“I cannot separate it [watching the world go by] from the porch where it occurs. The action and the space are indivisible. The action is supported by this kind of space. The space supports this kind of action. The two form a unit, a pattern of events in space.”
Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

One of the most wonderful aspects of the natural order of times and seasons is the different parts of a day. For many of us, summer means daytime temperatures that can be downright prohibitive. It can be hard to plan on doing something outdoors when the heat might be overwhelming. Besides, a number of those outdoor activities are not for everyone in the household, since they are age selective.

But everyone can enjoy sitting outside together in the evening on the patio, porch, deck, or lawn. It would be hard to say just how central this activity was to the social and cultural life of past generations. Before air conditioning, television, and automobiles, and a number of other household-changing technologies, people were practically driven outside on a summer evening. They sat together with others of their household, and they often found themselves welcoming friends or neighbors into their circle. Goodness knows what they spoke of–presumably the little things of life as well as some bigger things, and it was surely common that individuals would have hand-work to give rhythm and background to the conversation and the passing of time.

I presume nobody needed to say, “Meet on the porch at 7pm,” or “Get out here Kids, it’s time for porch-sitting.”

Now we need to be realistic. It will take planning and artfulness if the household is going to be sitting somewhere all–or reasonably all–together. But we need not fret. Let’s just do it. It is within our power to orchestrate it, or at least to make conditions conducive to it. Depending on the age of children, it might simply work for parents to go somewhere and just sit down. And stay there a while. The others might just come.

This is the season for doing it outdoors: on porch, patio, deck, or lawn. It might not seem like we are ‘doing’ very much at all. But this simple activity might just be a springboard to an unexpected wealth of other activities, and in any case, of being together.


What to Do this Summer Mini-Series

This is the second in a series: What To Do This Summer. Find the other posts below!

I.  What to Do this Summer

II. Sitting on the Porch

III. Summer Reading Aloud, Together

IV. Playing Games with Children

V. Planting Now, for Later


Christopher Alexander (1936–) was born in Austria and is currently an emeritus professor of architecture at the University of California, where he taught for almost forty years. He has been widely influential through his theories of architecture, and is especially known for his 1977 book A Pattern Language.

You can read other posts on Christopher Alexander, including the series Restoring Home Life: Room by Room.

Image: Missouri sharecroppers. 1930’s

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