Architecture and buildings

JohnJim McGee (with whom I briefly overlapped at Harvard) has written an excellent essay on architecture of buildings and systems based on Stewart Brand’s book How Buildings Learn.
I first encountered this perspective back in the mid-90s, when I worked at CSC and Richard Pawson pursued the same ideas, thinking about how systems architecture could learn from the adaptive architecture ideas of Brand and Christopher Alexander (who wrote A Pattern Language, a collection of architectural “ideas that work”, much read in the circles that practice extreme programming).
McGee adds a thoroughness to the analysis that I haven’t seen before, and nicely points out the contradiction in Brands conclusion: That building work if they are either adaptable or non-changeable (the latter, I suspect, being more an artifact of the stability of the activity taking place in the building than the building itself.)
I have recommended Stewart Brand’s book for years (and have given away at least 3 copies so far, the last time when we were designing the new building for the Norwegian School of Management). It really is an amazing book and an enjoyable read whether you are an architect, a systems engineer, or just someone who happens to take an interest in your surroundings.
Highly recommended (both the essay and the book).

3 thoughts on “Architecture and buildings

  1. Jim McGee

    thanks for the plug and the nice comments, although my brother John isn’t the one who overlapped with you at HBS :).
    Definitely been enjoying your blog which I found by way of Keri.

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