Christopher Alexander Reading Tour 2

An Open PURPLSOC Reading Tour and Book Discussion about Christopher Alexander’s “The Nature of Order”

The Nature of Order – An Essay of the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe

Book One – The Phenomenon of Life


Our interest in Christopher Alexander lead to the PURPLSOC Conferences of 2014 and 2015 at the Danube University Krems. Our first impression at the Danube University Krems, was that his thinking can, generally speaking, be divided into three basic periods:

  • firstly, his developmental stage where the basis of his concepts and ideas are expanded in The Synthesis of Form and A City is Not a Tree;
  • secondly his work on patterns and pattern languages as developed in his two major works A Pattern Language and The Timeless Way of Building;
  • and his third, and final, period The Nature of Order – An Essay of the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, his magnum opus consisting of four books totalling 1800 pages where his Pattern Language approach is fully explained.

A special fascination for Christopher Alexander

From all of Alexander’s work, The Nature of Order (NoO) holds a special fascination for us: it is one of his major works, and yet, it is one of his least known. While Alexander’s A Pattern Language and The Timeless Way of Building are world renowned, NoO is almost unknown to a wider audience. And for those who have read it, many have apprehensions regarding the direction Alexander took in this final stage of his writing, leading to comments like: “esoteric”, “difficult to apply”, “difficult to read”. However, a small group of enthusiasts have shown an interest in examining this more complex work in more detail.

Our objective: to lead an excursion into the depths of “The Nature of Order”

We want to tackle this challenge through our PURPLSOC Reading Tour. Over decades, Christopher Alexander has been studied, thought about and his ideas implemented into practice. Our aim is to discuss his findings in public on our PURPLSOC website and in so doing, bring together people interested in better understanding Alexander’s concepts in the NoO and experts experienced in the study and implementation of Alexander’s ideas.

We invite you to participate in this voyage

This intellectual expedition through Alexander’s NoO will start with “Book One – The Phenomenon of Life” and we will work our way through all four books, chapter by chapter. Each chapter will be summarized by a member of the PURPLSOC Reading Tour Team and we will invite discussion, interpretation and comment at regular monthly intervals. We are looking forward to lively debate, interesting comments, and new insights into this fascinating work by Christopher Alexander, and we invite you join us in this adventure!

The PURPLSOC Reading Tour Team

Peter Baumgartner, Richard Sickinger, Tina Gruber-Mücke


Methodology of the Reading Tour

1 – We recommend buying the first volume of Alexander’s work The Nature of Order –

Book One – The Phenomenon of Life. The book can be purchased online (directly via the Pattern Language Website or your preferred Amazon website) if local bookshops are unable to acquire a copy.

2 – Chapters can be read at monthly intervals in line with our website schedule.

3 – Following the monthly publication of the chapter summary on our website, we will welcome comments and discussion points upon Alexander’s thoughts using the comment and highlighting functions offered by the PURPLSOC Book Discussion platform.


readingtour_buttonThe Reading Tour starts on May 5th with

The Nature of Order – An Essay of the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe

Book One – The Phenomenon of Life

Prologue to Books 1 – 4

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2 thoughts on “Christopher Alexander Reading Tour

  • Reply

    Great idea! Looking forward to it.
    I would suggest also to give people small experiments to do. Exercises on things from their own lives that put into practice the concepts discussed in the chapter. This is what I do with students when I teach this material. Thus it’s important to be able to attach images as a minimum.

    • Reply

      Thank you Yodan, small experiments – a great proposal for all contributors! We will see what we can do to enable images within the discussion line. Would love to hear tell of the results of your discussion with your students.