“Things which have real life always have a certain ease, a morphological roughness. This is not an accidental property”Christopher Alexander, Book One, The Nature of Order, p. 210
“It is certainly noticeable that all great buildings do have various small irregularities in them, even though they often conform to approximate overall symmetries and configurations. By contrast, buildings which are perfectly regular seem dead.”Christopher Alexander, Book One, The Nature of Order, p. 214
“The seemingly rough arrangement is more precise because it comes from a much more careful guarding of the essential centers of the design.”Christopher Alexander, Book One, The Nature of Order, p. 211
During a recent visit to Portland, Oregon, we were lucky enough to spend a few hours in the City’s spectacular Japanese Garden. Wandering about, one encounters a series of places where a path leads directly toward a stone, tree or water feature then nearly melts away, gently redirecting one’s direction of travel and gaze. These apparent minor inconveniences are not, as I have come to learn, unresolved design decisions or mistakes, but thoughtful reactions to the natural features of the underlying terrain, a design “accommodation” to the context. I find this a refreshing state of the designer’s mind and an excellent embodiment of the property of Roughness. The garden maker has deliberately rejected the notion that a successful design is one that emerges into the built realm with its conceptual framework unscathed. On the contrary, the garden maker has intentionally enhanced the collaborative interplay of a design idea with the given setting, producing a place and an experience both beautiful and alive.