Thesis Summary

In his four volume opus, The Nature of Order, architect, builder and theorist Christopher Alexander posits a theory of architecture that offers solutions to a host of problems facing our culture. This dissertation is presented as a polemic, arguing that the contemporary culture of architecture is largely dysfunctional and that Alexander's theory offers a moral alternative that deserves wide attention. Central to the theory is the notion that human consciousness suffers from a "mechanistic" cosmology that is largely responsible for the degradation of the built environment and of human culture in general. The origins and nature of this cosmological dysfunction are examined, especially as regards to the spiritual implications therein and the holistic alternative presented by the theory. The development of this theory - including an examination of key influences - is explicated in light of congruent historical and contemporary theories, most notably from the field of science, where recent developments in Ecology and 'Complexity Theory' have manifested in architectural culture through the burgeoning sustainable design movement. Three case studies are presented as examples of the theory in practise. The West Dean Visitor Centre, built by Alexander and his colleagues at The Center for Environmental Structure, illustrates the theory's innovative building processes and concomitant geometric properties. A leaded glass window, designed and built by the author, provides further illustration of the geometric properties as they apply to the evolution of a design. Finally, two master-planning schemes are compared, one led by Alexander, another by a leading New Urbanist, illuminating the similarities and distinctions between Alexander's theory and those of the New Urbanist movement, which asserts his influence. An appendix presents a personal account of the author's transformative experiences with the theory, in the form of a "A Guidebook for the Student of Architecture."