Registered user since Wed 24 Jan 2018
Sometimes we dutifully submit to day jobs in order to pursue more intriguing but non lucrative questions on the side. Until last autumn I was, by day, a university professor. My abiding side query revolved around human geography, vernacular building traditions, and the phenomenology of places and spaces. This personal investigation led me to pattern languages and a six year collaboration with architect Christopher Alexander.
The methodology behind the original APL embodied a conservative stance. Discovery entailed noticing, cataloguing, and analysing existing time tested solutions. This kind of pattern work inspires us to be sure, but doesn’t deliver when we are faced with novel situations and a dearth of reliable solutions. Where I am working now, at the newly minted Embodied Making Institute in Amsterdam, we’re experimenting with the other way round. We start by extracting the unresolved forces at play in a problem space and from there inch our way toward solutions. Currently I’m tackling pattern languages for urban cycling and regional safety programs.
I have been asked to speak about Beauty. A tall order and not an obvious one given the audience. I can talk about Beauty in Alexander’s writings, or tune into the philosopher Frederick Turner, or take a cue from Sherry Turkle’s collection of essays on evocative objects. Giving a speech, however, seems less pertinent than launching a conversation. That’s what conferences are good for. Conversations. I wish for a conversation around these questions. What is Beauty? Does it matter? Is it germane to our gut level distinction between day job and abiding intrigue? How do we achieve it?
Since a keynote must have a title, I will borrow from Stendhal, Beauty is the Promise of Happiness.
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