Wednesday, 2 April 2008

A MUVE is not a tree.

I want to point everyone to The city is not a tree by Christopher Alexander. I'll let you make of it what you will, but the following quote seems particularly relevant:

"Another·favourite concept of the CIAM theorists and others is the separation of recreation from everything else. This has crystallized in our real cities in the form of playgrounds. The playground, asphalted and fenced in, is nothing but a pictorial acknowledgment of the fact that 'play' exists as an isolated concept in our minds. It has nothing to do with the life of play itself. Few self-respecting children will even play in a playground.

Play itself, the play that children practise, goes on somewhere different every day. One day it may be indoors, another day in a friendly gas station, another day down by the river, another day in a derelict building, another day on a construction site which has been abandoned for the weekend. Each of these play activities, and the objects it requires, forms a system. It is not true that these systems exist in isolation, cut off from the other systems of the city. The different systems overlap one another, and they overlap many other systems besides. The units, the physical places recognized as play places, must do the same.

In a natural city this is what happens. Play takes place in a thousand places it fills the interstices of adult life. As they play, children become full of their surroundings. How can children become filled with their surroundings in a fenced enclosure! They cannot.

A similar kind of mistake occurs in trees like that of Goodman's Communitas or Soleri's Mesa City, which separate the university from the rest of the city. Again, this has actually been realized in the common American form of the isolated campus.

What is the reason for drawing a line in the city so that everything within the boundary is university, and everything outside is nonuniversity? It is conceptually clear. But does it correspond to the realities of university life? Certainly it is not the structure which occurs in nonartificial university cities."

Alexander C, 1965, "The city is not a tree" Architectural Forum April/May issue, pp 58 – 61
Available from: [Accessed 2 April 2008].

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