Christopher Alexander: this is what you're trying to do!

← Back To IA Theory

From an interview published in Tricycle Magazine with the architect and theorist Christopher Alexander

Not long ago, I was a little bit gloomy and fed up. I went up to Inverness [on the northern California coast], had an okay meal, stayed at a motel, and went to sleep, which didn’t improve my mood. And then in the morning, I decided to drive to the northern end of Point Reyes—out where you sometimes see herds of Tule Elk.

I was getting to a place where the land falls away sharply on both sides of the road. It was misty, and I decided not to continue. I pulled off into a field, popped out of the car, and right next to the car was a patch of long grass. I lay down in the grass, looking through the stems and blades of grass, out at Tomales Bay. There was a lot of mist and fog, and every now and then the mist would clear. You see, and then you can’t quite see.

In the grass there were a very small number of flowers, rather sparse. I think there was one blue flower and a few white flowers, but mainly it was grass. I was lying there looking at this, and the perfection of it gradually began to impress itself on me. There was a faint sense of light in each of the bits of grass. It wasn’t a revelation in any literal sense, and yet as I was looking through these grass stems, myself almost part of the grass, suddenly the thought came to me, So this is what you’re trying to do! What the grass does: it is effortlessly creating a beautiful and complex environment. And it isn’t just capable of it, but it is doing it,everywhere, and every day, and so easily. I was comforted, because the grass found it so easy.

So there’s nothing for me to worry about at all. Even if I fail in my lifetime, it is so obvious. Surely people will understand it sooner or later.