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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure) [Hardcover]

by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1977 0195019199 978-0195019193
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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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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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



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 (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
364 of 368 people found the following review helpful
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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230 of 236 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it isn't about architecture 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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113 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars zen and the art of architecture 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Visionary brlliance!
This book changed how I think when I walk down a street, step inside someone's home, or flip through the pages of a magazine. Read more
Published 27 days ago by genissimo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reference Book
Bought this as a gift for a friend. Since its original publication, I have purchased numerous copies as gifts and to have in multiple locations for reference. Read more
Published 1 month ago by DM3147
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have reference book
My husband is a residential architect and I think this book is a guideline reference they all want to have on the shelf. Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. siebert
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't put it down
This might be one of the best books Ive ever purchased. It just arrived 2 days ago, but I can't get enough of it. If you are thinking of buying it, do it. It's incredibly profound!
Published 2 months ago by Historicus
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to understand why .....
there is simply no better source for proper design and building than Christopher Alexander. "A Pattern Language" unlocks all the principles for everything that is... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rusty in Dallas
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for designing places.
I first heard about this book in the excellent Building Green: A how-to guide to alternative building methods... Read more
Published 3 months ago by amequidanse
5.0 out of 5 stars Great design tool and insight into human nature
if you are a designer this is a must own book. Do not mistake for a book you read cover to cover in a hurry though. This book is a tool and each pattern should be reflected on. Read more
Published 4 months ago by bjjones
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for planning spaces!
This is an excellent book for planning spaces! It is clearly organized into different topics and is a most helpful bookl.
Published 4 months ago by mary hepburn
5.0 out of 5 stars A Designer's Bible
Whether you're laying out an entire community or just rearrange your living room furniture, this book is a MUST. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Marianne N.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pattern Language
An absolute classic. Everything you ever wanted to know about design with human well-being at the core. I continually use it for reference. Read more
Published 6 months ago by annette mckinley
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