Alexander’s 15 Properties

Alexander's 15 Properties

Alexander says he spent 20 years comparing things, from buildings to art, and through that study he began to notice that “objects and buildings that have life all have certain identifiable structural characteristics” [Bk I, 144]. He identifies 15 [Bk I, ch 5] that we as designers can use to create more life in the things we create whether that is a building, a dance, or an interactive app for children. Those properties are:

  • Levels of Scale: Differentiating centers into smaller centers
  • Strong Centers: Give weight, definition, distinction to zones of space
  • Boundary: Filled with activity that knits the bounded to the bounding
  • Alternating Repetition: A repeating pattern in a previously undifferentiated field
  • Positive Space: Fullness of a center and all surrounding centers, like ripe kernals on a corncob
  • Good Shape: Any loosely formed shape is given more life, a more living shape
  • Local Symmetry: An internal axis of symmetry
  • Deep Interlock & Ambiguity: Weave distinctly opposing parts into an inseparable whole
  • Contrast: Increasing distinction between centers
  • Gradient: Transitions of size and character of centers
  • Roughness: Making things work out in the context in the surrounding environment
  • Echoes: Family resemblance
  • Void: The vibrating stillness at the center of a wholeness
  • Simplicity: Cleans and simplifies
  • Non-separateness: Being knitted to the surrounding context
  • Next: The Generative Process of Unfolding