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

Christopher Alexander ,
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 38.99
Price: 37.79 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

17 Aug 1978 Center for Environmental Structure Series (Book 2)
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 Series) + The Timeless Way of Building (Center for Environmental Structure Series) + Notes on the Synthesis of Form (Harvard Paperbacks)
Price For All Three: 94.73

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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: 20.4 x 14.4 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eden would have felt like this.... 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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great books of the century 28 May 1998
By A Customer
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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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Expensive for its age, drastically needs updating to account for...
I really wanted this to be a stunning book. Certainly many of the "patterns" that are presented make perfect sense. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jeremiah Jobling
3.0 out of 5 stars Somehow a bit anticlimactic ...
I dove into it with enthusiasm as expected, but by the time I'd reached the end I was surprised to find myself wondering if I'd ever pick it up off the shelf again, and considering... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Ellino-amerikanaki
5.0 out of 5 stars A little treasure
Bought this book on a recommendation from a friend as I am in the process of designing a self-build house. I'm so glad I read this. Read more
Published on 16 July 2012 by Daniel4
5.0 out of 5 stars really interesting book for archi student
This book brings a really fresh approach on design. like in a science classe where you split appart a frog, all the element that constitu a town to the private garden are set... Read more
Published on 9 Feb 2012 by Flo
2.0 out of 5 stars Weird jumble of ideas, prescriptions, and design sourcebook
Not sure what the point of this is. It reads a bit like a 'Whole Earth Catalogue' for town planners, though it also defines imperatives for what cupboards and bed spaces ought to... Read more
Published on 8 Feb 2011 by Jezza
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a classic
A lot of the patterns are obvious in hindsight but they are no less valuable for that.

What is refreshing is that this is no grand theory of architecture but a cookbook... Read more
Published on 13 Dec 2009 by Nick Grant
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pattern Language
Wonderful book. Recommend it highly. Beautifully put together, incredibly intelligent and informative. Very clear and totally inspiring.
Published on 13 July 2009 by J. Macallister Dukes
2.0 out of 5 stars Romantic Manual
This book is not about architecture. It is manual for the unimaginative. Whilst Alexander's observations are pertinent and accurate, they cannot make up for the actual act of... Read more
Published on 10 July 2007 by Pillowtail
5.0 out of 5 stars essential tool for making "places"
As an architecture student, I'm amazed by how useful this book has turned out to be - whether you are just planning a small dwelling and want some tips regarding the size of... Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2007 by jrhartley
5.0 out of 5 stars Going beyond architecture
Alexander builds a picture of the common connection elements that make a house, a building, a community and a city work. Read more
Published on 19 Nov 2006 by J. H. S. Roodt
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