A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction, by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, with Max jacobson, Ingrid Fiksadahl-King, and Shlomo Angel
There are some books that are bad because they are incompetent, because the author has no idea what they are doing and embarrasses themselves in trying to write a book. This is not that sort of book. This book is bad because it is evil, because it seeks to encourage the abuse of the power of planning and design to coerce people into adopting a lifestyle that is amenable to control by leftists. This book is the product of the late age of urban planning, where the authors themselves do not appear conscious or at least willing to admit the disastrous consequences of the sort of design that they seek. There are a lot of contradictions, some of which we shall shortly explore, and overall the authors think that they can provide American construction with ways that we can be more like Asian or African or European cities, all of which are focused on a much larger degree of collective living than Americans support. If this book was one that I deeply disliked, it is an important read in seeing the way that space can influence behavior and the way that people can seek to coerce behavioral and political change through the control of space.
Among the many important contradictions in this book is the way that the authors promise privacy but end up providing something far less private than they initially promise. how is this so? Well, the authors endorse higher density living and show a hostility to personal property, including a marked hostility to car culture. The authors even support street living, making the rise in homelessness in cities that have adopted the authors’ strategies intentional and not merely accidental. Beyond that the authors even endorse communal sleeping and bathing and even semi-public dressing areas for children, which means that their promises of children’s space or separate couples space is not quite what they mean on the surface. Likewise, while the authors promise more freedom for people, their goal of more layers of intrusive government mean that they are more interested in having people subject to corrupt ward bosses rather than to be free to live in a godly and independent fashion. As is so common among leftist political rhetoric, the authors promise freedom and deliver slavery and dependence to public transportation and an overly paternalistic government that provides elite living to some and austere living to the point of homelessness and tiny houses and cottages to the masses.
This is a large book at more than 1150 pages, and it makes for very detailed reading, so much so that it might be easy to overlook the more ferocious comments of the authors because so much of the material involves various theories about the spatial orientation of rooms and buildings, by having bedrooms have eastern exposure and two sources of light, by encouraging row houses connected to pathways and a strong limit on parking places as well as the encouragement of mixed use development so as to keep residential and commercial areas from being so strongly separated. The book is organized into numerical principles, many of which have darker undertones that the authors deal with in a blithe fashion, about 250 principles in all, many of which with photographs where the author praises frequently the urban principles of Berkeley. And anyone with any amount of sense about them should know that when someone spends their time praising the urban design of the San Francisco area, with rent control and limited housing and massive social crises, you should run away. Run very far away.