WahKahn in (MMO)RPG worlds

Roleplaying! As if the world weren't full of enough history without inventing more …

Timeless way of building a Social City

Book Timeless Way of BuildingChristopher Alexander’s Timeless Way of Building was first published in 1979, and is IMHO one of the most important treatises in the discourse on ecology and sustainability in architecture. It has had a huge influence on creative thinking, especially in the areas of architecture and software design. Alexander introduced the concept of the “quality without a name“, and argues that we should seek to include this nameless quality.

One of the reasons that this codex is still mostly dormant may be because of its holistic language. Each and every concept in the book is both explained in detailed paragraphs, and also summarised in short sentences. But the concepts are framed in almost spiritual terminology while most peeps in Western cultures are focused on material gain, bottom lines and imposing “being at the effect of time” on others. The alpha realm has gone underground on a disc world carried by four elephants on A’Tuin’s back, swimming through the vast expanse.

  • Recognise and abstract a physical feature of a building (city) that instinctually, not intellectually, “just feels right”
  • Define the problem that this feature solves
  • Define the contexts in which this feature is appropriate
  • Name and draw the pattern, so it can be explained to, and shared with, others.

I added that when playing Sim City and that made the game horribly addictive for me, even with the limitations of the game. I realised that studying my own addiction patterns might be interesting too. Now that goes nowhere fast, believe me. I found the “cosmos”, and now I can’t seem to stop thinking about bananas.

Anyway, I got an invitation to social city on facebook. And I thought, “Oh, that might be fun” and “for old times’ sake”, and “Let’s see how much it is like …”. There’s always some sneaky snake hidden behind those inner voices. I know I should have yelled “Pretender voices, Be Gone” and “Vade Retro” …

TOO LATE !!! MUhahahahahahhhahhahaaaaaa!!

The Plan: First build my own Social City, then re-cognise it in cities of neighbours that have inclinations towards aesthetics, then the entire Earth. We will impose “nameless quality” on the other planets later.


Blogarticles on specific patterns and timeless ways in social city can safely be expected to appear in this blog. And if you like including “quality without a name”, then by all means, become my neighbour and add a message “timeless way”.

Entrances and exits of buildings

Part of the renewed fun for me is that the game is evolving, and is already beyond what Sim City had to offer when I played it way back when. And that is what suggestions for improvements and ideas for the game are for, and how we become part of the creative thinking and the timeless way the game evolves.

So here is my first feature request: Be able to rotate houses and items? Or simply offer different positions of each item? It would be nice to be able to have more degrees of freedom when creating transitionary spaces. Among other things, I’d love to observe and exchange insights on timeless ways of building such spaces with my aesthetically inclined neighbours.


13 responses to “Timeless way of building a Social City

  1. Michele 21/05/2010 at 17:48

    I’ve never read this book, but it seems I’m not the only one engaged in making my city aesthetic and timeless. When I play Social City, it’s all about placement. I’m trying to create a model of a real city, based on my experience growing up in NYC, as well as having lived in Newark and visited Paris, London, and several American cities. therefore there are doubles of some items (gas stations, book stores) and singles of others (the incredibly ugly but useful casino, the amphitheater). I put in a large park and added two golf courses (one for mini golf, one beautifully landscaped four holer). I have a Japanese area that brings my city great beauty- it just ‘felt right’. I try to pick building that make sense to me in a visceral way- it’s not about making the most money or filing every space right away. I also find myself editing as I go along.

  2. Nynke Etk Fokma 21/05/2010 at 20:49

    Yeah! I dropped the bowling alley and the horrible movie theatre with that popcorn on top. Sold them again. People have big screens and on-demand TV so I am not depriving them. :)))

    Where is your city Michele? Please send Wah Kahn (facebook profile) the link to your city? I am curious. My sister is too. We’d like to see … and perhaps we can be neighbours?

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  5. Michele 22/05/2010 at 15:34

    Click image to enlarge

  6. Michele 22/05/2010 at 15:55

    The dirt patches are adding leisure right now. I’m planning on putting in a federal building, courthouse, executive hotel, and the big skyscraper. I’m also planning on buying the video arcade for my amusement area.
    The story of Raabeville is this. The city was founded by the Dutch; the windmill and well are the two items remaining from the early period. The people are very proud of their gardens, and so the city has greenery whenever possible. The city hall is not far from the mayor’s mansion, which is on the same street as some luxury brownstones. Raabeville is environmentally minded which is why much of the city functions on wind power and has two farmers markets. Civic projects that benefit everyone are also important to the citizens. Notice that the city has an extensive athletic area. Tennis, basketball, baseball and swimming are very popular in Raabeville, and there is also a beautiful golf course with a clubhouse that was once the city hall. Raabeville also has a sizable Japanese population who moved there during the manufacturing boom. The people have created a lovely section of the city reminiscent of their homeland. The one shopping mall in Raabeville has standard fast food, a movie palace and a bookstore, as well as a bowling alley. The factory area is apart from the main part of the city and so has fast food joints, gas stations, and everything it needs. The top of the city is in a smaller scale; there are small apartment buildings and local businesses. The center of the city is where all the major businesses are located, including the offices for the local newspaper, an open air concert hall, and a radio station that simulcasts local concerts. Raabeville has attracted a casino that is run by the local Native American tribe, but it caters primarily to tourists who stay in the local small hotel.
    Raabeville has aspirations of being a great city. The people hope to build a large art museum. They might eventually want to attract a major league baseball team. But the real desire of citizens is that one day the municipally-owned amusement park will raise enough money so that a subway or bus system can be put in, and maybe even an airport.
    My ideas are taken from growing up in New York City (ring growth, arts area, industrial area) but also being familiar with Rye, NY (municipally-owned amusement park), Nassau County, NY (mall, golf course), and other places.

  7. Nynke Etk Fokma 23/05/2010 at 20:16

    Michelle, I really really like your experiences and the thinking going into your social city. Enid Sachiko and Wah Kahn have both asked for friendship so we can be neighbours and enjoy each other’s progress and building of beauty.

  8. Michele 24/05/2010 at 14:12

    You’re welcome! I friended both of you, I think. I’m not a designer or an artist. I’m a former cultural anthropologist with a specialty in cities.

    It’s funny reading the social city fora. People will complain about how horrible a certain piece is, or about running out of room, or about not having enough leisure. I see all of these things as providing challenges. For instance, I caved and bought the hedge maze and put it in my park. i decided it represented East meeting West, with its cherry tree in the middle (the tree being a gift of course from a sister city in Japan). Other people were complaining about how ugly and inappropriate it was to have a cherry tree in the center.

    I keep from running out of room by only having a few key residential buildings. I’m no longer clicking on them. As for room, I have lots of it at the moment, since I’m planning and not just going for whatever will give me the most points. I put in lots of trees in ‘dead spaces’, and these act as attractive placeholders. Also, since I know from reading about chiaroscuro and concepts in Asian art that ’empty’ space is as meaningful as ‘full’ space, I don’t feel a need to fill every square.

  9. Michele 24/05/2010 at 14:59

    Click image to enlarge

    Please let me know what you all think, and what you might add/subtract/shift. I expanded to 27×27 last night, and added in the first solar house this morning. Notice how I’m avoiding crowding my suburbia. This is a sane suburbia, not a spawled one. I keep debating about adding a supermarket at the top of the grid, but I imagine the people there shop at small markets and bodegas.

    Still saving for the court house. I’ll be putting that in this week, and then going for the federal building- and then the executive hotel.I’m not in any rush. I feel like a gardener. I do want a silver park statue in the vein of the area by the Plaza Hotel in New York, but I can wait.

    My boyfriend takes an entirely different tack. He lives in PA, in the west. His city is really a small town. He hasn’t expanded much, due to a lack of time to put in, and a lack of neighbors. He’s finally planning on getting some neighbors and adding to his grid. Looking at his town makes me happy. It’s so wholesome and sweet- like him. I wonder how many of these cities could be seen as indirect self-portraits? And if they can be seen that way, what do they say about us?

  10. Nynke Etk Fokma 25/05/2010 at 12:53

    I believe all of them are Moebius type projected self-portraits, where our self-portrait was long ago influenced by our image-makers.

    And that the “quality without a name” concept supports conscious decision-making for “what works” and “what doesn’t” in context.

    Doesn’t mean that we can not delete/change/add from/to that with our imagination? Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?

    Congrats with the 27×27!

    I’ll be writing an article on “bricks“, “transitional greenery”, “empty spaces” and “suburbias” first.

    How do you like the new map feature?

  11. Michele 25/05/2010 at 14:26

    For instance, i’m finding myself starting to put in a river. It’s the East River. Now, i could say that’s because of where the expansion is located. But in truth, it’s partly because it’s through that river that I first experienced living in NYC as a child.

    I like the expansion. While it would have been nice to have had it connect up with the center section, I’ll just move pieces around and make the ‘river’ get closer to itself, forming a natural division.
    Robert Park’s The city is a big influence on what I see as necessary. So is Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of the Great American City.

  12. Solomons, Velma Blue Sky Bear 24/03/2011 at 15:19

    Wondered:? you know me?: all required fields are filled already!
    Wahkahn and Sskwan must be there in your City to bring Balance. Oh, yes, they love greenbelts within cities. Hope once this will be reality and not only a game to play. But hey, I love playing.
    Yes, the Dragons in all directions would be a good thing also. They are awake now. Children love to play with and around Dragons.
    And I love it, when the Dragoneyes would be brought together in the middle of your City as the Big Wahkahn/Sskwan Open Temple: the Sacred Stone Circle. Their children can celebrate the Sacred Seasons of Life

  13. Nynke Etk Fokma 02/04/2011 at 09:11

    Yesssss. I had Sskwan in several games, next to WahKahn. The two go together, always. They may not be both visible at all times, but they’re both there. 🙂

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