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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 1, Issue 1, Spring 2004

David Seamon
Pages 13-33
DOI: 10.5840/envirophil20041113

Revealing Environmental and Place Wholes
Lessons from Christopher Alexander’s Theory of Wholeness & Bill Hillier’s Space Syntax

This article examines the conception of the everyday city as presented in the work of architect Christopher Alexander and architectural theorist Bill Hillier. Both thinkers suggest that, in the past, lively urban places arose unself-consciously through the routine daily behaviors of many individual users coming together in supportive space and place. In different ways, both thinkers ask whether, today, a similar sort of vital urban district can be made to happen self-consciously through explicit understanding transformed into design and policy principles. The aim for both Alexander and Hillier is place-based urban communities marked by lively streets, serendipitous public encounters, and informal sociability. The article begins by examining commonalities and differences in Alexander and Hillier’s conception of environmental wholeness and urban place. Next, the article considers implications for urban design and, finally, indicates the considerable value that the two thinkers’ ideas offer environmental philosophy, particularly for understanding environmental wholes.