I recently read Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First, which has had the odd consequence of prompting me to think a bit about what it doesn’t discuss. More about that later, but I wanted to get this quote down for a co-worker. It’s from Christopher Alexander’s The Linz Café:
“(I)n order to get each detail to work just right… it was of course necessary to work each detail out, very exactly, by trial and error, using full scale mock-ups to get size and proportion just exactly right. For example, in the case of the alcoves, I spent several hours in the office, playing with chairs, tables, and pieces of plywood, until I had the dimensions of the alcove exactly right. I knew I had it right when it felt so comfortable, that everyone in the office clustered around, sat in the simulated alcove drinking brandy, and refused to leave.”
Mostly, Gopnik writes about food and how it influences our lives. I liked the book, nay, I almost wore out my Nook’s highlighting function on the thing with passages and aphorisms that Gopnik turns out seemingly effortlessly.
But it’s more the feeling of being in Alexander’s alcove, drinking brandy and being in a group, that I was looking for. I’m calling it “conviviality,” since it’s a fine old word.
I wanted to be sure to write this now, just on the 2nd of the year, because I want to see if this can be what I write about the most during 2012. And is there a better place to start than Alexander’s mix of empiricism and optimism in Linz? I think not.