I am reprinting Denver architect Jeff Sheppard’s reply to my reply to his reply to my post because my host, WordPress.com, supplies no avenue to continue discussions beyond two or three levels, depending on how you count. In Growing dull in Denver,” I urged Sheppard (and Denver) to avoid buildings by Bjark-Ingalls Group (BIG) for stylistic reasons, but ignored aspects of his column in the Denver Post that did not relate to my concerns. He replied saying I should address his concerns. I replied saying that I had a right to pursue my own agenda, assuming I did not misstate Sheppard’s words in bending them to my use. He then issued this reply to that:
David: I appreciate your comments yet I sense that your argument boils down to style versus content. With such a myopic viewpoint I believe you are not doing justice to the multitude of successful planning and multifamily projects that exhibit an appropriate expression of our time while also creating inspired and diverse living conditions. Many of these projects exhibit principles that are addressed in the circa 1970’s book by Christopher Alexander, titled A Pattern Language, and are quite valid today. What is most interesting about the book is that it does not delve into style, instead it describes principles/ “patterns” that, when properly employed, lead to spaces and buildings that are memorable, inspirational, functional and contextually appropriate. I believe the projects mentioned in my op-ed piece utilize these patterns while not resorting to the veiled thinness of a falsely duplicated history.
The illustration at the top of this post should sufficiently expose the hollowness of Sheppard’s clichés. Is Christopher Alexander’s architecture a thinly veiled example of falsely duplicated history? Apparently so, according to Sheppard. Alexander would reject almost every sentiment in Sheppard’s reply. Nikos Salingaros, who has worked alongside Alexander for decades, condemns Sheppard’s mossbacked modernist clichés in terms even harsher than my own. Style is a vital aspect of content, and Alexander’s patterns, while they are often minimalist in style, are an outgrowth of a natural morphology, based in biology, by which traditional and classical architecture have evolved, and which has been rejected entirely by the modernism that Sheppard and BIG embrace.
This fact is rendered obvious by style. Sheppard’s contention that BIG and its fellow modernist firms “utilize these patterns” promoted by Alexander is clearly false. Sheppard should try to understand Alexander before using him to hide behind. Falsely duplicated history indeed!