Vol. 6, No2 (January 2002)
___Hajo Neis
Search for a New Form-Language in Architecture

The author describes the search for a new form language in architecture. The beginning of a new form language was developed by Christopher Alexander, Hajo Neis and students at the University of California, 'Design and Building Process Area' in the Fall of 1999. Based on partial form languages such as the 'pattern language' and other recent research results in this direction of architecture, and also based on a critic of the dominant form languages, a first rough new form language was established and formulated.
This new form language is to describe buildings in the most physical way, so that it provides us a language – a combinatorial system, within which we can make the form of the buildings, and reach geometric and design form.
The new language we hope for, will not come from an arbitrary assumption, but rather from the effort to construct a living architecture. We shall try to establish that there are a few principles – not too complicated, indeed rather simple to grasp – which will, together, in a very short space, define the necessities and the necessary language, in a way that arises directly from – and naturally from – the effort to create a living architecture.

(translated by the author)

___Howard Davis
Eugene, Oregon
Architectural Facts in Search of a Language

This paper uses some examples of vernacular courtyard buildings in different cultures to describe the possible relationships and convergences among four different approaches to architectural analysis, and goes on to speculate how these approaches, taken together, may be useful to the analysis and design of contemporary work, including housing and complex institutional buildings. Although these approaches have stood apart from each other for various ideological and intellectual reasons, they have demonstrated certain similarities of intention, along with the means to together deal with more aspects of architectural experience than any one of them could do alone.

The four approaches are the following:

  • First, the typological approach as put forward by the Kriers, for example, in the 1970s and 80s, and which still forms the basis for much criticism and discourse.

  • Second, the approach of space syntax as developed by Bill Hillier at the Bartlett School in London.

  • Third and fourth, two approaches of Christopher Alexander and his colleagues in California. These include the pattern language, developed during the 1970s, and the latest development in his work which is much more based in an idea of unified form than the earlier pattern language.

Each of these four approaches has pluses and minuses, if we are looking for an accurate and comprehensive method of description and analysis, that includes form, the qualitative aspects of rooms, and the experience of buildings. What I ask is whether there is some way of combining these approaches, so that the positive aspects of one will help to compensate for the negative aspects of the other. Such a synthesis might help point the way toward a form language that has the capability of bringing together various disparate modes of architectural thought.


Ordinary Form Language: Projects in Breuberg (Germany) und Eugene, Oregon (USA)
This paper explores one type of form language, an “ordinary form language”, which may be defined as the form language of a group of buildings that, when taken together, help to define the unique character of a particular place.  The paper discusses some of the challenges that face architects and designers today who are interested in designing and building within the context of an ordinary form language, and then describes specific principles and processes that may help in sustaining or creating ordinary form languages today. Two projects, one in the very traditional context of Breuberg, Germany, and one in the more modern context of Eugene, Oregon, are presented as examples where some of these principles and processes have been implemented. 
___Katja Pahl
"Fahrspaß und Formensprache"

I got the idea for this text during a search in the internet on the topic „Formensprache (form language)“. Many of the pages I found deal with cars (homepages, test-reports, etc.).
As a result of this, the question arises why and how, especially in the car industry, the term „Formensprache“ is used so often and so self-evidently.
In the following, the two most frequent fields of application are examined:
Form language as an independent sales argument:
The whole as well as the detailed form of the car is described by form language.
Form language as a sign to be recognized and to identify with:
On the one hand form language is used as a sign by which the whole brand can be recognized, on the other hand the modified form language of the single model is supposed to produce an identification of different groups of buyers with the respective car.
After that, it will be examined how the term and the „quality“ of form language can be used in the field of architecture and how this „quality“ can be imparted to the users of houses in a similar or even better way than the users of cars.

(translated by the author)


Shapes of Suitable Climate Construction,
Tradition and Change
The suitable climate construction of buildings has the meaning of energy efficient construction. Since energy is always rare, the famous builders and architects had to use all energy sources and resources. This had a large influence on the forming of traditional buildings, which we nowadays distinct as “vernacular building constructions”.
If we have to construct energy efficient buildings, we do not need to build the old shape of traditional constructions. Energy efficient construction in accordance with its climate is not inseparable bound to the autochthonous shape of the construction. It is required, to understand the operation of buildings. The application of new materials in combination with an effective energy usage will then lead to new shapes of constructions of suitable climate, adequate their former once, but not a reproduction.

(translated by the author)

___Teresa Ruiz
___Tom Wesel
Portland, Oregon
How should architectural form contribute to an urban fabric? While the typical American grid sets up invisible constraints to urban architecture, it also provides a basis for urban fabric overlays. As a case study, we will utilize 9 principles of Form Language, formerly developed by Christopher Alexander, Hajo Neis and students of UC Berkeley, to analyze the City of Portland, Oregon. We will exam individual elements of urban architecture, such as walls and windows, to the composition of these elements, the relationship to local tradition, and how they compose the urban fabric. Such investigation will inform a better understanding of its present form, and lead to visions for future development.
___Horst Ulrich
___Hana Jetel
Model and Form Language in Dependence 
on the Historical Fabric

This text is dedicated to the planning of villages, settlements and outskirts. It shall show at not everyday examples, how cautious planning can develop a model for a place to become the basis of a common creative task of the residents. Models are necessary to form places from human settlements.

Nowadays we hardly find typical vernacular models. Instead international models congregate in places, without having a logical connection with these or just with each other. The orientation to the old has always been a main topic at the following examples of the redeveloped place of Muttenz near Basel, of the new building of housing estates near Biberach, and of the resettlement of a whole village.

In Muttenz the heavy, cubic main bodies of the farmhouses of the old place, the perforated façades, often cut with unpretentious window openings, the sophisticated thin-skinned saddleback roofs led to new interpretations by the architects, though at an intensive language relationship with the old.

The new housing estate of Biberach is relatively free, anyway the street room in its proportions, the buildings of the old town that are mainly planned as saddleback roof houses are the examples for the new housing estate. One street in the new housing estate is calculated in such a way that it would be absolutely suitable also for a renovation of the old town.

With the resettlement of the place of Etzweiler it was impossible to create a street village in the old meaning. Nevertheless the middle axis was important to make concise streetspaces. So the street axis of the streets ‘Waldstrasse’, ‘Eichenstrasse’ and ‘Irisstrasse’ became the backbone of the settlement; there is the biggest density of building that shows similar proportions as in the old village and also leads to similar street structures, with a kind of bordering buildings.

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