A Pattern Language – Towns Buildings Construction

Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein ~ 1977, Oxford University Press, New York.

In 1977, whilst in the UK the Sex Pistols where spreading a message of anarchy and being “Pretty Vacant”, in the USA Alexander, Ishikawa, Silverstein and co. were publishing three books that would enable us to bring order and thoughtful design to our homes, neighbourhoods, towns and cities. This, the second book in the series, is a working document for ‘a new traditional post-industrial architecture’.

The book takes the form of 253 patterns each pattern describes a problem that occurs in our built environment and then suggest ways to tackle that problem in a generic form, such that the application of the pattern to the problem will result in a unique and effective solution. The problems tackled range in scale, from number 1 the macro Independent Regions pattern that concerns itself with the size and nature of the largest autonomous congregations of people, through to pattern 253 things from your life a micro level pattern, that accentuates the need for the personalisation of our surroundings.

I can draw much from this book for my own project. The Secret Place pattern helps me to decide what to do in an awkward space between a bedroom and its en suite bathroom. The Six Foot Balcony pattern helps me plan a potential balcony and with reference to the pattern its usability should be ensured. Cooking Layout helps to derive the optimal kitchen design.

This is a pick-and-mix of a book, not all patterns will be of relevance to all projects, many are very high level, the first hundred or so are concerned with region, city, town & neighbourhood planning and so have minimal value to measly barn converters (although hopefully some relevance in planning shared spaces). Others betray the times in which they were written, Communal Sleeping, Dancing In The Street and Sleeping In Public evoking the more innocent, hopeful hippy-dippy 1970’s.

Having said that, despite its 30 year vintage, this book remains a thought provoking tome that is an essential reference resource for anyone designing or thinking of designing a building.






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