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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series) Hardcover – 17 Aug 1978

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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series) + The Timeless Way of Building (Center for Environmental Structure Series) + Notes on the Synthesis of Form (Harvard Paperbacks)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1216 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (17 Aug. 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195019199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195019193
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 5.1 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A Pattern Language by Chris Alexander changed the way I think about the way space is organised in a room, a house, a street and a town ... I keep giving it away to people who feel their homes don't quite work in the way they want them to. Every architect, estage agent and MP should read it. (James Runcie, Daily Mail)

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First Sentence
The first 94 patterns deal with the large-scale structure of the environment: the growth of town and country, the layout of roads and paths, the relationship between work and family, the formation of suitable public institutions for a neighborhood, the kinds of public space required to support these institutions. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By caroken41@aol.com on 6 Jun. 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I picked up this book from a friend's bookshelf, I thought it was about language. Being an English graduate, I was curious. However, I was not expecting to respond the way I did. I found a book that has been immensely important to me (even as a non-architect) for the last ten years.
I discovered photos and patterns of living and building that connected with something very deeply within me. It is a book that can move to tears. One reviewer has called it Utopian - I disagree. To me it's Edenic. It has stumbled across something that expresses a latent desire within all of us - to experience true community.
We have been starved over the centuries, especially since the Industrial Revolution, of an environment that is fully congruent with community, with life and with relationships.
The patterns of building in this book are patterns for living in a connected way. It refuses to view buildings as merely aesthetic singularities but recognises the connections between humanness, the land and our constructions.
The book is timeless, not dated, hopeful, insightful, caring for the whole person. I abhor some of the urban monstrosities that are raised up without a single thought for how people experience them whether visually or kinaesthetically, or how they connect with other buildings or the land they are built on.
It's a magical book. Even if you know nothing about architecture, it will delight and stun you. It should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in urban planning or architecture. Please read it!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 May 1998
Format: Hardcover
Alexander tried to show that architecture connects people to their surroundings in an infinite number of ways, most of which are subconscious. For this reason, it was important to discover what works; what feels pleasant; what is psychologically nourishing; what attracts rather than repels. These solutions, found in much of vernacular architecture, were abstracted and synthesized into the "Pattern Language" about 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, although he did not say it then, it was obvious that contemporary architecture was pursuing design goals that are almost the opposite of what was discovered in the pattern language. For this reason, anyone could immediately see that Alexander's findings invalidated most of what practicing architects were doing at that time. The Pattern Language was identified as a serious threat to the architectural community. It was consequently suppressed. Attacking it in public would only give it more publicity, so it was carefully and off-handedly dismissed as irrelevant in architecture schools, professional conferences and publications.
Now, 20 years later, computer scientists have discovered that the connections underlying the Pattern Language are indeed universal, as Alexander had originally claimed. His work has achieved the highest esteem in computer science. Alexander himself has spent the last twenty years in providing scientific support for his findings, in a way that silences all criticism. He will publish this in the forthcoming four-volume work entitled "The Nature of Order". His new results draw support from complexity theory, fractals, neural networks, and many other disciplines on the cutting edge of science.
After the publication of this new work, our civilization has to seriously question why it has ignored the Pattern Language for so long, and to face the blame for the damage that it has done to our cities, neighborhoods, buildings, and psyche by doing so.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Jan. 1999
Format: Hardcover
Part 2 of 3 part series.
This book is the dictionary for A Timeless Way of Building. The Oregon Experiment is a case study of the use of these ideas to plan a college campus.
This book is about functional design for humans rather than design for design's sake. It directly refutes the real estate industry's insistence on neutral design for quick sale (which is the industry's goal - not the goal of a homeowner!) It promotes design which fits the needs and desires of the user, not the developer or architect. The philosophy involves the users heavily in the process of design, permitting integrated design without requiring comprehensive knowledge of all interacting factors on the part of the designers, it is a way of modularizing the design process into smaller, comprehensible units which can be understood and discussed in a useful way.
You will not be disappointed in reading these books.
Yes, it's dated a bit, especially in it's language approach to social issues.
Yes, it's Utopian, but not impractical.
No, all of the patterns do not apply to all people in all places, but then, they are not intended to.
What is important is the basic premise: That physical environment design can either promote community or divide people. That there exist basic patterns of interaction between people, buildings, roads and environment.
No, you cannot just change your entire community overnight into a utopia (mores the shame) however, these books can help to redefine how your community grows and develops to improve the quality of life for everyone in the community.
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