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The Timeless Way of Building

4.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,281 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
In The Timeless Way of Building Christopher Alexander presents a new theory of architecture, building, and planning which has at its core that age-old process by which the people of a society have always pulled the order of their world from their own being.

He writes, “There is one timeless way of building. It is thousands of years old, and the same today as it has always b
Hardcover, 552 pages
Published August 23rd 1979 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published December 12th 1978)
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Architecture by Francis D.K. ChingArchitects' Data by Ernst NeufertThe Poetics of Space by Gaston BachelardA Visual Dictionary of Architecture by Francis D.K. ChingThe Architecture of the City by Aldo Rossi
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Maryam Shahriari
ساده بود و عمیق. به خوانندهاش احترام گذاشته بود و نحوه خواندن کتاب را هم برای کسی که میخواهد سرسری نگاهش کند و هم کسی که میخواهد کل کتاب را بخواند توضیح داده بود. دنبال خودنمایی و نشان دادن علم و سواد و دایره لغاتش نبود. و همهی اینها باعث شده بود که بتوانی به راحتی بخوانیاش؛ بتوانی آن را نه یک کتاب آموزشی، که یک رمان یا داستان تصور کنی که میتوانی درازکش هم بخوانی و به اینکه آخرش چه میشود فکر کنی!
اما کتابی نبود که مثل رمانها یک بار بخوانی و وقتی فهمیدی آخرش چه میشود به کتابخانه برگردانی. با وجود
Nov 30, 2011 Robert rated it really liked it
Shelves: architecture
I found this book both wonderful and a bit frightening. The book is not a literary masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but the images it paints in the mind are quite beautiful in its discussion of what we use to be and what we've lost. As a designer, I find Alexander's proposed solution a bit scary as it reject contemporary architecture practices almost completely, even after 40 years of publication. But the ideas behind that rejection, about architecture being a common language and d ...more
Ash Moran
This book is essential reading for anyone involved in making things for use by other human beings. Part Taoist philosophy of architecture, part systems thinking for the way people and the spaces they inhabit interact, it explains why some places are vibrant and alive, others decaying and dying. It's impossible to look at buildings and towns the same way after reading this.

Alexander's Design Patterns give a way to capture the knowledge about how parts of a system (building, town) take their place
Apr 02, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorite philosophy books. It has lots and lots of picturs and the unusual feature of a fast-track design that allows people to skim the book in a day. I read the whole book and it made me cry and changed the way I look at everything.
Alex Lee
Sep 17, 2015 Alex Lee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, philosophy
In this thoughtful book, Chris Alexander takes an approach to architecture that understands it through the filter of human (and non-human) agency. He understands that the most useful buildings are ones that are created by the maximization of agency of the people involved, with the utilization of language based patterns that we inhabit to organize our behavior. He writes this book almost as if talking in a dream. Reading this book is a visceral experience of stepping into the a shower.

It's quite
Owen Brush
Dec 21, 2009 Owen Brush rated it it was amazing
If I were to summarize this book in a single sentence, I would say that it applies taoist philosophy to architecture. However, that is not giving either this book or taoism the the attention they deserve.

The Timeless Way of Building describes a natural way of building. However, when I say this, I do not mean natural in terms of materials or aesthetics, or even neccisarily the methods of construction. But rather, in an aproach to design and building that creates living environments. The Timeless
Howard Mansfield
May 26, 2013 Howard Mansfield rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Howard by:
The architect Christopher Alexander says that we can immediately feel when a place makes us feel more alive. “We become happy in the presence of deep wholeness,” he says. “When a building works, when the world enters the blissful state which makes us fully comfortable, the space itself awakens. We awaken. The garden awakens. The windows awaken. We and our plants and animals and fellow creatures and the walls and light together wake.”
In his masterful, poetic book, The Timeless Way of Building,
Sep 22, 2010 Eric rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-evers
I would give this book 6 stars if possible. Christopher Alexander's approach to architecture is so natural and comforting. I don't doubt that the world would be very different if everyone fully embraced his approach, especially since, as he argues, it's the same approach that had been used for thousands of years until the past few decades. But the thing that I liked so much about this book is that his approach is broad enough to apply to other areas of life instead of just architecture. He is co ...more
David Schaafsma
Aug 29, 2015 David Schaafsma rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, philosophy
My friend and poet Jen urged me to read this, telling me it is one of her favorite and most influential books. It was written over fourteen years in the sixties and seventies, published in 1979, and has the feel of a "back to the garden" romanticism. That sounds like I am dismissive of it, which isn't true. It just feels like what he said then is almost hopelessly truer today. Other books like it include Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, or Seeing Like a State by James ...more
Perhaps it should have been called 'Zen and the Art of Building'.... I hadn't come across this book before, although I think it may be required reading for architecture students. Having come from a design background myself I found it interesting.

It's long winded and often waxes lyrical, but the basic premise states that buildings are not for enhancing the egos of architects, but instead, they are for the people who use and live in them. So far, so good. Alexander also reveals how the patterns of
Jay McNair
Apr 16, 2014 Jay McNair rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-nonfiction
The pictures in this book, the prose style, everything works together to contribute a sense toward the timelessness that he talks about, the "quality without a name"... it's a very Zen book, or perhaps Daoist actually, and in many ways it comes across as a philosophy of life, not just a philosophy of building. Which I like--connections between things.

The companion volume is A Pattern Language, which has all the juicy details of how to build things better.

I took almost a hundred pictures with my
Jan 13, 2009 Greenmtngirl rated it really liked it
Alexander's books are as much about community--what it is, what it might be in other times and places, what it could be--as they are about architecture. Here's one of my favorite passages from The Timeless Way of Building:

"There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit of [a person:], a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.

The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of a
Sep 15, 2012 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
If you want inspiration, want guidance on how to move from a nihilist perspective on life into a place of positive statements, this book may lead you there. -- I know, I know it's about architecture and building, but really, if you just let go of those hard boundaries you have set up in your head, you may find that this book gives you spiritual guidance on how to live and be, how to make life and become more yourself. You may find that as you read this you discover energy to make a meal, sew a q ...more
Howard Freeman
Apr 13, 2012 Howard Freeman rated it it was amazing
This book and its companion volumes changed the way my wife went about design and architecture. For as long as I have known her (17 years), she has created spaces that make you "feel" a certain way when you're in them. This way you feel can be elicited only when the spaces created have the "quality without a name." This quality is achieved only when the designer is egoless.

Some practical people who disdain thinking too long about any one thing might find this book frustrating. Yet, as Alexander
Rui Maia
Mar 08, 2016 Rui Maia rated it it was amazing
It's extremely well-written, never superfluous and takes its time to be understood properly. It's actually very easy to read, but not so easy to fully understand what you just read. If you're looking for a soft reading experience, this is not the book you should pick up next; on the other hand, if you're looking for something that may be able to change the way you feel and think about the world around you, this is the one to start.
Borna Safai
Dec 14, 2015 Borna Safai rated it liked it
Shelves: work, own, non-fiction
While I'm not a student or master of architecture, this book still had a lot of insights to bring to me. I was suggested to read it by a coworker as it forms the basis of design patterns in computer science as well. As such, it does a great job at introducing the concept of patterns, searching for "the quality without a name" in architecture, and discovering and forming a universal language for how to design everything from the smallest corner in a room to entire neighborhoods and cities.

There w
Peter Aronson
Jul 28, 2015 Peter Aronson rated it liked it
While I do not in anyway begrudge the time taken to read this book, I have to conclude it is not for me. It is deeply mystical in places, which just makes me impatient. It is very nostalgic, and I do not trust nostalgia. It is deeply subjective and I do not find subjective evidence compelling or convincing. The book explains how Alexander's patterns (sort of a loosely-goosey version of the archetypes of Plato's Theory of Forms (or maybe Weber's Ideal Types)) for building are derived, used, and c ...more
Aug 19, 2014 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: معماری
واقعا کتاب عالی بود،تا الان تو کتاب های معماری اصلا کتابی به این سادگی و روانی نخونده بودم،البته بخش بزرگیش بر میگرده به مترجم خوب کتاب مهرداد قیومی.
ای کاش همه ی کتاب ها مثل این کتاب روش خوندنش رو اول کتاب ذکر میکردن و برای کسانی که فرصت مطالعه ی همه ی کتاب رو نداشتن به نوعی هر فصل رو خلاصه میکردن...
Apr 29, 2015 Bangquito rated it really liked it
Shelves: architecture
pattern language as design instrument, helping people and architect designing pure and honest plan in naturalistic view.

beautifully written, easy to read.

some early chapter may be skipped, due to its focus in saying: 'there are exist a timeless way of building' (yes sir, thats what the title is)

analogy that being use are general but appropriate. pattern language and its growth act like organism, proportional yet unique. pattern language are organized thinking from our collective memory of buil
Scott Ford
Jan 31, 2010 Scott Ford rated it it was amazing
This is a very important book for me. I read it regularly. Design and structure, and the development of systems that are alive. Great stuff!
Ravi Sinha
Aug 23, 2015 Ravi Sinha rated it really liked it
Christopher Alexander sounds like a true intellectual with deep knowledge and original thoughts. Although meant for builders and architects, this book has been applauded by many software developers as well, so I had to dig in. Mostly it's about patterns, natural flow, feeling, being alive, producing artifacts that are standardized yet unique, carefree, innocent, egoless... it's a tad abstract for me still, but given that it took the author 14 years to write, I wouldn't presume to completely unde ...more
Brandon Foushee
Aug 17, 2012 Brandon Foushee rated it really liked it
Great book.
Dec 31, 2014 Nathan rated it it was amazing
This book must be read with a bit of charity, in the same way as similar books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That said, I am extremely glad I read it, and would strongly recommend it. There are many different areas in which Alexander's viewpoint can provide value. The most obvious is in architecture, where it demonstrates and fleshes out the alternative to the authoritarian high modernism decried in Seeing Like a State. Another area it has been applied is in software (cf. Desig ...more
Matt Staff
Nov 11, 2013 Matt Staff rated it liked it
an inspiring book, honestly though. And i hate using the word inspiring to describe a book because oftentimes everyone is so full of such different opinions its hard to apply such a vague word to a book that will surely resonate differently with such different people; BUT this book is different than a standard book. It's obviously meant for those people with an interest in architecture, myself personally I study political science and can say I've never even thought twice about pursuing a career ...more
Dec 22, 2013 Lydia rated it really liked it
After seeing this book in Charette's windows and carried by architecture students in the 70s, I always assumed this and v.2 "Pattern Language" were classics. "Most important book on architectural design...this century" says the back cover.. However, what a shock to find after 450 pages that Berkeley Professor Emeritus, Christopher Alexander’s “timeless way” was to put sticks (and later pillars) in the ground to mark out the building, and then pour concrete between pillars to make a wall. No cons ...more
Amabel D'avignon
Feb 10, 2014 Amabel D'avignon rated it it was amazing
I am delighted by this book and will seek out the others in the series - as much psychology and philosophy as architecture, and the most sensible look at human factors in design I've read in years. I especially liked the way he quietly took on the idea that designers and architects always know more than you do about layout and comfort, color and size. He explains why some rooms feel good even though they're messy, and others don't even though they are "picture perfect."
Dec 11, 2015 Keith rated it it was amazing
This is a must-read for all who are trying to understand what makes us human and what humanity shares in common. Alexander is an authority on design and he thoroughly, carefully, simply outlines all we share in common when it comes to the spaces we live in, the buildings we find comfort in and why these spaces are so inherently comfortable and attract us as they do.
Nov 17, 2007 Mary rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People dissatisfied with what architects do to us now
I've revered this book for several years and swooned over the photographs.
yet could never read very far into it before I gave up. But I finally gave it a
serious try, skipped over the awkward terminology, said "OK, lead on," and the
author did. The photos he chose do tell the story, but not the whole story as
you can get it all by slowing to his pace, listening, and pausing often for your
own side-trips. To the vacant lot where at 6 or 7 you outlined rooms with rocks.
To the tent made by throwing a
Forest Tong
Dec 29, 2015 Forest Tong rated it it was amazing
Truly marvelous book on architecture, philosophy, and through it life itself. At parts, the text weakens--for example, in trying too hard to stretch mathematical or biological metaphors, and in his vague notion of using incentives to encourage patterns--but where this text shines is in its simple images, which summon up a deep and primitive feeling.
Max Galkin
Feb 16, 2012 Max Galkin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: meta-stuff
Awesome. Thought-provoking. Timeless.

I got interested in this book after attending a software development patterns training, which refered to it as a source of the concept of design patterns. Though the book itself has nothing to do with software development it goes so deep into architectural patterns analysis and pattern language for architects that it can be applied universally across many disciplines.

But even usefulness of patterns aside, Christopher Alexander's vision of the future buildings
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“Within this process, every individual act of building is a process in which space gets differentiated. It is not a process of addition, in which preformed parts are combined to create a whole, but a process of unfolding, like the evolution of an embryo, in which the whole precedes the parts, and actually gives birth to them, by splitting.” 0 likes
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