For nearly 50+ years, Christopher Alexander has challenged the architectural establishment, sometimes uncomfortably, to pay more attention to the human beings at the center of the design. To do so, he has combined top-flight scientific training, award-winning architectural research, patient observation and testing throughout his building projects, and a radical but profoundly influential set of ideas that have extended far beyond the realm of architecture.
In the process, Alexander has authored a series of groundbreaking works, including A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction, and The Timeless Way of Building. His most recent publication continues that ground-breaking work, the four-volume book set, The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, incorporates more than 30 years of research, study, teaching, and building. It was described by Laura Miller of the New York Times as “the kind of book every serious reader should wrestle with once in a while: [a] fat, a challenging, grandiose tract that encourages you to take apart the way you think and put it back together again.”
Alexander was born in Vienna, Austria, and raised in Oxford and Chichester, England. He was awarded the top open scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1954, chemistry and physics, and went on to read mathematics at Cambridge. He took his doctorate in architecture at Harvard (the first Ph.D. in architecture ever awarded at Harvard) and was elected to the society of Fellows at Harvard University in 1961. During the same period, he worked at MIT in transportation theory and computer science and at Harvard in cognitive science. His pioneering ideas from that time were known to be highly influential in those fields.
Alexander became a Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1963, and taught there continuously for 38 years, becoming Professor Emeritus in 2001. He founded the Center for Environmental Structure in 1967, published hundreds of papers and several dozen books, and built more than 200 buildings around the world.
Alexander is widely recognized as the father of the pattern language movement in computer science, which has led to important innovations such as Wiki and new kinds of Object-Oriented Programming. He is the recipient of the first medal for research ever given by the American Institute of Architects, and he has been honored repeatedly for his buildings in many parts of the world. He was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996 for his contributions to architecture, including his groundbreaking work on how the built environment affects the lives of people.