The divided brain and ways of building the world: parallels in the thought of Iain McGilchrist and Christopher Alexander

    Or Ettlinger Affiliation


What might have led to the fundamental changes in the built environment during the 20th century? While factors such as postwar reconstruction, urbanization, industrialization, shifts in style, or socio-political changes are surely involved, there may be deeper influences that are associated with the structure and dynamics of the human brain. Iain McGilchrist’s hemisphere hypothesis proposes that the differences between the left and right hemispheres are not functional but embody opposing approaches to the world: the left sees an atomized world made of things to be controlled and manipulated for survival; the right sees an interconnected world of wholes with which it is deeply related. McGilchrist observes that in recent centuries, there has been an increasing shift in the West towards the left hemisphere’s approach. Christopher Alexander’s lifelong quest for wholeness in the built world resonates with McGilchrist’s observations as applied to the field of architecture. Alexander observed that today’s built environment is an expression of our civilization seeing the world as a giant mechanism made of parts rather than an indivisible whole. In response, Alexander developed design methods that approach the world as a unified whole and the building of new places as a further unfolding of that whole.

Keyword : Iain McGilchrist, Christopher Alexander, neursocience, architecture, the master and his emissary, a pattern language, the matter with things, the nature of order

How to Cite
Ettlinger, O. (2023). The divided brain and ways of building the world: parallels in the thought of Iain McGilchrist and Christopher Alexander. Journal of Architecture and Urbanism, 47(2), 183–189.
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Nov 30, 2023
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