How Buildings Learn

StewartBrand, How Buildings Learn: What happens to them after they're built. Penguin, 1995, ISBN 0-14-013996-6

Brand has a number of references to ChristopherAlexander, including some conversations between Brand and Alexander. A number of ideas that Brand develops deal with the tensions between architects, developers, and (eventually) "inhabitants" (customers), and how they affect how a building grows over time. Brand and Alexander discuss how the financing of buildings (construction funding, ownership, the effect of mortgages and [mortgage] cash flow on the timeliness of building extensions, etc.) impacts the viability of a building over time. On first read, there seemed to be some obvious similarities with how software construction and maintenance is financed.

"...Alexander argues that a mortgage-bought building tends to be an over-packaged illusion of completeness that defeats any kind of incremental approach." (p 86)

-- DaveSmith


My experience mirrors this in part. My wife and I bought a well packaged house which is one of a mirror pair. The completeness was an illusion, but the solution has had to be by increments .. new heating boiler, roof insulation, etc.

Our neighbours in the mirror pair are intent on restoring theirs externally to its original condition of 1897.

-- JohnFletcher

Wow, I can revisit myself on Wiki! I wrote this several years ago. Since then we have had the resources to repair and renew the house. We still encounter the results of previous CodgeUp. Is that an expression used outside England?


As I created the CaveAndCommons page, I looked through my copy of HowBuildingsLearn for the first time in ages. It suddenly struck me: The whole book is about refactoring brick-and-mortar architecture. Wow. -- JohnBrewer
I am reading this book at the moment, and enjoying it. Interesting parallels between software and architecture, especially in BigDesignUpFront and maintenance. It talks a lot about how water causes most of the problems with decay in buildings. This phrase struck me:

Use materials that smell bad when they are wet.

Does this sound familiar?


See also WholeEarthCatalog, RefactoringHouses, ShearingLayers.
CategoryBook. CategoryArchitecture.

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