One of the 15 fundamental properties.

Gradients is the way in which a center is strengthened by a graded series of different-sized centers which then “point” to the new center and intensify its field effect.

Almost anything which has real life has a certain softness. Qualities vary, slowly, subtly, gradually, across the extent of each thing. Gradients occur. One quality changes slowly across space, and becomes another. Gradients must arise in the world when the world is in harmony with itself simply because conditions vary. Qualities vary, so centers which are adapted to them respond by varying in size.

Gradients will follow as the natural response to any changing circumstance in space, as centers become adapted correctly to the changes which move across space: in doing so, they will vary systematically, thus forming gradients. These gradients will also form centers because the field-like character which is needed to make every strong center is precisely that oriented, changing condition which “points” towards the center of the center, forms the center, establishes it, and makes the center real as a field.

Buildings and artifacts without gradients are more mechanical. They have less life to them, because there is no slow variation which reveals the inner wholeness. In something which has life, there are graded fields of variation throughout the whole, often moving from the center to the boundary, or from the boundary to the center. Indeed, gradients are essentially and necessarily connected to the existence of a living center. Almost always the strengthened field-like character of the center is caused, in part, by the fact that an organization of smaller centers creates gradients which “point to” some new and larger virtual center. Sometimes the arrows and gradients set up in the field give the center its primary strength.

It is also worth saying that, although gradients are commonplace in nature […] and in much traditional folk art, they are nearly non-existent in much of the modern environment. That is, I think, because the naive forms of standardization, mass-production (room height determined by 8-foot sheets of plywood) and regulation of sizes (zoning, bank rules, and so on) all work against the formation of gradients, and almost do not allow them to occur in buildings or in neighborhoods. As a result, one of the most powerful, and necessary, forms of life has been almost removed from the environment.

A true gradient requires that the morphology of elements — walls, columns, roofs, windows, eaves, openings, doors, stairs — are able to exhibit sustained and gradual change of size and character, as one moves through the environment, or through a building. This requires new forms of making, production, manufacture, which are at present only in their infancy.

A geometric gradient must occur in the environment almost any time that a true “field” exists with respect to any functionally important variable. As a result, it is one of the most noticeable features of any building complex or building which has life, that we find these examples of steady variation within them.

In nature

Any time that a quantity varies systematically, through space, a gradient is established.

The idea of regular gradient-like variation is fundamental to the whole integral and differential calculus, and it is the fact that these mathematical tools are closely mirrored in many phenomena of nature that is essentially responsible for the success mathematical physics has had. […] Even so, there is little of a general nature in complex system theory that explains why those living structures that are stable among rocks, plants, and animals have graded variation in such pervasive and accentuated form.

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/5 Fifteen fundamental properties#

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/6 The fifteen properties in nature#

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