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on December 19, 2002
"Patterns of Home" simply is a wonderful book. It contains some of the most beautiful residences anywhere, gorgeously photographed and described. The book also makes a lot of sense. In a time when so many "design" books are self-serving treatises on a particular style or philosophy, "Patterns of Home" steers clear of jargon and techno-babble. The book delivers ten distinct, yet complementary studies (patterns) that serve to wonderfully illustrate how a house can truly be a home. I am an architect in private practice and I design several custom homes or estates per year along with my commercial, institutional and other commissions. While this in no way makes me an expert, it does allow me to highly recommend this book to those seeking to improve the livability of their home, or design meaning into a home. Even if one is not involved in, or contemplating such a project, this book is a great source of ideas and... well, it has a great deal of tremendous pictures!
I am heartened to see Jacobson, Silverstein and Winslow put forth such an accessible, readable and pleasant book on a subject that has been dangerously worn out recently. The material in "Patterns of Home" is not necessarily new, but the presentation of it in such a thoughtful manner is valuable and meaningful. The arrangement of the material is logical, starting with site planning, spatial relationships, and the basics of shelter, light and proportion. The transition into feeling, perception and texture is seamless and rewarding to experience.
The chapter (pattern) on "Refuge and Outlook" addresses a concept dear to my heart. My own home high in the Southern California mountains embodies much of this concept. The presentation of this concept gave words to things I've often struggled to explain. I was very moved by the elegant, yet simple language used to present this and the nine other patterns. The ability to crisply and efficiently write about ideas and concepts that can easily become mired in technical or philosophical discourse is not common. It is precisely this skill that the authors bring to this work, and which makes "Patterns of Home" so useful. The authors clearly appear to practice what they preach, and the honesty that I sense in this book is refreshing. I commend the authors on producing a book that is highly informative in a very sensible way.
This book is a companion to Lawler's "A Home for the Soul" on my display table. I heartily give "Patterns of Home" five stars.
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on February 8, 2003
I am a HUGE fan of 'A Pattern Language', and found this book in the local library. It took me a while to realize that this book is a far cry from its predecessor. I found the patterns themselves interesting, but over-distilled from the quirky things that made 'Pattern Language' so wonderful...that book is full of the HUMANITY of places that people can create, and the effects on how places feel to us, how we interact, and how we live our lives in the context of these places.
My big problem with this book is with the photographs. I actually had a hard time seeing and feeling the point of the patterns. These are all, for the most part, big, expensive architect showcase homes of the west coast. How about showing these patterns in more modest or 'hand made' type houses? How about showing some of these patterns in desert homes, or old european homes? Homes in Mexico or in Greece? How about the patterns shown in other world homes? All these homes are fancy and expensive...it's ok to show some of those of course, but if the book is about PATTERNS, then the best illustration of a PATTERN is to show it in a wide variety of disparate settings.
This book, which I sat down to relish, was actually dull. It didn't stir my imagination and get the desire flowing the way 'Pattern Language' did. It's probably worth a look, but do as I did and request it from your library, and read it. Then decide if you really want it. I didn't.
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on January 23, 2003
I treasure "Pattern Language", the book, and was excited to see this followup.The premise of looking back at the patterns and reducing them to a few (10) "super" patterns sounded promising.The charm of the original"Pattern Language" book lay in its quirky drawings, and its reliance on the reader to reflect on any personal experiences with the particular pattern being discussed. The lack of glossy photos gave substance to concepts. The new book follows in the footsteps of the "Not so big house" books method of discussing concepts while surrounded by photos. Undoubtedly, the success of those books gave rise to the structure of this one. I find drawings infinitely more communicative of design concepts than photos. The photos here distract the eye, making it harder to focus on the principle being espoused.The authors walk you thru certain homes or rooms which supposedly illustrate the concept at hand. I found the process sort of phony and aggrandizing of the architect's vision. Hello, but the point/power of "patterns" is that they are time-tested,non- regional, gut-level design parameters not requiring architectural vision. The, after the fact, microanalysis of houses to make their every aspect seem utterly preconceived by the genius architect is sophomoric. Again, the power of these patterns is that if you put them "in play", good things, especially unforseen things, happen. Predictably. Hopefully, this book, along with the "Not so big house" books will inform the house buying/building community of design realities routinely ignored.
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on September 7, 2003
Skip this book. Instead get "A Pattern Language" which is the quintessential work of Christopher Alexander. Alexander is the real genius behind the "Patterns" of this book. There is almost nothing new in this book "Patterns of Home."
In the late 1960's and 1970's Alexander and his group (including two of these authors), formed the Institute of Environmental Structure in Berkeley, California. Alexander was clearly the spiritual and intellectual leader of this effort. "A Pattern Language" is a compilation of that thorough effort. Alexander et al's book remains the most important treatise ever on the subject of Architecture. It disseminates a clear and concise identification of basic patterns that make a house a home, for example, pattern 115 of 253 - Courtyards that Live. In addition, "A Pattern Language" is written for us, in the hope that "we the people" can use the patterns to guide the development of wonderful homes and communities. Alexander's book is accessible to all of us.
These co-author's of Alexander's great book include two of the authors of "Patterns of Home." These guys are sidekicks and it shows. For example, in the forward to this book, they acknowledge working on this book part-time while engaging in a full-time architectural practice. They didn't put a life-force effort into this book, although it appears the photographers did. The illustrations and photographs are almost exclusively of high end giant homes in the price range of $300 to $500 and up per square foot! The vast majority of people do and will live in homes built to a budget of $100 psf or less. In short, this is a picture book for coffee tables that shows what an architect can do with an open-ended budget.
I think I was dissapointed most with narrow scope of the photographs. As with another reviewer, I noted that the authors showed the patterns exclusively in new, contemporary, upscale California style homes, neglecting better illustrations of the essential patterns that can be easily found in other styles of homes, in older homes, or in homes from other areas of the world.
Although I don't believe the author's intended, but this book is an elitist book for dreamers. The homes shown in this book are accessible to a tiny minority of ultra-rich people. If you, the reader, prefer picture type books, you're better off with Sara Susanka's "The Not So Big House" and others of her series. Her design approach is more accessible to a larger segment of the population. Best of all though, try "A Pattern Language" a truly wonderful book accessible to all of us. It will forever improve you architectural mindset.
Regards, Steve
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on September 26, 2002
This book takes the main concepts in A Pattern Language and fleshes them out, illustrating them with concrete examples and explanations, and demonstating how they can work in a residential home. Some of the themes are quite practical, like capturing light and creating indoor and outdoor rooms, while others are more abstract and theoretical, like the concept of being able to look out from a protected space. All of the principles are based on human psychology and why we inherently like and feel comfortable in some places and not in others, which makes Patterns of Home much more interesting than a typical architecture book. It is a great guide for anyone that wants to design their own house or is interested in vernacular architecture in general. The photos and diagrams are great, and haven't been recycled from other Taunton Press books, which was a nice surprise. I found Patterns of Home very easy to follow and understand as it has a very organized layout that ties all the chapters and their themes together, making it an easy read in addition to everything else.
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on June 24, 2003
I really wanted to like this book. I endorse the patterns approach to home design, and I've come to rely on Taunton Press for very high-quality construction books.
Unfortunately, "Patterns of Home" is a disappointment. It should be subtitled "How Architects Get Their Rich Clients to Build Large Homes Full of Amazingly Superfluous Detailing". A few of the example homes are very interesting, but the majority of them are overblown ostentatious mansions that most people can't possibly afford. Sadly, Sarah Suzanka, author of the "The Not So Big House" series wrote the foreward. She forgot to mention that most of the homes featured in this book are quite big.
If you have a lot of money to spend, or just want to see how the other half lives, you might find the pictures interesting. I got bored and disheartened after the first 6-7chapters.
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on April 5, 2004
Based on the 10 most important building patterns from the book "A Pattern Language", by Christopher Alexander (the book every architect should memorize) your expectations just don't seem to get met with this book. There are lots of good photos and lots of well designed houses, but you keep waiting for something to pop out at you when you are reading it, but it just doesn't happen. When reading the book "A Pattern Language" the small simple illustrations let your imagination flow, whereas in this book, the photo's of finished homes seem to shut off your own creative juices. Also the homes are mostly all huge and expensive. Good for architects designing mansions, but making you wonder how the patterns would have looked in a smaller home.
Since not everyone thinks alike, I am sure some people will get allot more out of this book than I have. And if this is your type of book then I think "The Not So Big House" series of books by "Sara Susanka are much better. Also if you have not read "A Pattern Language", by Christopher Alexander please do before you read any other architecture books.
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on May 22, 2003
The authors of this book have taken the best of Alexander's "A Pattern Language", and combined wonderfully designed and excellently photographed homes to publish an inspiring and thought provoking book. Frankly, the world has too many "500 House Plans" types of books. This one describes the logic, reason, and common sense that involves the interlocking of ten basic patterns that could make any basic design more successful. As a residential architect, I consider this among my five top-rated books.
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on August 14, 2004
I liked this book agreat deal. It provides a vocabulary to describe the elements that make a good design. It is well organized and the concepts are easy to understand. I can now go into houses I like and don't like and identify why, as well as what I want to incorporate into our remodel. I followed this book up with Home by Design by Susanka. While organized differently, the latter uses many of the same concepts, and is a good companion volume. On the basis of reviews here, I bought "A Pattern Language". I think it is best appreciated after having looked at one of the two described above.
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on November 25, 2010
I received a lot of inspiration and solid ideas from this book and I am very glad I found it. Still, I do not recommend it for everyone. Hopefully I can provide enough insights so you will either buy it and get good value or save your money.

The authors describe in detail each of ten patterns, culled by years of experience from the original 253 patterns put forth in 1977 in "A Pattern Language". If you think this severe reduction in patterns alone will make the concepts clear and easy to use, think again. Even ten understandable patterns are hard to put into practice without good examples and insights - this is where the book was most valuable to me.

Many of the individual homes used to illustrate the patterns are huge and 'designer-ly'. I was often tempted to skip a page because I didn't care for a particular style or thought the house must be so expansive that I would not learn anything by reading further. Time and again I read the section anyway and discovered some tiny but valuable insight or very clever architectural detail in what I considered to be an ostentatious overall design. Yes, this a 'back-handed complement' but in this case I want to emphasize "complement" and thank the authors for what must have been a considerable effort to locate, describe, and photograph pristine examples of these ten patterns (if this was easy everybody would be doing it). Message: Read past the glowing prose that describes these apparently brilliant Architects and their work and find the details and concepts that are valuable to you. They are sprinkled generously thoughout the book.

In the end, I definitely found relevance to my much smaller project. It enabled me to leverage the patterns to suggest solutions to my unique design challenges. My copy is now littered with Post-Its covered in cramped writing, to remind me of an idea I had when I read a sentence or the inspiration I felt when I saw a photo or illustration. While I still only barely grasp the true utility of the patterns outlined in the book I gained a lot by reading about them. Where I was previously struggling to get my head around all the aspects of a good, well-designed home I feel I can now develop a plan that will make the best of my project.

My background:
I'm a homeowner with a distant background in constrution and cabinetmaking. I have a particular project at hand - a 1938 Spanish-style house that has great character but badly needs a major remodel. It is too small, has a charming but 'old' floor plan, sits on a narrow, sloping lot, and requires more than an good contractor and an excellent designer to reach its potential.

Like many other reviewers I had previous exposure to "A Pattern Language". I was always intrigued by the concepts in that book but struggled to put them to practical use. I read the "Not so Big House" books but found them to be far less substantial (less 'prescriptive' than "Patterns of Home", if you know what I mean). While searching for a more accessible introduction to the pattern concepts I recently read Christopher Alexander's "Notes on the Synthesis of Form" which I found to be a good, if slightly dated introduction to the patterns explored in the later books.

Rating: 5-stars for balancing the theory of patterns in design against the authors' experience and knowledge of solutions to a wide variety of architectural design problems.
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