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A Pattern Language

A Pattern Language

Towns, Buildings, Construction By Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein
with Ingrid king, Shlomo Angel and Max Jacobsen
Oxford University Press, 1977. 1141 pages. $60.00

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.

A Pattern Language, along with The Timeless Way of Building and The Oregon Experiment, presents "an entirely new approach to architecture, building and planning, which will we hope replace existing ideas and practices entirely". 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 these 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 formal 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 seems likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.

The #1 Bestselling book on Architectural Criticism on Amazon.com

I believe this to be perhaps the most important book on architectural design published this century. Every library, every school, every environmental action group, every architect, and every first-year student should have a copy.—Tony Ward, Architectural Design
The best book in the Whole Earth Catalog.—Stewart Brand
Don't go to architecture school; devour this book instead and use it to design buildings and places that really work.—Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired

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