What Does It Take to Raise a Village: Testing Christopher Alexander’s Theory of Centers by Examining the Physical Growth Process of Semi-Rural, Low Technology Communities

Authors: Grace Einkauf*,
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Latin America
Keywords: Urban Development, Urban Planning, Urban Geography, Christopher Alexander, Land Use, Latin America, Rural Communities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Silver, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Majestic Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the past 40 years, architect-theorist Christopher Alexander has become known for his work on a “pattern language” in building and city growth, and his theories have been tested in urban areas or areas of narrow use, such as college campuses. While his “pattern language” was an important early rubric, his more mature theories are still relatively unaddressed and the import of his theories for rural growth remains untested. This research examines his theories of centers and wholeness through observation of primarily rural spaces. It focuses on revealing commonalities between Alexander’s theories and the slow, bottom-up growth that occurs in low-technology communities. The two communities under study are located in Ecuador and Pennsylvania. Their common elements include various ways of supporting themselves beyond agriculture and unusually deliberate efforts to remain cohesive and preserve their cultural legacy. By presenting interviews and maps from these communities, we suggest that although developed specifically for urban areas, Christopher Alexander’s theory of centers and wholeness may apply to the process of informal urban development from homestead to village.

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