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Making the Garden by Christopher Alexander | Articles | First Things
"Up until that time, I had accepted the academic, positivistic, scientific philosophy and practice of my youth. I had been trained in physics and ­mathematics, and assumed, virtually as part of my educational birthright, that these scientific disciplines could be relied on, and that I should not step outside the ­intellectual framework that they provided. But to solve the practical and conceptual problems in architecture, I now embarked on a study of a series of concepts that, though formulated more or less within scientific norms, nevertheless opened ways of ­thinking that were highly challenging to the academic ­establishment:

• Wholeness
• Value, as an objective concept
• Unfolding wholeness
• Connection with the inner self
• Centers
• Structure-preserving transformations
• Degrees of life

I introduced these concepts and a few others only because I found them essential to the task of thinking clearly about the life of buildings. Yet they were almost undefinable within the terms of contemporary scientific thinking. This was true to such a degree that even raising these topics as matters for discussion in professional architectural circles caused raised eyebrows, obstructive reactions, and little sincere effort to get to the bottom of the issues."

"I would like to summarize our work by explaining this new kind of empirical complex in the following way. In any part of what we call nature, or any part of a building, we see, at many levels of scale, coherent entities or centers, ­nested in each other, and overlapping each other. These ­coherent entities all have, in varying degree, some quality of “life.”

For any given center, this quality of life comes about as a result of cooperation between the other living centers at several scales, which surround it, contain it, and appear within it. The degree of life any one center has depends directly on the degrees of life that appear in its associated centers at these different scales. In short, the life of any given entity depends on the extent to which that entity had ­unfolded from its own previous wholeness, and from the wholeness of its surroundings.

When one contemplates this phenomenon soberly, it is hard to imagine how it comes about. But what is happening is, in effect, that life appears, twinkling, in each entity, and the cooperation of these twinkling entities creates further life. You may view this phenomenon as ordinary. Or you may think of it as the Buddhists of the Hua-Yen canon did, when they viewed it as the constantly changing God-like tapestry that is God, and from which life comes."

"My life began with childlike faith. After then going through the dark forests of positivistic science, to which I gladly gave myself for so many years, I was finally able, through contemplation of the whole, to emerge into the light of day with a view of things that is both visionary and empirical.

It is a view that has roots in faith, and from it builds bridges of scientific coherence towards a new kind of visionary faith rooted in scientific understanding. This new kind of faith and understanding is based on a new form of observation. It depends for its success on our belief (as human beings) that our feelings are legitimate. Indeed, my experiments have shown that in the form I have cast them, feelings are more legitimate and reliable, perhaps, than many kinds of experimental procedure.

It is in this way that I was led from architecture to the intellectual knowledge of God. It was my love of architecture and building from which I slowly formed an edifice of thought that shows us the existence of God as a necessary, real phenomenon as surely as we have previously known the world as made of space and matter."

"What is new is the discovery that the so-called subjective, or inner, view of things is no less objective than the objective or mechanical view of things. When questions about the subjective are asked carefully, and in the right way, they are as reliable as the experiments of physics. This understanding has led to a new view of experiment that uses the human being as a measuring instrument and leads to reliable, shared results when properly done."

"As I have said, grasping the wholeness, awakening our ability to see it and to adhere to it—these are all profound and often difficult. In order to understand these operations from a practical and mathematical point of view, we need to be guided by an inner voice, and I believe that voice is tantamount to a vision of God. Thus, although it is formless and shapeless, nevertheless it is this vision of God that draws us on.

That new vision can become a new source of inspiration and motivation. I call it new not because it is at root genuinely new. Of course it is not—it is ancient. But it is entirely new in our era to take such a thing with full seriousness, and to be able to derive from it well-fashioned, scientifically endowed conceptions of what is needed to heal a given place. It will not be governed by money or profit; it will not be governed by social politics; it will be governed simply by the desire and firm intention to make beauty (which is to say, true life) around us.

Perhaps that sounds as though it is not solid enough for sober and enlightened action. Quite the opposite is true. The vision of God we hold in our inner eye, which we draw from the hills and mountains, from the cities, towers, and bridges, from the great oak trees, and the small and tender arbors, from the stones and tiles that have been carefully laid, it is that which is God, and which we encounter as we try to find a vision of God in the world. It guides us, as if with a certain hand, towards a future which is yet more beautiful.

The capacity to make each brick, each path, each baluster, each windowsill a reflection of God lies in the heart of every man and every woman. It is stark in its simplicity. A world so shaped will lead us back to a sense of right and wrong and a feeling of well-being. This vision of the world—a real, solid physical world—will restore a vision of God. Future generations will be grateful to us if we do this work properly.

Taking architecture seriously leads us to the ­proper treatment of tiny details, to an understanding of the unfolding whole, and to an understanding—mystical in part—of the entity that underpins that wholeness. The path of architecture thus leads inexorably towards a renewed understanding of God. This is an understanding true within the canon of every religion, not connected with any one religion in particular, something which therefore moves us beyond the secularism and strife that has torn the world for more than a thousand years."
2016  christopheralexander  architecture  urban  urbanism  design  wholeness  value  spirituality  god  religion  enlightenment  beauty  aesthetics  form  shape 
november 2017 by robertogreco
What Screens Want by Frank Chimero
"We need to work as a community to develop a language of transformation so we can talk to one another. And we probably need to steal these words from places like animation, theater, puppetry, dance, and choreography.

Words matter. They are abstractions, too—an interface to thought and understanding by communication. The words we use mold our perception of our work and the world around us. They become a frame, just like the interfaces we design."

"When I realized that, a little light went off in my head: a map’s biases do service to one need, but distort everything else. Meaning, they misinform and confuse those with different needs.

That’s how I feel about the web these days. We have a map, but it’s not for me. So I am distanced. It feels like things are distorted. I am consistently confused.

See, we have our own abstractions on the web, and they are bigger than the user interfaces of the websites and apps we build. They are the abstractions we use to define the web. The commercial web. The things that have sprung up in the last decade, but gained considerable speed in the past five years.

It’s the business structures and funding models we use to create digital businesses. It’s the pressure to scale, simply because it’s easy to copy bits. It’s the relationships between the people who make the stuff, and the people who use that stuff, and the consistent abandonment of users by entrepreneurs.

It’s the churning and the burning, flipping companies, nickel and diming users with in-app purchases, data lock-in, and designing with dark patterns so that users accidentally do actions against their own self-interest.

Listen: I’m at the end of a 4-month sabbatical, and I worry about this stuff, because the further I get from everything, the more it begins to look toxic. These pernicious elements are the primary map we have of the web right now.

We used to have a map of a frontier that could be anything. The web isn’t young anymore, though. It’s settled. It’s been prospected and picked through. Increasingly, it feels like we decided to pave the wilderness, turn it into a suburb, and build a mall. And I hate this map of the web, because it only describes a fraction of what it is and what’s possible. We’ve taken an opportunity for connection and distorted it to commodify attention. That’s one of the sleaziest things you can do.

So what is the answer? I found this quote by Ted Nelson, the man who invented hypertext. He’s one of the original rebel technologists, so he has a lot of things to say about our current situation. Nelson:
The world is not yet finished, but everyone is behaving as if everything was known. This is not true. In fact, the computer world as we know it is based upon one tradition that has been waddling along for the last fifty years, growing in size and ungainliness, and is essentially defining the way we do everything. My view is that today’s computer world is based on techie misunderstandings of human thought and human life. And the imposition of inappropriate structures throughout the computer is the imposition of inappropriate structures on the things we want to do in the human world.

We can produce a vision of the web that isn’t based on:


We can make a new map. Or maybe reclaim a map we misplaced a long time ago. One built on:


We can use the efficiency and power of interfaces to help people do what they already wish more quickly or enjoyably, and we can build up business structures so that it’s okay for people to put down technology and get on with their life once their job is done. We can rearrange how we think about the tools we build, so that someone putting down your tool doesn’t disprove its utility, but validates its usefulness.

Let me leave you with this: the point of my writing was to ask what screens want. I think that’s a great question, but it is a secondary concern. What screens want needs to match up with what we want.

People believe there’s an essence to the computer, that there’s something true and real and a correct way to do things. But—there is no right way. We get to choose how to aim the technology we build. At least for now, because increasingly, technology feels like something that happens to you instead of something you use. We need to figure out how to stop that, for all of our sakes, before we’re locked in, on rails, and headed toward who knows what.

One of the reasons that I’m so fascinated by screens is because their story is our story. First there was darkness, and then there was light. And then we figured out how to make that light dance. Both stories are about transformations, about change. Screens have flux, and so do we."
frankchimero  2013  screens  flux  build2013  plasticity  jamesburke  plastic  skeoumorphs  containers  materials  change  transitions  perception  flatdesign  windowsphonemetro  ios7  software  replacement  shape  affordances  grain  design  paper  print  eadwardmuybridge  movement  motion  animation  customization  responsivewebdesign  responsiveness  variability  mutability  mutations  ux  interactiondesign  interfaces  language  ethanmarcotte  maps  mapping  representation  cartography  embodiedmeaning  respresentation  tednelson  computersareforpeople  softwareisforpeople  unfinished  responsivedesign 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Musical Sculptures Translate Weather Data Into Art - Maria Popova - Life - The Atlantic
"Nathalie Miebach defies genres and crosses disciplinary boundaries to combine data visualization with color, shape, and sound"
nathaliemiebach  visualization  weather  art  crossdisciplinary  color  shape  music  sound 
july 2011 by robertogreco

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