Christopher Alexander dead, towering figure in architecture and urbanism

Longtime collaborator and protégé Michael Mehaffy says Christopher Alexander, a luminary in architecture and urbanism — one of the biggest influences on the New Urbanism movement — had a long-suffering Passed away on Thursday, March 17 following illness. Alexander is the author or lead author of a number of books, including A Pattern Language, one of the best-selling architecture books of all time. He is considered the father of the software pattern language movement, the brainchild of Wikipedia. In 2006, along with Leon Krier, he was one of the first two recipients of the CNU Athena Medal, which honors those who have laid the foundations of the New Urbanism movement.

In 1965, Alexander wrote the much-cited essay, Cities Are Not Trees, one of the earliest and most perceptive critiques of the dendritic, sprawling model of urban planning and development. Other works include timeless ways of building and new theories of urban design. Alexander was more than just a theorist: when he was awarded the Order of Athena in 2006, he reportedly designed and built more than 200 buildings around the world. In 2012, his work “Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth” tells the story of a school campus in Japan that was designed and built according to the principles he laid down (see above).

He is Professor Emeritus of Architecture at UC Berkeley. He founded the Center for Environmental Structures in 1967 and served as its president for decades.

Alexander was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996, was a Fellow of the Swedish Royal Society, and has been the recipient of numerous architectural awards and honors, including the Gold Medal for Research from the American Institute of Architects in 1970.

Alexander holds an MA in Mathematics and a BA in Architecture from Cambridge University, and a PhD in Architecture from Harvard University. He immigrated to the United States in 1958 and lived in Berkeley, California for many years.

CNU 30, held March 23-26 in Oklahoma City, honored Alexander’s work, life and impact.

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