose, California. - Sheet3
View of the courtyard and type of columns used. ©www.patternlanguage.com

2. West Dean College Gardens Visitor’s Centre, West Sussex

Built between the year 1994-July and 1995-November, West Dean College Gardens Visitors Centre stands amongst a large estate that also includes an agricultural school and a college of arts. 

In collaboration with the C.E.S (Centre for Environmental Sustainability), The Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture, and the Edward James Foundation(clients), Christopher Alexander constructed a work of art with a life expectancy significantly longer than the modern buildings. Abundantly engineered of brick and flint (a local natural stone), the building also applied the use of concrete in innovative methods, as a structural element, and for façade aesthetics. Conceived with a sensitivity to the local context, West Dean Estate represents a deep ambiguity, good central focus (in building layout), altering repetition in the façade, and bilateral symmetry.

Christopher Alexander -West Dean College Gardens Visitor’s Centre, West Sussex. - Sheet1
North Façade from Entry Path. ©buildingbeauty.org
West Dean College Gardens Visitor’s Centre, West Sussex. - Sheet2
View of the south façade and terrace. ©buildingbeauty.org

3. The Sala House, Hillside Avenue, California

With its unusual layout and lots of unexpected turns, The Sala House in Hillside Avenue is an eccentric work of art. Designed by Christopher Alexander, the house consists of four bedrooms, two baths with a kitchen/dining/living area as the warm heart and hearth of the building. Built on a 2,028 sq. ft. area, the house instills qualities for the client that go beyond stylistic norms to comfort, simplicity, and a deep sense of wellbeing.

Christopher Alexander -The Sala House, Hillside Avenue, California. - Sheet1
The Sala house sits on the edge of Albany Hill. ©berkeleyside.com
The Sala House, Hillside Avenue, California. - Sheet2
The hearth of the house, kitchen and dining room. ©berkeleyside.com
Christopher Alexander -The Sala House, Hillside Avenue, California. - Sheet3
Dining area right outside the kitchen. ©berkeleyside.com

4. Eishin University Campus, Tokyo

Located in Nihongi, Iruma, Japan, Eishin University Campus (Eishin Higashino) consists of nine city blocks of area for 2000 students. The college complex was completed in 1989 and became the best building in Japan. The architect designed the campus with an eclectic mix of many architectural traditions that emerged comfortable to inhabit. The campus has the air of an independent settlement, and the design is ultimately a language of the soul.

Eishin University Campus, Tokyo. - Sheet1
An overall view of the campus. ©permatecture.blogspot.com
Christopher Alexander -Eishin University Campus, Tokyo. - Sheet2
Way from first to second gate ©permatecture.blogspot.com
Eishin University Campus, Tokyo. - Sheet3
The main auditorium ©permatecture.blogspot.com

5. Low-Cost Housing in Mexicali, Mexico

Structured in 1976 in Northern Mexico, Low-Cost Housing in Mexicali started under the sponsorship of the Governor of Baja California to build a small community of houses and other community buildings. The design of every dwelling in the neighborhood differed. The families and the students of the community came together to construct the residences by themselves. The architect provided the people with an opportunity to fabricate with new construction techniques which were easy to understand, and cheaper in terms of price. Every house spoke about the persona of the family inhabiting it.

Christopher Alexander -Low-Cost Housing in Mexicali, Mexico. - Sheet1
An overview of the low-cost housings initial concepts ©livingneighbourhoods.org
Low-Cost Housing in Mexicali, Mexico. - Sheet2
View of one of the completed houses ©livingneighbourhoods.org
Christopher Alexander -Low-Cost Housing in Mexicali, Mexico. - Sheet3
Families and students at work ©livingneighbourhoods.org

6. The Martinez House | Christopher Alexander

The Martinez house is a one-story, gunite all-concrete house with a wooden roof, blue, and pale green exterior. Initially built for patternlanguage.com, the house is used as an office for many years. Approximately 1300 sq. ft. in area, the abode is a farmhouse with a kitchen, fireplace, a sitting space, a master bedroom with bathroom, and a columnated front porch. The residence stands on a sloping site, and the architectural features of the house respect the topography of the area.

The Martinez House. - Sheet1
The front view of the Martinez House ©katarxis3.com
The Martinez House. - Sheet2
View of the Martinez House ©katarxis3.com

7. Medlock House, Whidbey, U.S.A | Christopher Alexander

Christopher Alexander’s research has hundreds of patterns that together make a built space a beautiful and comfortable space to inhabit. The Medlock House is just another example of a humble abode for a family wherein the layout and the materials are chosen carefully, and the structure overall is not only comfortable for the user but also respects the site location. Located in a forest clearing, the architect adopted vernacular techniques and materials to create a comfortable and warm environment for the family.

Medlock House, Whidbey, U.S.A. - Sheet1
The Medlock House ©katarxis3.com
Medlock House, Whidbey, U.S.A. - Sheet2
The front façade of the Medlock House ©katarxis3.com

8. Fresno Farmers Market, Fresno, California

Fresno Farmers Market is a 6000 sq. ft. building designed in 1983 for Richard Erganian in Fresno, California. The structure depicts the architect’s philosophy because the built form is innovative and yet shows the adaption of architectural elements from the past and pre-modern eras. The building takes the form of a large vault with redwood-arched trusses and concrete columns. The floor consists of grey concrete embodied with blue concrete ornaments simultaneously let into the slab resulting in the formation of an endless pattern.

Fresno Farmers Market, Fresno, California. - Sheet1
View of the entry ©katarxis3.com
Fresno Farmers Market, Fresno, California. - Sheet2
Sectional Views of the market ©katarxis3.com

9. Village School, Bavra, Gujarat

Christopher Alexander collaborated with Janet Johnson to design the Village School in Gujarat, India. Alexander followed the philosophy of building timelessly. According to him, the temples, villages, and tents are examples of traditional spaces where a man feels at home. This is because such arenas are built by the people who are close or centered to that place. Following these aspects, the Village School contains brick vaults and arches, with filled tile domed vaults( the vernacular material of the region). The school is not only simple and comfortable in a physical sense, but it also consists of multiple effects on the user, such as the optimal interplay of light, etc.

Village School, Bavra, Gujarat.
The dome for the village school. ©buildingbeauty.org

10. Etna Street Cottage | Christopher Alexander

Led by Christopher Alexander with Walter Wendler, Donald Corner, and a few others, the project commenced in the year 1974. An experimental building project, the building consists of two stories built of featherweight concrete. An amalgamation of vaults, columns, and beams, the cottage design displays robust boundaries and bilateral symmetries.

11. Community Mental Health Center, Modesto, California 

Christopher Alexander designed the community mental health clinic, which according to him was a mixed success. The complex is a significant design since it not only helped him understand and adjust his theories for later projects but also helped him understand the concept of “wholeness” on a different level. The center was built using conventional building methods and ended up different from standard modernist architecture. 

12. The Shiratori Plan, Japan

A preliminary design for low-rise, high-density housing, The Shiratori Plan is located in the city of Nagoya, Japan. The integrated neighborhood plan began in the year 1990 for 500 families at a density of 80 families per acre. 

References:

http://demetriusgonzalez.com/architecture/thesis/thesis.westdean.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sala_House

http://www.livingneighborhoods.org/ht-0/mexicali.htm

https://www.patternlanguage.com/houseplans/martinez/martinezplans.htm

https://www.annmedlock.com/building-with-christopher-alexander-an-illustrated-memoir

https://www.buildingbeauty.org/resource-center-entries/2016/11/02/bavra-story

Ansha Kohli
Author

Ansha Kohli is whimsical andenigmatic when it comes to her life. Wanting to pursue a career in architecture journalism after completing her graduation, she is on the road to seek something new and exciting, and subsequently enthusiastic to share as well as understand different philosophies associated with art and architecture.

Write A Comment