Saturday, April 11, 2015

What is "Living structure?"

"Living structure" is a term coined by architect/builder/philosopher Christopher Alexander. Alexander is part of a radical movement within design and building that is rooted in a phenomenological approach to the creation of the built environment. This approach rejects rationality, reductionism and hierarchical processes, and is informed by a broad, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary body of knowledge and practice, underpinned by new understandings in cognitive and behavioral science. Alexander's ideas are fully articulated in his works which can be found here.

Our primary objective is to develop the capacity to create built environments in ways consonant with Alexander's methods and practices, and to be able to do so within larger contexts. Such a task is difficult since the logic of money in its present form and the underlying social relations that manifest it are a powerful agent within the contemporary landscape. To alter the structure that governs the material conditions of our existence - and by extension our cognitive framework and behaviors -requires altering the context within which we experience and come to know the world.

To move beyond the nature of this reality forces us to live in two worlds. At times we practice conventional business because we have to, but the nature of how we work is fundamentally different from the typical dynamics found on building sites and in employer/employee relationships. The way we build views work not as rote production in the service of profit, but as creative activity essential to well being. We nurture the collective, reiterative and holistic organic processes that make human artifacts and structures natural extensions of the world within us all.

Projects are subject to their own rhythms and pulses where most everything created is carried by its own spirit and logic. Sometimes we work weeks on end for long hours if so inspired, other times we break for long periods to recover ourselves and refocus on other endeavors. However the structure of time plays out, we endeavor to live within those forces and so resist subjecting work to the logic and language of the market, to management and labor, to production and profits. We refuse to compartmentalize our lives where one part of life is sacrificed for money so the other parts can live in consumerism. We do not hold our work as a means to money or as a 'lifestyle'. We are not interchangeable cogs in a giant machine; we are integral parts of an emerging whole, and for us, building and craft are the primary means by which we express this.

The things we make use of are practical, technical, theoretical, organizational, philosophical, interdisciplinary, sometimes traditional, sometimes rational, sometimes scientific, sometimes not. Our material palettes are usually raw, natural, sometimes from the box store or reclaimed from the waste stream. Every aspect of the process is considered. Knowledge and skill are not commodities to be bought and sold, but bodies to be cultivated and shared.

"Living structure," at its most basic premise, is simply a way to see, understand, and engage the world: not through control and domination, but with an embodied and natural dynamic within a landscape, carefully integrating people and places. We view our work as an accessible and transparent element of everyday life: an expression of traditional vernacular processes that have created much of humanity's dwellings and environments since humans first began to enclose space.

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