A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Constructionby Published 25 Aug 1977
|A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction.pdf|
|Publisher||Oxford University Press, USA|
A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction Ebook Description
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At the core of A Pattern Language is the philosophy that in designing their environments people always rely on certain ‘languages,’ which, like the languages we speak, allow them to articulate and communicate an infinite variety of designs within a formal system which gives them coherence.
This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable making a design for almost any kind of building, or any part of the built environment. ‘Patterns,’ the units of this language, are answers to design problems: how high should a window sill be?; how many stories should a building have?; how much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?
More than 250 of the patterns in this language are outlined, each consisting of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seems likely that they will be a part of human nature and human action as much in five hundred years as they are today.
A Pattern Language is related to Alexander’s other works in the Center for Environmental Structure series: The Timeless Way of Building (introductory volume) and The Oregon Experiment.
A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction Reviews
Patterns are key to understanding what is ailing our landscape. There is an order, a language, for the way a good street is created. For example, there are recognizable parts that make up a good village townscape. Each part — a fence, a lilac, a walkway, a wall, a front door, a roof — each part works with the other parts to create a place that could only be that place in the whole world.
This is the brilliant insight of Christopher Alexander’s amazing book, A Pattern Language. You may have seen it around — it’s an unusual, yellow brick of a book that presents 253 patterns. There are large patterns for country towns, neighborhood boundaries, and ring roads. And smaller patterns for street cafés, pedestrian streets, porches, fruit trees, compost, alcoves, fireplaces, children’s secret play-spaces, dancing in the street. This book can be read in any order—just as a walk across a city or town can take you many places. And it can be read as a long poem in praise of the delights of ordinary places. It’s a stirring book, and like a first encounter with Bach, it opens a view to a better self, a better place. Alexander makes you feel like you can go out and build something beautiful.
A Pattern Language shows us that the relationships between things matter—and that there are no things, really, but relationships. There isn’t a chair, but the relationship of the parts that make up a chair. There isn’t a house, but a series of patterns—a pattern language that creates a house. And that house is a part of other patterns creating a yard, a street, a village.
Read A Pattern Language with its companion book, The Timeless Way of Building
Very inspiring. Empowered me to think practically about architecture at all scales. No appraisal or brainstorm on anything architecture, houses or buildings goes by without these patterns popping up in my mind.
I now understand why the author himself hated that his 'pattern' approach was appropriated by folks turning it into something abstract (programming patterns) whereas he meant them as an easy, democratic tool for everyday people to make their own neighbourhoods and houses. This book is a political statement in the sense that it actively tries to pry the monopoly on shaping our built world out of the hands of the chosen few in architecture firms.
The book is a product of its time though, and while many ideas are rooted in universal properties of the human psyche and physique, there are also ideas that are less timeless — and obviously it lacks insights we've learned since the 70s.
If I was on a desert island and could only have one book, this would be it.
I have to give it 5 stars because there is no other way to describe it but as amazing. Forgive me the long review, but it was a library checkout and I want to refer back to it.
I was initially annoyed that there wasn't an idex where I could look up "office space" and quickly read their recommendations for the best layout. Yet now I love the way each pattern refers to all the other patterns it is connected to, and you find yourself flipping from garden benches to farmhouse kitchens. It probably also helps that each chapter/pattern is only a few pages so I could delude myself (and my family) that I was only going to read for a few more minutes.
I can see why some wouldn't enjoy this---I can't imagine trying to read it for a class, or as laid out from start to finish rather than jumping around. One (positive) reviewer wrote: "It's wildly ambitious and preachy and reassuringly confident." All true, and also quite dated at times, but still lovely and inspiring.
It made me want to contact the designer of our house, because, while we unfortunately don't have the several feet-thick walls recommended, so much of our house has patterns as if the designer had the book in hand, eg: the flow through rooms, cascade of roofs, dormer window, ceiling height variety, low window sills (something I previously found baffling), as well as things we added: window seats, half-hidden garden, child-caves (under-the-stairs room).
I especially loved the last pattern: Things From Your Life. "Do not be tricked into believe that modern decor must be "slick"...or "natural" or whatever else that current taste-makers claim. It is most beautiful when it comes straight from your life--the things you care for, the things that tell your story." I so appreciated this after being told, by a much more "design-wise" friend that I was "brave" to have so many family photos out. I know design "rules" call for them to be in less public rooms, but I love photography and these people, and love having them throughout our home.
I love the open shelves pattern & hope to implement it in our kitchen. The city-planning patterns depressed me, as they are the opposite of how most public spaces are laid out, but I still found them instructive. Loved the "child in the city" pattern and more.
The copy I borrowed from our library had a personal inscription that included this quote:
There is nothing stronger or nobler
than when a man and a woman
are of one heart in a home--
a grief to their enemies
And to their friends great joy,
But their own hearts know it best.--Homer
EDIT: The above review is from November 2010.
Reread again in 2014. Loved it even more, and started a blog series, 31 Days of A Pattern Language
The authors of this book, architects and designers, believed that they had identified design issues that were timeless. They did the research and writing for the book between about 1968 and 1977. I think many of their solutions, and even some of the problems they identified, were dated by the time the book was published. I read the essays in the book out of order, which was interesting--sort of like choosing your own adventure. That, and the unwieldy nature of their arguments, made it difficult to figure out how to summarize what the book means to me. It's a beautiful and idealistic book that envisions a society where people build to give everyone what they need.
These authors were among many people who believed that the only way to ensure that communities reflect the people who live in them is home ownership. They did not address questions of affordability of housing. Furthermore, as they began their project in 1968, they believed that the problem of racism in housing was over. After all, they'd seen the passage of the Fair Housing Act. They even dismissed racism as an issue in one essay, while discussing the formation of neighborhoods by affinity. These massive oversights or innocence or whatever it was, make reading this book almost unbearable. Another thing which made the book feel dated, to me, were all the ways that the authors tried to deal with the generation gap and the family. I cannot imagine how people who had traveled to many cultures and cities could think of their emphasis on the normalcy and centrality of the nuclear family and in particular the needs of couples were universal.
The other piece of reading this book that saddened me were all the insights about low rise buildings, the importance of public space, and the need for people to have space to play. Every positive thing in this book has either been ignored in urban planning--to the extent we actually allow urban planners to plan spaces--or made available to affluent people only. I think the saddest thing was seeing recently that people are building mini-houses in parking lots. This decades after this book came out and was read by everyone--this book that asserts that only a minimal amount of space in a city should go to parking, and how important it is for every house to have a garden.
Anyway--fun to read, if bittersweet.