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The Oregon Experiment at Fifty


After we'd worked together for a number of years, Christopher Alexander reflected on how we'd met, after I'd written an article on "The Oregon Experiment", the participatory planning package he'd left at the University of Oregon in the 1970's. "I have to admit to you ... it seemed that you were trying to reanimate something long gone, as if you wanted to revive a dead language. But the truth is, the process was promoted at the time by a few enthusiasts, who moved on ages ago. All that's left at the University of Oregon is a kind of written record, a residue of ideas, buried inside a bureaucratic machine. It's like faded graffiti on a forgotten wall." He said you need an engaged, motivated, living culture to make something like this work.

In 2018, I became a voting member of the Campus Planning Committee for a few months, as a representative from the University Senate. I'd like to share something about the distance he's describing.