A shared exhibition (April 2014) of work with artists from the Leith School of Art. I chose to explore the ideas of architect, Christopher Alexander. Alexander does not take a conceptual approach to design, rather he designs from “feel”. In his book “A Pattern Language” (1977) he and his colleagues gathered over 200 categories of habitual space, from micro to macro, from the corner of a garden or room to an entire city. These categories are mostly very simple and intuitive. Examples include “a half hidden garden” and “a window seat” and “path shape”. The “patterns” are found wherever a human being or group of human beings feel “alive” and at ease.
Alexander’s ideas are underpinned by scientific and mathematical principles, but rather than adhering rigidly to them, he uses these principles as a springboard from which to work intuitively.
I started working through some of the patterns myself in an attempt to explore them. I found that, as Alexander proposes, it is necessary to experience the place or space you are working in and relate to its uniqueness within the framework of a pattern or patterns. It is a gradual process. I initially wanted to capture the essence of particular patterns, but I found that the approach really is place-specific.
I focused on a corner of my own garden in Scotland, using my intimate experience of the space, and translating that into building simple models. I started playing with drawings of the models and created my interpretation on the pattern “Half Hidden Gardens” (pattern #111). I intended to be analytical and precise, but the drawings ran off with me into a different and surprising place. This is in the spirit of Alexander’s thinking.