August 31, 2009
Christopher Alexander Wins Vincent Scully Prize
The architect and author is being recognized for “a radical but profoundly influential set of ideas.”
This morning the National Building Museum announced that the 11th Vincent Scully Prize will go to Christopher Alexander, an architect, a longtime professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of A Pattern Language and The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, among other books. Previous recipients of the Scully Prize, which recognizes “exemplary practice, scholarship, or criticism” in the field, include Jane Jacobs, Phyllis Lambert, Witold Rybczynski, and Robert A.M. Stern.
The NBM’s announcement describes Alexander as something of an architectural provocateur, as well as a pioneering computer scientist:
For nearly 40 years Christopher Alexander has challenged the architectural establishment, sometimes uncomfortably, to pay more attention to the human beings at the center of 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. Indeed, at times it seems architects may be the last to understand and to apply the benefits of his challenging work.
In the process Alexander has authored a series of groundbreaking works, including A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Oxford University Press, 1977) and The Timeless Way of Building (OUP, 1977). His most recent publication, the four-volume book set, The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe (Center for Environmental Structure, 2004), continues that groundbreaking work, incorporating more than 30 years of research, study, teaching and building.
Alexander became Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley in 1963, and taught there continuously for 38 years, becoming Professor Emeritus in 2001. He also founded the Center for Environmental Structure, published hundreds of papers and several dozen books, and built more than 300 buildings around the world. In 2002 he moved back to England, where he now lives and works. 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.
Alexander remains a practicing professional architect and a licensed contractor in the state of California. He and his colleagues maintain professional offices in Berkeley, which provide city planning services as well as the design and construction of buildings. Alexander is also a prolific author and artist. His unique combination of professional, scientific and hands-on disciplines have been the basis for his evolving understanding of a new scientific and empirical basis for judging, building, and modifying the quality of the environment.
exemplary practice, scholarship, or criticism