Sunday 8 August 2021



As architecture becomes the work of brands like Gehry and Hadid – see: - one sees the strength of brands in our COVID world too. Just mention Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and everyone knows, and has an opinion and a preference. The importance of the name seems to have been made clear in a recent ABC News report that told that the Australian-made AstraZeneca vaccine has had to be re-branded for European approval.

'A Gehry'

'An Hadid'

The following text was sent to news outlets in response to this reading, but the world seems to want to keep this matter quiet. So far, only one report on this issue has been seen. Given the apparent absurdity of the circumstance and its potential implications, one has two options to ponder: the first is that the whole affair is a hoax; the second is that Australia is keen to keep the matter under wraps as there is already a problem with the acceptance of AstraZeneca that this situation would only aggravate, stirring more doubt into an already touchy circumstance.#

The mention of 'blood clots' immediately brings AstraZeneca to mind.

The hoax, or false news, theory arises not only from the unusual situation where a licensed product is not accepted in the same manner as the original; but also because of the proposed name of the vaccine – Vaxzevria – that seems a simplistic, somewhat crude phonic reference to ‘vax every Australian.’

Who knows just what is going on?


After all of the hype about Australian’s AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, we are now being told that, because this government-preferred, Australian-made version is not a vaccine that has been approved in Europe, it has to be rebranded. It is to be called Vaxzevria: see -

Just what is going on? One can recall early reports explaining that, because this vaccine was being made under licence, each batch had to be checked by AstraZeneca in Oxford to ensure the quality was up to standard. This story was given as the cause for the slow start: we had to get it right.

AstraZeneca, Oxford

What has happened? Australia has been putting a vaccine labelled AstraZeneca into the arms of its citizens, ensuring everyone that it is a quality product that the UK has used so successfully. Now we are told that it is something else other than AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, that is to be called Vaxzevria in order to be authorised overseas.

If one had been asked: “Do you want a Vaxzevria or a Pfizer?” the answer would have been clear. One might as well been asked if one wanted the Russian or Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, or a Pfizer; but some had no choice.

The Australian government has ordered 50 million jabs of this product that it has already suggested should not be used on the majority of the population. Now we discover that it has not been approved in Europe; that it means almost nothing to the rest of the world. How much more money has to be wasted? We have seen millions disappear on airport land, water buybacks, sports facilities, and car parks, but very little on new quarantine centres. A drunken sailor would be more prudent.

The question that had just been asked of the British High Commission - why does the UK only accept those vaccinated in Europe, the USA, and the UK? - has now been answered. Australia is using a vaccine that, for some unknown reason, has not been acknowledged by the rest of the world as AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine; but it is being given to us as the AstraZeneca COVID-19 jab. What has been put into our arms? Why the reluctance of Europe to authorise this licensed product?

The incompetence of this government is astonishing. Do we now know why Australians are not allowed to travel overseas: is it to conceal the fact that Australian vaccinations mean nothing? A portion of Australian citizens are now in limbo, like those left stranded overseas, left with ‘not-AstraZeneca’ jabs that are apparently meaningless. Is this why politicians preferred to get Pfizer?

One wonders what has happened to the AstraZeneca licence. It seems that this information will remain as secret as everything else this government seeks to cover up. It has bungled the return of its citizens; it has bungled the vaccine roll out; and now one wonders if it has bungled the vaccine itself. It is a very poor show.

And now we get Vaxzevria. One can imagine the discussion around the table:

“Let’s call it Roovax; for every Australian.”

“The idea of a vax for every Aussie brand is good. It will be a subliminal encouragement to get vaccinated.”


“We want something more ‘scientific-Latin’ looking: why not Vaxzevria?”


So the answer to the question when one rocks up for the jab has now been made easier because of the government’s inept handling of what it says is a good vaccine: “Do you want chalk or cheese?” - for this is what the whole farce has turned into.

One wonders: did I get an AstraZeneca or a Vaxzevria? What will my card say? We have been told we received the AstraZeneca jabs, but these apparently mean nothing. How could the situation end up in such a mess when the government’s intentions are so pure – pure self-interest?

The questions arising out of this muddle are:

If AstraZeneca* is not AstraZeneca, then what is it?

If AstraZeneca is AstraZeneca, then why do we need to change the name to get European authorisation? AstraZeneca seems OK in the UK.

If the product has to be acknowledged as the Australian-made AstraZeneca, then why has the name changed to the scary, challenging, more mysterious Vaxzevria?

Might the more inclusive and self-explanatory AustraZeneca have done the job better, in a clearer, less confusing and less confronting manner?

Or is there a lot more to this mess than has been suggested?

What is the government hiding this time?

Is a vaccine by any other name the same?

A person skilled in marketing would have to say, “No.”

The whole point of branding is differentiation. It seems to the ordinary person that Vaxzevria is not AstraZeneca.

The situation is made more puzzling when one considers our era that has brands that maintain their prestige and reputation on products made in any country, even under licence, without any apology, problems, or complications.

What is different with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

In various circumstances in life, one hears the reference to the 'mother' theory that sees a mother's response as a reasonable test of reality: Would this be acceptable to your mother? What might your mother say?

Well, in this situation, one has the luxury of being able to report on what mother actually said. Mother has regular contacts with her helpers who are all unvaccinated. She gleans information from these people as well as from commentary on the news. Her statement on the AstraZeneca vaccinations is simple and to the point: "There are a lot more blood clotting problems than they are admitting to. They only count the dead ones."
Prior to this, when the argument about the benefit of the AZ vaccination was explained to her, mother noted: "It might not kill you, but it will hasten your death."
So much for the 'real world' information.

Mother's latest analysis of the jabs is:
AstraZeneca gives blood clots;
Pfizer gives heart complications;
Moderna leaves one with a sore arm.
She is now waiting for the Moderna vaccine.

It is very likely she will never be vaccinated; there will always be an excuse for another delay with another problem gleaned from the daily chat with her helpers who know the 'real' world.
When we explain that unvaccinated folk have died, the message is met with a quiet "Mmmmm."
Mother has never mentioned that there are reports that Pfizer enlarges the breasts!

The term AstraZeneca has become the reference to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination in ordinary, everyday language.

Friday 6 August 2021


It must have been merely a fashionable, perhaps even a decorative concept that captured the imagination until something more interesting, or perhaps just different, appeared and overcame the boredom, to newly distract and entertain the short-term concentrations of our time and the persistent yearning for things perpetually bespoke. Mandelbrot's fractals were promoted wide and far in the 1980's, a little like Rubik's cube that arrived at the same time. These marvels were first explained or analysed with compact mathematical formulas, but soon became attractive because of the visual impacts of the images and their popular intrigues. The multicoloured fractal wonders astonished and entertained with their unique repetitions into infinity that were commonly revealed as mesmerising screensavers. Rubik's cube truly puzzled and amazed when it could be solved, but usually ended being discarded in sheer, hopeless frustration, with the cubic object becoming a pretty, pseudo-intellectual display item to accompany coffee table books, or just more plastic junk in the play basket, frequently to be discovered as collections of sundry pieces leaving one to wonder if this was the angry outcome of failure, or a deficiency in the engineering.

Rubik's cube

It now seems strange that such philosophical spatial concepts once neatly articulated by mathematics, could be best expressed in a simplistic, mundane manner as a screen saver, or a puzzle game - the equivalent of digital junk; something for perception or hands to tinker with. Maybe this is the nature of our time that seems to delight in turning all serious issues into trivia to be discarded when the fad has fizzed out, allowing things to go 'forward,' as the cliché has it, (most used and abused by politicians), to who knows where. Do movies make us delight in this terrible transformation of meaning into trash; of substance into frivolity: turning ideas into passing, entertaining whims in preparation for the next revealing revelation to divert attention yet again? Does everything have to be converted into giggling, pretend-happy entertainment to remain of the slightest interest to us today, always poised to ‘segue’ into more of the same?

Perez in centre.

Perez home, Lerwick

One can use Shetland as an example, the TV series based on the books of Ann Cleeves. These programmes have turned Lerwick into a place for visitors to seek out the various locations that have been used, rather like a 3D ‘Where's Wally’ challenge. One sees the old lodberries of Lerwick now signposted as the location of the ‘Perez house,’ a place that has become the pictorial site for selfies. The history of this area other than its role in the TV series is meaningless; irrelevant.

Where's Wally?

The Magic Eye 3D images in the pattern books of the 1980s come to mind as a similar short-lived fad. Publications full of these computer-generated mysteries were once the talk of the town: now one never sees them except as cheap trash in the op shops. Perhaps like PEZ sweets and their gadget dispensers, these 3D books will probably resurface at regular intervals over the years to grab the interest of new generations in what looks like a calculated cycle of cynical commercialism. Will fractals resurface?

Fractals are intriguing both as mathematics and images, and as an idea. Mandelbrot's thinking about maps and reality, how the measurement of a coastline on a map became infinitely larger in reality, as more and more detailed nooks and crannies get identified and itemised, was the starting point. The idea revealed an infinite repetition of the same patterned form within the identical, original patterned form, and was expressed as a concise formula that never became as well-known as ‘E=mC2.’ The fractal equation is: ‘Zn+1 = Zn2 + C.’ It is almost as concise as Einstein’s answer, and conceals/reveals a circumstance just as amazing. The more detail that is revealed only exposes the identical form again and again, showing that the whole is indeed made up of identical smaller parts that are themselves likewise, forever and ever different but the same. Fractals are life; life's diagram; clouds and trees, and more, are all fractal formations. Fractals hold the wonder of being in their image and idea. It is a concept that explains mountains, rivers and grass; growth: so one can ask if the idea might also be useful in understanding other formings, shapings and makings. Maybe it can help us understand design?

Architecture has never been shy with its use of other fields of knowledge to clarify or complicate its concepts and intents: so why not interrogate fractals to see what they might explain? This thinking will have to involve the suppression of the current unfashionable perception of the fractal that was once the joy of the architectural speaker; the visual equivalent of words like 'journey,' 'narrative,' 'unpack,' (as in ‘unpack an idea’), and 'segue,' (a smarty-pants way of saying that the subject will now be subtly changed). To bring fractals into a talk once gave it ‘intellectual’ stature, but no longer. Now it means that one is stuck in the past, that one has not ‘moved forward.’ It is this perception that has to be put aside to let the original wonder of the fractal world again shine through, for the fractal world is indeed astonishing: it is our world, not a fanciful ‘Blue Poles’ vision. Fractals have something of the quality that the periodic table has in chemistry; they illustrate the coherence and structure of the world, its integrity and organisation; the secret rigour of what seems random and chaotic; ad hoc – see:

Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles

The slick exterior forms.

The aesthetic changes inside: see -

The concern with the 'Hadid' approach to design - the making of the big, dramatic, carefully-styled image, dramatising its singular gesture - has always lingered; see - The critique is not fashionable as the strategy appears to have become a basic beginning in architecture today; it is the epiphany of things newly 'modern.' What is the term one should use: ‘hyper modern’? We have passed ‘post,’ and even ‘post-post’ modernism. One feels very alone with this critique as the world sees ' Hadid' as a genius hero, a great success: an icon to be idolised, even after death. The reference to 'Hadid' is awkwardly complex. One should perhaps speak politely of 'the late Zaha Hadid,' but the firm keeps its name and keeps pushing the brand – see: The new apartment block under construction in New York in 2017, unashamedly had the 'Hadid' name plastered all over it. The promotional material carries her photograph and her signature, as if the building was a signed artwork by herself. It appeared that there was some premium, some special prestige that could still be dragged out with such a proposition. The western world is not as subtle or as careful with the dead - their names and images - as the traditional cultures are. Here I am thinking of the Australian aboriginal. When the media is intending to refer to their dead, to play their recorded sounds or images, warnings are issued in order to avoid offence to those who care. Such sensitivity seemed meaningless in New York when profits, prestige and promotions were involved; when more 'Hadid' might mean more sales and more money.

Hadid's New York apartment building

Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

Gehry's 'crumpled brown paper bag' building, Sydney, Australia.

Can fractals help us understand the problems with the 'Hadid' gestural problem that concentrates on the primary identity and its unique, visual impact, caring little for its making and its parts? One might start by noting the lack of coherent depth in the recent designs of Hadid, and of Gehry. The simplest reference to illustrate this idea of a lack of 'depth,' is the Bilbao Guggenheim. The wonderful French Ovation DVD series Architecture, points out that the Bilbao Guggenheim can have its top one third cut off with no impact on the functions of the building beyond external appearance and its waterproofing. The point is that the building is only skin deep, that it lacks any coherent depth in function, form, idea, expression, and intent beyond vision: that it is all shroud with very little supporting substance - yet it is seen as a great work: ‘iconic,’ the ambition of every place seeking to be transformed by tourism. Arles seems to have joined the queue: see - and The concept of coherence, of 'inner necessity' as Kandinsky called it, (in On the Spiritual in Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1946 (Munich, 1911): see -, suggests some reverberant richness in a design, something of substance, some quality in the finer parts that can be seen to be gathered together to make the whole what it is – something fractal.

Gehry's Luma Arles tower.

In the 'Gehry-type' work, the whole is an outer skin, a shroud shaped for its own indulgence, positioned over whatever is needed to hold it. Gehry once boasted about being inspired by a crumpled paper bag. Is there a sense of cheating here, or does the cliché of ‘form following function’ still manage to control our outdated expectations, mangle them with an intolerance? Here fractals come to mind, the notion of the infinite, and details being intimately related, necessarily intertwined. To use another cliché that might help us understand, Mies explained the situation as God being in the details, a catchphrase that suggests that details hold an overall importance and significance for the whole. The question is: should design have some integrity; some inner necessity? Is it essential for design to have the rich coherence we see in nature, in fractals, or can design be anything one wants, like car design – see: and where images are created by theatrical illusions that blackout unwanted essentials and add sundry bits and pieces as decoration to give a preferred, fashionable, stylish identity in any mix of materials to form a shroud over the engineered parts - just as Hadid’s NY building ignores the columns? Even Novel’s suave dome at the Abu Dahbi Louvre relies on crude, heavily-plated, internal engineering for the framing support of its slick outer skins.

Nouvel's Louvre, Abu Dhabi

Hadid's car design

The whole nature of design is called into question. Paul Jacques Grillo once asked the question: What is design? in his book of that title published in 1960 – (Paul Theobald, 1 January 1960). Like fractals, this book is now 'old and unfashionable,’ perhaps unknown; but like Howard Robertson's The Principles of Architectural Composition, (The Architectural Press, London, 1924), the book should be given some attention rather than being shoved aside by the forward thrust of progress as old fashioned, mental drudgery; ‘just booooring.’ How can we know where we might be going if we have no idea where we have come from, and no interest in knowing? Grillo saw design as having roots, references, and an inner integrity. As with the Henry Dreyfuss book showing dimensions of the human body and the facts of the various things the body gets involved with in design and life – The Measure of Man: Human Factors in Design (Whitney Library of Design, 1 January 1960) - Grillo's concepts had substance and structure; a relevance to life and its lived experience – a ‘right fit’ that enriched. Design was seen as being inclusive of these matters of fact and ideas, and held relevance only insofar as these were appropriately accommodated: see - The idea was that design was like nature, learning from it and working with it. ‘Design’ did not impose itself on the work for its own aggrandisement, but grew out of a complex set of needs – inner necessity, and all of its subtle complexities.

The process, the concept, could be called ‘fractal design,’ where small beginnings and elusive intentions are encompassed in relationships that embody broader matters that further branch out into the context of life and living in this world to give architecture, and all design, its primal identity. Starting with the first reading of a building - the 'Hadid' image - one engages with the work in an ever more intimate manner. One gets closer to the parts; identifies its pieces; reads the door; touches the building; enters it; discovers the inner reading of place; moves on; sees the elements; touches them; etc., etc., all in a truly fractal way, but not only physically: the experience is emotional too – relationships are revealed. One senses place, space and people in all of their complexity - their fractal interconnectedness. If design is to be 'anything at all’ - ‘whatever’ - then its experience becomes a chaos of bespoke bespokeness, an ever-new newness that constantly reveals special and surprising differences again and again, to excite, distract, and amaze. Is this spinning difference, a lack of deference, a preferred outcome for the living experience of design? This notion seems to stimulate a perpetual discontent, always seeking only to impress, gyrating the body and mind out of gentle contentment. In order to gain some idea about the quality of life and living, others have offered opinions. One is the biblical Paul who suggested to the people of Corinth that 'in whatsoever state you find yourself, be content.' We would be arrogant to dismiss such an opinion because of its source. If contentment is to be an ambition in life and living, then how might design promote this? Grillo’s first two unnumbered pages filled with italic text tried to articulate these matters in their strange disconnectedness. Some things are difficult to put into rational words.

One comes back to a fractal understanding of life where the largest of pieces accommodates the finest and most subtle of experiences, and all such functions in between, in its every part; where expression finds its relevance in the richness of a careful and caring interconnectedness rather than any perpetual, random cleverness, promoting some personal, bespoke outcome that constantly declares the genius of ME with stark differences and surprises; amazements. One is always reluctant to define rules for actions and outcomes, but we do need to decide what we expect from design and life. If we want some supportive physical and emotional fit, then we do need to start to understand the responsibility that is embodied in the design act, and all of its fractal implications. To continue with the 'Hadid' approach will only push us into a more and more chaotic world of self-indulgence that breeds a constant, competitive dissatisfaction. Design needs roots and integrity if it is to accommodate and support life, its fractal complexity. Perhaps simple honesty is the most comprehensive word as Louis Sullivan suggests in his Kindergarten Chats. We can come to know more about design in Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order too; but why are these publications ignored? One might explain that Sullivan’s text is ‘ancient,’ over 100 years old; but Alexander’s writings are more recent, with The Nature of Order being published 2002 – 2005. Why have A Pattern Language (1977) and the associated publications# been allowed to become old fashioned - the forgotten past; as if they were the collected writings of an irrelevant ‘outsider’ when they seek to articulate the wonder and mystery of beauty in our ordinary world: its enriching coherence?

We have many serious issues to address. The constant strain now defined as a ‘mental health’ problem has become commonplace in our lives as contentment is challenged by a strained promotion of each self, seeking to outdo the other with blinding envy. One sees this selfish hype of the advertising of ‘brands’; it is a greedy preference for potential boasting that has now included COVID vaccines: “I got the Pfizer!” How can a fractal, cooperative existence become a reality both in our lives and in our works, to make each good as a resonant whole? Currently we seem to have the rich reality of our fractal world disrupted by the personal ambitions of the many MEs, each seeking to be the unique highlight of every other life. The recipe is simply outrageous difference, (e.g. the selling of an invisible work of art: “Beat that!”), the quality we see in the Hadid and Gehry works that gets promoted as the bespoke works of genius. Even the social critic Banksy can turn an ordinary oil painting into a multi-million dollar ‘art work’ by adding sundry extras or a slogan: see -  The gesture may be intended to cynically heighten the awareness of the folly, but this strategy itself now has become a matter of desirability for the hungry collectors seeking the extremities of difference, like NFTs. All criticism is squashed by the public fervour, even when one gets promotions and reviews that scream out an irrational exaggeration, never even worrying about naming the wrong location: see the ‘Burleigh’ Granny Flat – One recalls the period of tulip mania: 1636-1637. Critiques are displaced by an excitable preference for ‘movie-like’ truth: make-believe that tries to make others believe in the extremities of fantasy.

The question remains: is our current architecture purely just ‘make-believe’ - making individuals believe in the brilliance of form and narrative? Here photography plays its tricky role of deceit: see - To try to understand what integrity really means, we need to look again at nature and rediscover its fractal coherence – its inner necessity that stimulates the poet: When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained. (Psalm 8:3 KJV); I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. (Psalm 121:1 KJV). Louis Sullivan’s astonishing 1918 text might be titled Kindergarten Chats and other Writings, but it is not just for children. In stead of ‘moving forward,’ we should be stepping back slowly to try to understand the richness of things past, those matters that held and revealed meaning for others, that can still hold and reveal meaning for us. The myth of progress needs to be abolished in favour of an inclusiveness that is rich and vital, content in its quiet, knowing stillness – its depth.

To note Paul once again, when he spoke of wholeness; how we: May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height. (Ephesians 3;18 KJV). We know architectural space as breadth, length, and height; we need to rediscover its depth.


Alexander's published works include:

  • Community and Privacy, with Serge Chermayeff (1963)

  • Notes on the Synthesis of Form (1964)

  • A City is Not a Tree (1965)

  • The Atoms of Environmental Structure (1967)

  • A Pattern Language which Generates Multi-service Centers, with Ishikawa and Silverstein (1968)

  • Houses Generated by Patterns (1969)

  • The Grass Roots Housing Process (1973)

  • The Center for Environmental Structure Series, made up of

    • The Orego Experiment (1975)

    • A pattern Language, with Ishikawa and Silverstein (1977)

    • The Timeless Way of Building (1979)

    • The Linz Cafe (1981)

    • The Production of Houses, with Davis, Martinez, and Corner (1985)

    • A New Theory of Urban Design, with Neis, Anninou, and King (1987)

    • Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art: The Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets (1993)

    • The Mary Rose Museum, with Black and Tsutsui (1995)

  • The Nature of Order Book 1: The Phenomenon of Life (2002)

  • The Nature of Order Book 2: The Process of Creating Life (2002)

  • The Nature of Order Book 3: A Vision of a Living World (2005)

  • The Nature of Order Book 4: The Luminous Ground (2004)

  • The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle between Two World-Systems, with HansJoachim Neis and Maggie More Alexander (2012)