Functionalism, aesthetics Was:(RE: I come to praise .join, not

Donn Cave donn at
Tue Mar 20 20:11:29 CET 2001

Quoth "Alex Martelli" <aleaxit at>:
| Buildings as such (and more generally dwelling-places) are old
| enough that it's quite possible that we all share some basic
| biological basis for sound judgment -- I'm not pronouncing
| on that, but that's what Alexander is mostly writing about.

I don't know if that means he was looking for a habitat evaluation
gene, though.  The way I read it, he was talking about a kind
of thinking.  It works because we have a biological basis for
sound judgement, but not specifically about buildings, we just
have a deep knowledge of the world we live in and don't do well
to defer to architects to tell us what will work for us, based
on their diagrams or their trained esthetics.

I certainly would not want to argue with an architect who is talking
about what will hold up to an earthquake, but an architect's ideas
about form and function are no substitute for the shared sense of an
evolved cultural landscape.

I don't know about his pattern language.  Like the other ideas
Alexander had along those lines - user on-site design, some kind of
weird construction techniques - he was looking for a route from
here to there, from modern western building and land use to the
kind of vernacular tradition that can use that shared sense.
It has been too long since I read the book, but I don't think
he meant the patterns to be adopted as that vernacular tradition,
they were more like crutches until we could walk on our own.

Anyway, as long as we're talking about things that we spend our
days doing, we certainly do have the capacity for sound judgement.
It doesn't mean our judgement is therefore infallibly sound, but
the collective judgement of an established culture brings a kind
of sense to bear that can dwarf a brilliant appeal to abstract

	Donn Cave, donn at

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