Alexander Patterns

This will be the focal page for some linked excerpts of A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. The scope ranges from room details to Society Design. You can free the full-text by buying the book or going to his site. (Some excerpts are re-worded a bit to directly use WikiNames instead of making those pattern names as redundant labels in the text. So the wording here may be a bit less elegant at times...) There's a strong SmallWorld flavor here.

Framing, from intro: The Timeless Way of Building says that every society which is alive and whole, will have its own unique distinct pattern language; and further, that every individual in such a society will have a unique language, shared in a healthy society there will be as many pattern languages as there are people... we have written this book as a first step in the society-wide process by which people will gradually become conscious of their own pattern languages, and work to improve them... We have spent years trying to formulate this language, in the hope that when a person uses it, he will be so impressed by its power, and so joyful in its use, that he will understand again, what it means to have a living language of this kind. And yet we do believe, of course, that this language which is printed here is something more than a manual, or a teacher, or aversion of a possible pattern language. Many of the patterns here are archetypal... it seems likely that they will be part of a human nature...We doubt very much whether anyone could construct a valid pattern language, in his own mind, which did not include the pattern Arcades (119) for example, or the pattern Alcoves (179)... This sequence of patterns is also the "base map", from which you can make a language for your own project, by choosing the patterns which are most useful to you. Well that's incoherent...

An unofficial full set/text

Connections among them.

I'm focusing here (initially) on patterns that related to education and work organizations. There are 253 patterns in all. Here's someone with very brief summaries of all the patterns.

This Pattern Language has a medium-PopulationDensity smell to me (not so much the list above, but the other items in his language): maybe applicable to an Edge City or smallish city, but not necessarily a NYC (or other really-big city). Maybe we need an Urban Pattern Language.

  • in The Nature of Order he writes about his design for a housing development in Shiratori, Japan. It fit 80 people/acre ( = 50k/sqmi), using 2-1/2 story apartments. Of course, that was just a housing development, it didn't include retail/commercial space, so the local density is overstating what you'd net out at full scale. Some excerpts (PDF).

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