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on 28 May 1998
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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on 15 March 2017
If you're studying architecture, I highly recommend either grabbing a copy of this or looking through it in the library. I found it useful for a studio project to use this as my starting point.
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on 1 November 2012
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 it's a pretty pricey book, had I known that I might have held off from ordering.

I agree with any other reviewers who consider it utopian, certainly in the city/community planning sense, although at the same time I'd have to admit that I agree with many of the ideas. It was really in the details of planning a house that it disappointed and as that was the section I most looked forward to, well, "bummer" (to stick with the lovely touchy-feely hippie vernacular the book inspires).

I don't know as I'd call many of the patterns having to do with house building 'utopian' but I sure would call them either impractical or impracticable -- or both. I happen to have a summer home with thick walls as prescribed, but they're stone walls as most thick walls would be, I'd think, and so they hardly fit the notion of flexible/re-shape-able walls which are so highly recommended as one means by which generations can leave their mark on a house thus making it a home. That's all very nice in theory, and if you're designing a house to be built from scratch maybe you can incorporate this and more of the ideas within, but for so many of us it just isn't a reality.

Fine, perhaps the book was intended for architects when written and still is most suited to them. I daresay even they, however, would have a heck of a time getting all rooms both oriented South and with windows on at least two sides, and with varying ceiling heights -- if for no other reason than the increase in cost.

And for heaven's sake, don't get me started on all the ideas relating to the bathing rooms or on all the exposed shelving in the kitchens!
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on 16 December 2014
Good read
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on 13 March 2016
I hope it will last long
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on 25 January 1999
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.
All of the research is fairly old, but it is research into basic human actions and reactions to their surroundings - not something which is subject to a great deal of change - examples cover several thousand years.
If you're tired of strip malls, rampant development for development's sake, neighborhoods without character or community, irritating traffic patterns, multiple hour commutes, buildings which are uncomfortable to live and work in or just interested in improving your corner of the world, read these books and apply some of the principles wherever you feel they will fit your life.
I own multiple copies and recommend it highly.
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on 16 March 2007
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 balcony to put in (which will actually be used) or if you are looking at a bigger scheme or town planning on a grand scale, Alexander has done his research and observed carefully what works and what doesn't. The book is neatly divided up by sub-heading for types of features, users, types of habitation, you name it, if it features in any sort of conurbation, Alexander will have made an observation about how people behave in those places. Its very accessible despite its size - the short chapters (there are over 250 in the book) means you can quickly reference the problem you are looking to understand, or just dip into it and read something - for example, a three page explanation of why living in skyscrapers drives you made. So anyone just interested in humankind and living patterns from a trivia level would also probably enjoy this book. It should be on every architecture student's bookshelf.
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on 19 January 1999
This book will enrich your life. You will begin by reading odd chapters (or Patterns as you will soon call them), and before you know it you will be drawn in to the quietly stated truisms present on every page. Every home project, from designing a new house through to putting up a simple shelf, will take on richer and deeper meaning. The end result being a heightened and very satisfying awareness of your surroundings and environment. Just one word of warning: ignore the first few patterns, they are outdated and idealistic. You will not ever regret this purchase.
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on 6 June 2002
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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on 7 November 1997
A Pattern Language presents a compelling case for the influence of space, buildings, and landscape on human endeavors. We often overlook this force, accustomed as we are to accommodating spatial limitations and design flaws. But try entering any room and ignoring the cues of memory and social constraints-you will doubtless be drawn to the window in the room.
Alexander and his contributing editors present a series of patterns that operate universally on the mood and activities of people using spaces. "Light on Two Sides," for example, is a pattern describing the impact of light entering a room from two directions. Functionally, this arrangement softens light by cancelling the harsh shadows that arise from a single light direction. Emotionally, this makes a room more pleasant to live and work in, and may of its own accord encourage certain activities.
Alexander's huge study of over 200 patterns is at once modest and sweeping. He details patterns with care, and offers sketches and photographs to illustrate them, along with an unassuming voice. Above all, he demystifies architecture itself, calling upon any reader to assume a role in the design process. Despite this humility, the significance of Alexander's vision is always present. In the end, he is constructing a formula for social utopia-an architectural prescription for living well and wisely. From integrating children and senior citizens into the daily life of a community to revealing the advantages of mixed use commercial and residential zoning, Alexander proposes ideas that can successfully animate any town's master planning efforts.
Read this book if you're designing house, working with an architect, looking for a new house, or contributing to your city's planning commission. You will doubtless come away with a heightened appreciation for the influence of space on your choices and activities.
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