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"Well, to cut a long story short, it became clear that ... [Alexander goes to the blackboard and draws different types of roofs]. Now, all of you who are educated in the modernist canon know that as an architect, a respectable architect of the 1980s, it is quite okay to do this, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this, but please [he points to a pitched roof design] do not do this."

"So, the question is, why not? Why does this taboo exist? What is this funny business about having to prove you are a modem architect and having to do something other than a pitched roof? The simplest explanation is that you have to do these others to prove your membership in the fraternity of modern architecture. You have to do something more far out, otherwise people will think you are a simpleton. But I do not think that is the whole story. I think the more crucial explanation -- very strongly related to what I was talking about last night -- is that the pitched roof contains a very, very primitive power of feeling. Not a low pitched, tract house roof, but a beautifully shaped, fully pitched roof. That kind of roof has a very primitive essence as a shape, which reaches into a very vulnerable part of you. *But the version that is okay among the architectural fraternity is the one which does not have the feeling: the weird angle, the butterfly, the asymmetrically steep shed, etc. -- all the shapes which look interesting but which lack feeling altogether.** The roof issue is a simple example. But I do believe the history of architecture in the last few decades has been one of specifically and repeatedly trying to avoid any primitive feeling whatsoever. Why this has taken place, I don't know.*"

[ ... ]

"* That is, the constitution of the universe may be such that the human self and the substance that things made out of, the spatial matter or whatever you call it, are much more inextricably related than we realized. Now, I am not talking about some kind of aboriginal primitivism. I am saying that it may actually be a matter of fact that those things are more related than we realize. And that we have been trained to play a trick on ourselves for the last 300 years in order to discover certain things. Now, if that's true -- there are plenty of people in the world who are beginning to say it is, by the way, certainly in physics and other related subjects -- then my own contribution to that line of thought has to do with these structures of sameness that I have been talking about.*"

"In other words, **the order I was sketching out last night is ultimately, fundamentally an order produced by centers or wholes which are reinforcing each other and creating each other. Now, if all of that is so, then the pitched roof would simply come about as a consequence of all that -- not as an antecedent.* It would turn out that, in circumstances where one is putting a roof on a building, in the absence of other very strong forces that are forcing you to do something different, that is the most natural and simple roof to do. And, therefore, that kind of order would tend to reappear -- of course, in a completely different, modern technological style -- simply because that is the nature of order, not because of a romantic harkening back to past years. You probably understand this.*"

-Christopher Alexander, in debate with Peter Eisenman.

Extract from a debate: Christopher...

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