A Pattern Language : Towns, Buildings, Construction, Hardback
4.5 out of 5 (7 ratings)


You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbors to improve your town and neighborhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction.

After a ten-year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure are now publishing a major statement in the form of three books which will, in their words, "lay the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture, building and planning, which will we hope replace existing ideas and practices entirely." The three books are The Timeless Way of Building, The Oregon Experiment, and this book, A Pattern Language.

At the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities.

This idea may be radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people.

At the core of the books, too, is the point 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 forma system which gives them coherence.

This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable a person to make 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 pattern language are given: each consists 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 seemly likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.



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Showing 1 - 5 of 7 reviews.

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Quite simply, one of the most extraordinary books I've ever read. It's an 1100 page tome (dangerous to read in bed) laying out a kind of method for designing and building, well, virtually anything that has to do with the lived environment. The patterns described begin at the scope of how to organize populations in large metropolitan areas, pass through such topics as how to lay out roads, walkways, public squares, beerhalls and anything else one needs for living, and finally ends with discussion of a few matters as how to organize filtered light inside the interiors of houses, and how to make your own clay tiles for outdoor spaces. I bought this book, at considerable expense, because I hoped it might contain a nugget or two of wisdom I could relate to my own thinking on how to connect inside and outside spaces. I never intended to read the whole book, but found the pattern of the patterns, so to speak, to be utterly mesmerizing. Each principle is laid out in a consistent fashion, beginning with a premise or observation, leading through a mixed bag of 'evidence' that can range from scientific studies to intuition based on experience, and then a statement of principle. Some of the ideas can be incorporated quickly and easily into existing buildings with good effect (I've already made one or two small changes to simple things like the arrangement of furniture that have worked nicely) and others are much more radical and would be adopted by very few(don't waste space on bedrooms in houses -- have one common sleeping area with offset alcoves for some measure of privacy; don't bother constructing paved roads on residential streets -- just a pair of tracks for wheels along with lots of grass will do). There is enough material in this book to busy anyone who is interested in how the built environment influences our behaviour, social life, mood, economy, or really anything else for many years. I'll go back to this book a lot.

Review by

A design classic by one of the most gifted architects of our time. Much valued in the software patterns community.

Review by

Other reviewers have used the word extrodinary for this book and I think that is fair. Having read it I can uderstand why it has had such an impact on architects and designers of all disciplines. It is a hefty book to carry about - but a very easy book to read. Would recomend it to anyone who whats to understand what 'design paterns' are.

Review by

I balk a little at the pretentiousness of the title. Why not just Patterns for Building? That is what the book is, a series of 253 patterns for building that in the view of the authors have proved their worth over the centuries. My doubt about the title aside, I join with countless other builders in admiring the book. I have read it and re-read A Pattern Language regularly for 20 years and it greatly informed the decisions I made in designing the house chronicled in my own book, Crafting the Considerate House. It is a profoundly humane work, rooted in anthropology, sociology, and progressive social thought as much as in a love for the sensory pleasures provided by well-wrought buildings. Illustrated with the simplest of pencil sketches and black and white photos, it is concerned not with producing art-trophy houses for the wealthy and privileged but with enriching everyday experiences for us all.

Review by

I have never read a book anything like <i>A Pattern Language</i>, and it is very unlikely I shall ever read its likes again.It’s not often that one comes across a work so fresh, so singular, so perspective-shattering, so powerful in its ability to shape the very way one engages a significant facet of one’s world.It’s a very simple book to summarize. Alexander and his co-authors prepared a list of 253 elements of human living, ranging from the broadest geographical layout of an entire country, down to the positions of doors, windows and potted plants in individual rooms in a family home, and including almost every aspect of cities, neighborhoods and buildings in between. For each of these patterns, they isolate characteristics they believe are common across cultures and times, and which make that pattern comfortable, usable, and beautiful. Photographs and line drawing are included frequently for illustration.There is very little other explanatory material in this book, other than occasional brief introductory sections. So reading <i>A Pattern Language</i> is a bit strange; since the patterns seem independent, reading about them on by one seems initially like working through a reference book. But I found that before too long a narrative of line and form and light and shape emerged; I found myself anticipating, almost intuitively, what upcoming patterns would look like, and it became easier and easier to progress through the book. As I approached the book’s end, I could see the overall pattern behind Alexander’s vision coalescing and clarifying, telling a profound story about living a beautiful life, at least in terms of how and where one’s body resides. This book is a potent antidote to the poison soulless modernist architecture has injected into the very bones of the industrialized world. I realize it’s now an aging work – it’s over 30 years old – but I hope as more and more people become aware of the vague but increasingly toxic effects of ugly buildings and the dis-ease of living in them, Alexander’s time in the sun will come.One final note: <i>A Pattern Language</i> may appear to the casual observer to be a book about architecture, and that's true. But the scale of Alexander's project is far, far broader. Within the descriptions of the patterns are embedded repeated and often remarkable insights into how people really live, think and feel. Occasionally there's a bit of a Utopian tinge that reminds you Alexander couldn't wholly escape the 70s zeitgeist in which he's writing, but on the whole there is more good sense about human nature between these two covers than you will find in whole programs of study in anthropology or sociology in most contemporary universities. Highly, highly recommended.

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