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Final comments on Alexander

Alexander is important because architecture is important. It gives the social, intellectual and spiritual order a physical form that helps mold our lives. Also, it’s large, solid, visible and very expensive, so it’s difficult to ignore issues created by the kind of order or disorder it embodies. Discussing architecture is therefore an indirect way of discussing other still more important issues. As such, it is useful because it provides another line of analysis that doesn’t run into political and social taboos so directly and so is more likely to reveal disfavored truths.

Alexander’s writings are also important because they elucidate a basic aspect of the good, beautiful and real, its living quality, and so connect it to the natural, functional and demonstrable. They make it harder to shrug such things off as merely a matter of personal preference, social convention, or ideology. I touch on some reasons beauty is important here, here and here. He adds to and expands on them.

My criticisms of what he says are wholly secondary. They amount to saying that even after he has made the enormous step of showing that the beautiful and good are objectively real and displaying some of their distinguishing features, using arguments that connect to ways of thinking currently thought persuasive and demonstrating implications for actual social practice, there are still some things that have to be discussed and some further clarifications that have to be made.

I should add that in addition to all these grand issues I’ve discussed, which as I present them may seem on the boring side, the book is immensely engaging and illuminating in detail. It’s got lots of nice pictures. It includes interesting anecdotes and turns of thought. It’s clearly and unpretentiously written. People should read it.