Pattern Language

On going home: Alexander v Eisenman

Sometimes it’s all about home.

There is an infamous debate from 1982 between between Christopher Alexander and Peter Eisenman: Contrasting Concepts of Harmony in Architecture (available as a PDF download). This debate is…sizzling. Two theorists with diametrically opposed views, which somehow often agree with each other if they would just use simpler language. The debate is quite a read, although I swear there is an audio recording of this somewhere, but can’t for the life of me find it.

During university I had a professor who summed up modern post-war architectural discourse as a dialectic between: “You can go home” (Frank Lloyd Wright / Alexander) and “On no you can’t” (Eisenman). I’m not sure I believe it’s that simple, but this dialectic stayed with me and I continue to struggle with the appropriateness, or correctness of each end.

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