3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Etymology of Software Architecture
I found this book so mesmerizing that I read it twice. During the first pass, I was surprised that the book was so philosophical and poetic in describing architecture. I expected something more technical. Later during the second pass, my goal was to find derivatives and analogies in software architecture. Based on what I found, I think every software architect would...
Published on Sep 30 2003 by Kris L. Holt
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars timeless building
a lot of new age airy fairy mystical crap, really hard to see what he's getting at specifically. would not have understood at all if i hadn't read "a pattern language" first. therefore i suggest don't waste your money unless you have read that book first, and appreciated and understood it.
Published on Aug 13 2010 by clinchem
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Etymology of Software Architecture,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)I found this book so mesmerizing that I read it twice. During the first pass, I was surprised that the book was so philosophical and poetic in describing architecture. I expected something more technical. Later during the second pass, my goal was to find derivatives and analogies in software architecture. Based on what I found, I think every software architect would enjoy this book.
The writing style that I noticed in my first read of the book made me feel like I was reading an architecture bible. I hesitate to describe the book as religious, but the book's description "the power to make buildings beautiful lies in each of us already" and the description of the word "alive" giving architecture "the quality without a name" triggered an epiphany when recalling that the Bible says "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." and, "So God created man in his own image." This is why I'd say this book has a primal, sacred aspect, and this is why we like to build. Additionally, the book especially moved me so my mind's eye was opened to see "alive" patterns and to think about the morphology of architecture filling voids and generating towns.
On the second pass of reading, I was struck by this software architecture analogy in the table of contents: "16. Once we have understood how to discover individual patterns which are alive, we may then make a language for ourselves for any building task we face. The structure of the language is created by the network of connections among individual patterns: and the language lives, or not, as a totality, to the degree these patterns form a whole." Could this be the guidebook for designing enterprise software architecture?
Obviously this book was the inspiration for the philosophy and vocabulary for software architecture, and I thought some of the following excerpts were noteworthy paradigm shifts.
"The patterns are not just patterns of relationships, but patterns of relationships among other smaller patterns, which themselves have still other patterns hooking them together---and we see finally, that the world is entirely made of all these interhooking, interlocking nonmaterial patterns." This sounds like the difference between patterns of software architecture and object-oriented software design patterns.
"Each pattern is a three-part rule, which expresses a relation between a certain context, a problem, and a solution." Deja vu for software patterns.
"You may be afraid that the design won't work if you take just one pattern at a time...There is no reason to be timid...The order of the language will make sure that it is possible." Likewise in software architecture design, as one design pattern is considered at a time to see how it fits needs into the large picture of design. If this pattern is later deemed to be dead, it can be replaced by an "alive" design pattern.
"It is essential, therefore, that the builder build only from rough drawings: and that he carry out the detailed patterns from the drawings according to the processes given by the pattern language in his mind." When I read this, I thought about the metaphor to the software architect's vision and design. The software architect's design needs to be abstract enough to accommodate change easily, but yet simple enough so software programmers can understand it, finish the detailed component design and build the component to fit the architectural whole.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Ideas, Poetic Language,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)I come to this book as a designer, as a technology professional, as a manager, and as a person who has always been interested in gaining an understanding of the patterns and systems governing our universe.
The book is organized into three sections, I'll summarize each of them for you.
The author postulates a Quality without a Name. "The fact that this quality cannot be named does not mean that it is vague or imprecise... I shall try to show you now, why words can never capture it, by circling around it, through the medium of a half a dozen words." These words are "Alive" "Whole" "Comfortable" "Free" "Exact" "Egoless" "Eternal." The Quality is related to yet is none of those things.
My take on this section is that this Quality Without a Name is very sort of touchy feely. It seems to boil down to trusting your emotions - if something feels good it is good.
In the introduction the author says that there is only one way of building. "There is one timeless way of building... It is... powerful and fundamental... And there is no other way in which a building or a town which lives can possibly be made." The author states that because architects and city planners are removed from the community, unlike the way people once built things, that we've lost this way, this language.
He then proposes a Pattern Language, which is the heart of the book (In my humble opinion). A Pattern is a way to identify, build, and share this precies way of making buildings and towns that are alive.
"... every pattern we define must be formulated in the form of a rule which establishes a relationship between a context, a system of forces which arises in that context, and a configuration which allows these forces to resolve themselves in that context.
"It has the following generic form:
Context -> System of forces -> Configuration."
If you can define a context, problem, and solution, you have a pattern that can be used to build something, and can be shared by other people.
You get to this definition by thinking of a place that is alive, that's comfortable, and focusing on the geography, on the space. What makes it so good? What is the need that this place fills? This is always hard to do: going from the general to the specific or the specific to the general requires a mental leap, and the author provides a some examples of how to do this. How to determine if something has this "Quality Without a Name."
Every complex thing (like a flower) is made up of many simple things that are self-sustaining. Any non-sustaining system within the whole will bring the whole down.
This is true of buildings and places as well. "Half Hidden Garden", for example, may be made up of "Courtyards Which Live" "Garden Growing Wild" "Terraced Slope" "Fruit Trees" "Sunny Place," etc. You shouldn't even begin to design until you have a complete picture of what the garden will be like by filling in all of the details.
This section, I believe, inspired Object Oriented Programming. A "Sunny Place" can be used in other "Half Hidden Gardens" or in an entirely different structure, like a Park.
I decided to skim this section, so my summary here will probably miss a few important points. I may go back and read it in more depth at a later date.
Here he describes how the language can live, like a genetic code - picked up and modified by people over time so that multiple languages can evolve. He also describes how to put the pattern into action.
The idea of a Pattern Language appeals to me, and I like many of the concepts the book puts forward, however I found his tone to be self-congradulatory, and he didn't seem to put much stock in his reader. The tone was very much "My idea is revolutionary, and you must be prepared to recieve it."
Many of his arguments are put forth poorly. Either he doesn't describe his premise well, or the logic itself seems flawed. For example, he says that this process is both precise and based on feelings. Reading the book this seems contradictory, but upon later reflection it makes sense. It was just stated poorly. What he's proposing is a way of defining, or pinning down, what about a place makes it feel good. A specific process to define why a you like something, and formula for communicating it.
Overall, I felt he could've been a LOT more concise and either made the book smaller, or packed a lot more useful information in. It felt very much like a first draft, and that he was still working through his ideas and not quite prepared to communicate them effectively. Several of the other reviews of this book seem to miss the point, and I take that as further indication that the author was struggling to get his ideas across.
The author believes that getting an overview of his concepts is more important than the details, so he arranged the book so you can read the "headlines" quickly to get an overview. For me this was distracting because he changes voice for every paragraph, and the book loses it's narrative flow.
I give this book five stars for content, but remove one for the way it was communicated. I suggest it to anyone who is interested in developing a system (these ideas apply to much more than architecture), a taxonomy, a structure, or those with a purely academic interest in the author's ideas. I'm actually anxious to put some of them to use.
The second book in this series is called A Pattern Language, and it's 230 or so patterns, ranging from Region to Town to Sunny Area. The third book is The Oregon Experiment, which I believe chronicles the building of a school based on these principles.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Way of Thinking,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)Alexander's "A Timeless Way of Building" is a philosophical treatise which has informed my thinking profoundly. Without any formal training or interest in architecture, per se, this book has opened a world of awe for me. Awe of language, of systems, of people. It almost reads as a spiritual text - but with the credibility afforded only to those who clearly address specific content (architecture and city planning, in this case). Alexander's writing is clean and precise. His ideas are powerful, they are more true today than in '79 and in more domains than architecture. I recommend this to anyone who is curious about how systems work.
5.0 out of 5 stars this book blew me away,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)I bought this book because i am about to build a house. Coincidentally, i am also a senior software engineer and very familiar with design patterns in my field - i use them every day. They work very well for programming computers.
This book, however, literally takes the concept of living patterns to architecture, and, by extension of the act of creation, to life itself.
At the same time as being a great philosophical read, it's also a handy guide to building a house. Bonus points for the author: The book can be read in 15 minutes (reading the "detailed table of contents"), in one hour (reading only the headlines), or in the full. These modes of reading the book come from the author's emphasis of the whole over the parts, e.g. the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
I am not entirely sure that, as the author promises, i will now be able to go and build a house, without drawing a plan... but that this idealistic goal is in practice hard to attain does not make the incredibly deep insights in this book any less true or any less practical.
Like another reader said - the book changed the way i think about... everything!
Patterns as described in this book are far more refined than anything we use in computer science, and that he sees them in a much broader light. The central grandiose idea is the one of complete interconnectedness of the patterns - the whole, which is more than the sum of its parts.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very much worth noting,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)Towards the end of his life, the philosopher and teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti enjoyed having sections from the Timeless Way read to him each evening.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking for many fields,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)This is a book written to an audience of traditional building (what I call "brick") architects. It is the foundation of the pattern approach to system design that has sprung up in many disciplines, most notably software design.
His goal is to teach the basic, repeatable process of understanding forces acting on a given problem space and how to find a pattern that solves the problem in a way that imbues the space or item with "the quality without a name". This is essential reading for anyone who is building any software, back end or front end.
The reason is that you are creating spaces that people spend their lives in. Be it the IT guy who needs to keep your stuff up and runnning to the end user who just want to complete his goal in a delightful way. Alexander derides the people who choose bad patterns which result in the "dead" sameness in many mass-produced items (including office parks and most modern apartment complexes).
He calls for a return to a more organic process. A process in which any person can go ahead and design a house. With the patterns and process, the person is able to directly design the house (or anything else) to directly suilt his or her personal needs. Alexander points out the danger that having everything designed by "experts" who make everything complicated and thus beyond the reach of the common user - this is rampant in both bits and bricks - I think it has to be stamped out.
Also keep in mind that patterns provide a framework for solving a given problem, there is lot's of room for customization, but certain rules must be observed. Afterall the system is one of language, a language of patterns with a grammar all it's own. In musical terms, western music gives you 12 tones. They can be put togeher in an infinite way, there are genres that help limit the variety and give a stricter framework.
Remeber that patterns exist at all scales. Each pattern is really made up of sub patterns. Each pattern, at a given time, is a constituent part of a larger pattern. When all workers speak the same pattern language, the outcome is more predicatable and all people involved in the bui;lding can adapt to problems autonomously and be assured that the solution will have coherence with the whole. It's liberating. It is democratizing. It invites other to add on. Once set in motion, there is no need for centralized control.
5.0 out of 5 stars Changes how you look at everything,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)``The Timeless Way of Building'' explains the idea of patterns in architecture. A pattern is a way to solve a specific problem, by bringing two conflicting forces into balance.
Here's a very simple example of a pattern. When a room has a window with a view, the window becomes a focal point: people are attracted to the window and want to look through it. The furniture in the room creates a second focal point: everyone is attracted toward whatever point the furniture aims them at (usually the center of the room or a TV). This makes people feel uncomfortable. They want to look out the window, and toward the other focus at the same time. If you rearrange the furniture, so that its focal point becomes the window, then everyone will suddenly notice that the room is much more ``comfortable''.
I applied that pattern to my own living room, by moving the TV under the window and rearranging the furniture, and I was amazed what a difference it made! That's a very simple example, and there are literally hundreds more in this book and its sequel. Simply reading them is fascinating; it will convince you that you can make your own home into something as wonderful in its own way as the Taj Mahal--which is Alexander's whole point.
In fact, the book's main idea is much more powerful than that. It applies to almost every aspect of life, not just to architecture. When a situation makes us unhappy, it is usually because we have two conflicting goals, and we aren't balancing them properly. Alexander's idea is to identify those ``conflicting forces'', and then find a solution which brings them into harmony. It's a simple concept, but once you appreciate it you realize how deep it really is.
This is definitely one of the best books on my shelf. It has really changed the way I look at...everything.
5.0 out of 5 stars Esoteric, Abstract and useful too..,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)It is the most wonderful book that I have read after reading "the fountainhead" by Ayn Rand.It not only gives you great architectural ideas but generates a kind of euphoria that most books don't.Defenitely the best book on patterns.
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars for software building 3 for architecture,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)This is the book that set the whole software patterns movement in motion. It's a great read. It made me realize how the builder blew it when they made my house. One small design change, the house is 1 ft too narrow makes it impossible to put a screen door on the front door. It made them build a extra platform which causes people to fall down into the living room.
On the other hand, if I was building a building I'd use his visualization techniques before I drew plans. But I wouldn't use this technique to actually construct a building. It would triple the cost. (The essence is to build it as you need it.)
On the other hand he explains why swiss barns look "alike" without the need for a design review committee. (Or barns in general.)
As for software, Design patterns give programmers a way to talk about problems and solutions without talking about code. Its a great idea and I use software patterns all the time. (Get the GOF book for actual software patterns.) Read this one to understand how they came onto this idea.
5.0 out of 5 stars The first step to becoming a designer,
This review is from: The Timeless Way of Building (Hardcover)This book is maybe more popular with computer guys than with architecture people, but it's applicable to all sorts of fields. It's about how you construct a design given a problem and a set of forces acting upon it. I have long worked this way in computing, but since reading the book I have been applying the same techniques to designing the garden in my back yard. I'm sure there's lots more I need to know about design, but I am feeling inspired and confident.
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The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander (Hardcover - Feb 18 2003)
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