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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure) Hardcover – January 1, 1977

ISBN-13: 978-0195019193 ISBN-10: 0195019199

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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure) + The Timeless Way of Building + The Oregon Experiment (Center for Environmental Structure)
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Product Details

  • Series: Center for Environmental Structure (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 1171 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195019199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195019193
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.6 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The second of three books published by the Center for Environmental Structure to provide a "working alternative to our present ideas about architecture, building, and planning," A Pattern Language offers a practical language for building and planning based on natural considerations. The reader is given an overview of some 250 patterns that are the units of this language, each consisting of a design problem, discussion, illustration, and solution. By understanding recurrent design problems in our environment, readers can identify extant patterns in their own design projects and use these patterns to create a language of their own. Extraordinarily thorough, coherent, and accessible, this book has become a bible for homebuilders, contractors, and developers who care about creating healthy, high-level design.

Review


"A wise old owl of a book, one to curl up with in an inglenook on a rainy day.... Alexander may be the closest thing home design has to a Zen master."--The New York Times


"A classic. A must read!"--T. Colbert, University of Houston


"The design student's bible for relativistic environmental design."--Melinda La Garce, Southern Illinois University


"Brilliant....Here's how to design or redesign any space you're living or working in--from metropolis to room. Consider what you want to happen in the space, and then page through this book. Its radically conservative observations will spark, enhance, organize your best ideas, and a wondrous home, workplace, town will result."--San Francisco Chronicle


"The most important book in architecture and planning for many decades, a landmark whose clarity and humanity give hope that our private and public spaces can yet be made gracefully habitable."--The Next Whole Earth Catalog



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Customer Reviews

The author codifies a desirable Pattern Language.
audrey
I can say, without hesitation, that this is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK I HAVE EVER READ.
Gilbert S. Perreira
This book is one of two that sits out on our reading table constantly.
johnzbox@onramp.net

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

374 of 378 people found the following review helpful By James DeRossitt on May 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My fascination with Christopher Alexander's work began with "The Timeless Way of Building," but increased tenfold upon discovering his inexhaustible classic, "A Pattern Language." At over a thousand pages (I think,) "A Pattern Language" is an encyclopedic study of what makes buildings, streets, and communities work -- indeed, what makes environments human.
Alexander and his co-authors present us with over two hundred (roughly 250) "patterns" that they believe must be present in order for an environment to be pleasing, comfortable, or in their words, "alive." The patterns start at the most general level -- the first pattern, "Independent Regions," describes the ideal political entity, while another of my favorite patterns, "Mosaic of Subcultures," described the proper distribution of different groups within a city. The patterns gradually become more specific -- you'll read arguments about how universities should relate to the community, the proper placement of parks, the role of cafes in a city's life. If you wonder about the best design for a home, the authors will describe everything from how roofs and walls should be built, down to how light should fall within the home, where your windows should be placed, and even the most pleasant variety of chairs in the home. An underlying theme of all the patterns is that architecture, at its best, can be used to foster meaningful human interaction, and the authors urge us to be aware of how the houses we build can help us balance needs for intimacy and privacy.
They admit that they are uncertain about some of the patterns -- they indicate their degree of certainty using a code of asterisks placed before the pattern.
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236 of 242 people found the following review helpful By Philip Greenspun on April 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nominally about architecture and urban planning, this book has more wisdom about psychology, anthropology, and sociology than any other that I've read. Nearly every one of this volume's 1170 pages will make you question an assumption that you probably didn't realize you were making. In a section entitled "Four-Story Limit", Alexander notes that "there is abundant evidence to show that high buildings make people crazy." Underneath is a photo of San Franisco's Transamerica tower, captioned with a quote from Orwell's 1984:
"The Ministry of Truth--Minitrue, in Newspeak--was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up terrace after terrace 300 metres in the air."
Alexander backs up this polemic with convincing arguments that high-rise living removes people too far from the casual society of the street, from children playing in the yard, and that apartment-dwellers therefore become isolated.
Alexander spends a lot of time in this book trying to figure out how to restore the damage to our communities that have been done by automobiles. He argues for better public spaces and for more integration of children, old people, and workers. He argues for more access to water by more people.
Many of Alexander's arguments are against the scale of modern systems. Public schools spend a fortune on building and administration precisely because they are so physically large [I've seen statistics showing that our cities spend only about one-third of their budgets on classrooms and teachers].
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117 of 120 people found the following review helpful By audrey TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've read all three books in this series, and I thought this was by far the best and most accessible. The first, "A Timeless Way of Building", introduced the author's philosophy and was, I thought, a bit bogged down with New Age jargon. I prefer to think in terms of comfort and relationships, though ultimately I agree with just about everything the author-as-designer states and obviously went on to read his other work. I thought the third book, photographs of a project completed by the author, should have been the most informative, but ultimately didn't do justice to the author's ideas. But maybe it was just the poor quality of the pictures. IMHO this is the masterpiece of the trilogy. Christopher Alexander's Empire Strikes Back. Its concern is the practical application of the author's ideas, and one could only wish to live or work in a space designed with this philosophy. His thinking is pragmatic AND beautiful, bringing balance and harmony to space.
Having made the case for his system of architectural and social design in his earlier work, the author here goes on to formalize a system of 253 patterns, ranging in scale from towns down to benches. Patterns 1 through 94 define a town or community; numbers 95 through 204 define (groups of) buildings; and numbers 205-253 define a "buildable building". The individual patterns are themselves evocative and inviting, and cover a myriad of human social and environmental relationships: number 1 is Independent Region, pattern 2 is Distribution of Towns, 10 is Magic of the City, 57 is Children in the City, number 62 is High Places, number 63 Dancing in the Street, 94 is Sleeping in Public, 203 Child Caves, 223 Deep Reveals, 235 Soft Inside Walls, 253 Things from Your Life.
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