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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

4.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,906 Ratings  ·  247 Reviews
At the core of A Pattern Language is the philosophy 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 formal system which gives them coherence.

This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable making a design for almost
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Hardcover, 1216 pages
Published August 25th 1977 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1977)
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Chip Young In the Nature of Order, a 3-book series published in 2003-2004, he takes patterns one step further with what he calls sequences, which describe how to…moreIn the Nature of Order, a 3-book series published in 2003-2004, he takes patterns one step further with what he calls sequences, which describe how to work toward patterns. The idea of patterns has also been very influential in software engineering, to the point where it is a commonly accepted way of thinking about and describing software designs and components.(less)

Community Reviews

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Matt
Apr 24, 2013 Matt rated it did not like it
I really don't know what I was expecting when I reserved this from the library, but it wasn't this. In my defense, it sounded interesting. I thought it might be a discussion of sociology and history meant to inspire or empower people to build what they wanted. In fact, what I got is....

Let me back up. Just recently, Irrational Games released the latest in their series of dystopian first person shooters - 'Bioshock Infinite'. In this series visionary philosophers seek to found utopian communities
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Tiggerj
Aug 08, 2007 Tiggerj rated it it was amazing
This is the book that sparked my interest in architecture and home design, many years ago. Skip the town and urban planning if you are more interested in how to design a comfortable home. Christopher Alexander is passionate and persuasive about what he believes we need in our homes: natural light from two sides of a room, window seats one can actually read in, quiet separate dressing areas for every person in a house (because bedrooms should be rooms to relax and be intimate in, not a messy clot ...more
Mike
Feb 15, 2016 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is probably my favorite non-fiction book. Christopher Alexander and his students have collected everything there is to know about design and put it in one book. Yet cultures go on making the same mistakes over and over. And few architects I talk to have ever read the book.

The book is easy to read and understand. It consists of hundreds of patterns, described in a page or two. They range from the width of door molding to how cities should be laid out. For example, there is a pattern, "Old Pe
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Alper Çugun
Apr 12, 2012 Alper Çugun rated it it was amazing
An essential book for anybody interested in the field. I read it cover to cover, very slowly with breaks and now I feel I have some grasp of what it takes to build a house.

It is of course dated and highly geared towards North American houses but it's still a seminal work. The parts on urbanism are in fact how we in CNW Europe do manage things, so that is heartening.

Extensions to the book for instance how to build houses in very space constrained environments like the Netherlands could be intere
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Deirdre Keating
Dec 15, 2014 Deirdre Keating rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Deirdre by: Gretchen Rubin's website
I have to give it 5 stars because there is no other way to describe it but as amazing. Forgive me the long review, but it was a library checkout and I want to refer back to it.

I was initially annoyed that there wasn't an idex where I could look up "office space" and quickly read their recommendations for the best layout. Yet now I love the way each pattern refers to all the other patterns it is connected to, and you find yourself flipping from garden benches to farmhouse kitchens. It probably al
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Taco Ekkel
Jul 18, 2015 Taco Ekkel rated it really liked it
Very inspiring. Empowered me to think practically about architecture at all scales. No appraisal or brainstorm on anything architecture, houses or buildings goes by without these patterns popping up in my mind.

I now understand why the author himself hated that his 'pattern' approach was appropriated by folks turning it into something abstract (programming patterns) whereas he meant them as an easy, democratic tool for everyday people to make their own neighbourhoods and houses. This book is a po
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Faith
Jun 20, 2009 Faith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-nonfiction
Anyone with the luxury of designing their own home should jump at the chance to get this book. It's a bit dated, but at 1100+ pages it surely describes most of the details you'll need to think about.

I took it home from the library because it's a fascinating book about architectural design in general, everything from the optimal size of a public square (70 feet wide) to the best place for a garden seat. I learned that my house has a good "intimacy gradient" (spaces meant to be public are readily
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Jordan Wallace
Nov 22, 2015 Jordan Wallace rated it it was amazing
This book was my anam cara. I’ve long since felt perplexed by the way American cities are designed and the way we are forced to live as a result of their structure and underlying philosophy. I am likewise confused by the holding in high esteem of homes that lack the ability to satisfy daily needs. Though this book is designed for the city planner, architect, or builder (none of which am I), I found in it validation that these needs are not so unusual and hope that there are those in the American ...more
Howard Mansfield
May 26, 2013 Howard Mansfield rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Howard by: howard@howardmansfield.com
Patterns are key to understanding what is ailing our landscape. There is an order, a language, for the way a good street is created. For example, there are recognizable parts that make up a good village townscape. Each part — a fence, a lilac, a walkway, a wall, a front door, a roof — each part works with the other parts to create a place that could only be that place in the whole world.
This is the brilliant insight of Christopher Alexander’s amazing book, A Pattern Language. You may have seen
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Dawn
Aug 07, 2012 Dawn rated it it was ok
1171 pages covering 253 'patterns'. And this is the second half of the book (1st half is "The Timeless Way of Building".

1171 pages!!! love their little sketches and diagrams, but for the average urbanist, this book isn't worth your time. Lots of the ideas are timeless, if misunderstood or neglected during certain periods, but many others are dated, unpopular, or so idealistic as to be ludicrous. Some principles counter-acted others, some are counter-intuitive but quite sensible, others are class
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Hal O'Brien
Apr 24, 2012 Hal O'Brien rated it it was amazing
I was reading John Brunner's "The Shockwave Rider" in college, and it makes some architectural references. Trying to dig up what they were, I stumbled on this, mostly because Alexander was early in the card catalog, and at 1200 pages I felt sure it'd have what I was looking for.

I was wrong, of course, but only in the limited-to-the-task-at-hand way.

Alexander's main idea is that architecture is like a language. With a finite set of elements he calls patterns (not unlike words), you can put them t
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Kristina Stykos
If I was on a desert island and could only have one book, this would be it.
Andrew
I'll start by saying that Christopher Alexander has attempted to develop a more humane system of urban and domestic planning, and has provided a number of thought-provoking ways to implement his vision.

I'll also say that, intellectually, it holds next to no water. By trying to ground the dreamy poetics of Bachelard as "science," you lose the metaphorical value that Bachelard has to offer, while gaining no actual science. It's not like there's any justification for the numbers he tosses in or any
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Ruth
Oct 03, 2015 Ruth rated it liked it
The authors of this book, architects and designers, believed that they had identified design issues that were timeless. They did the research and writing for the book between about 1968 and 1977. I think many of their solutions, and even some of the problems they identified, were dated by the time the book was published. I read the essays in the book out of order, which was interesting--sort of like choosing your own adventure. That, and the unwieldy nature of their arguments, made it difficult ...more
Andrea
This is an extraordinary book, not least because I'd seen it referenced as an architectural handbook and a good source for thinking about public space. It is all that.

But really, it is quite a mad reimagining of our world as it could and should be, but at the same time serves as a blueprint of how to build it. After that final scene in V for Vendetta when the world is reduced to rubble and everyone is like oh shit, what next? You want to think through what happens after the revolution if you'd p
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Mykle
Apr 13, 2009 Mykle added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I'm finally working my way through this seminal work of architectural theory. The planning suggestions ("patterns") are organized large to small; Pattern #1 is "Bring about an ideal world government ..." I'm hoping that the later patterns will be more relevant to my second story dormer.
Aaron
Sep 29, 2008 Aaron rated it it was amazing
a revolutionary book on making: cities, spaces, buildings, places. human-scaled and highly personal. essential for anyone interested in the relationship between humans and the built-environment.
Rico
Aug 19, 2008 Rico rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. A must for anyone building anything as small as garden beds to as large as a city.

Alexander extracts patterns (what you might think of trends) in building from ancient to contemporary architecture that create "living" buildings, places that are alive and energetic and used.

For instance, one that sticks with me is the pattern of Transitions. Thick walls in a home and well defined doorways, give you a sense of transition between rooms. This gives a peaceful or comfortable
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Scott Moonen
Oct 19, 2014 Scott Moonen rated it really liked it
This has long been on my must-read list, partly because someday we'd like to build our own house, but also partly because of Alexander's surprising influence on computer science via folks like Ward Cunningham and Kent Beck. In that way, this book illustrates a compelling way of thinking about problem-solving within a discipline of study.

I have mixed feelings about some of the large-scale patterns, both in terms of their correctness and also whether they are realistic in a free society. This firs
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Todd Webb
Apr 04, 2013 Todd Webb rated it really liked it
With 1171 pages, teeny tiny text, and a structure more like a textbook than a story, I knew this was going to take a while to read. But I'm so glad I made it through after having it on my wish list for years. I was hoping to build my understanding of design in architecture. I wanted to know something about the timeless patterns that just work when designing and building cities, neighborhoods, streets, houses and structures for human beings, and this book delivered. More importantly, the structur ...more
Rabab
Jan 21, 2016 Rabab rated it really liked it
Again, I have Skipped a LOT of stuff ... I could say that I've covered 65% of the book.

I highly recommend it for students and professionals as well.

The reason why I rated it 4 stars is because there are some ideas that I did not agree with.

But rather than that the book is very useful, very informative and interesting. It opened my mind to many possibilities and ideas.
Anne Bogel
Jan 22, 2012 Anne Bogel rated it it was amazing
This architecture classic from 1977 approaches architecture in a way that's altogether new to me: it provides 253 archetypal elements of design that together form a "language" to speak of an infinite variety of designs, from the large scale (regional metro plans) to the small scale (individual homes).

I loved how this book was very easy to pick up and put down--the 1000 or so pages don't have to be read all at one go for it to make sense.

What I hate about this book: I adore the building plans Al
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Marcin Szneider
Jul 10, 2015 Marcin Szneider rated it it was amazing
Najlepsza książka o architekturze jaką znam. Anty-modernistyczna, otwiera umysł. Przeczytałem ok. 1/3, bo to raczej poradnik projektowania.
Heather
Jan 15, 2011 Heather rated it it was amazing
This book formed the basis of one of the most interesting classes I took in university.

The underlying concept is that different types of places have different patterns of being. Like, farmhouses in Ontario have a different layout/ form than Victorian townhouses of the same era. Having lived and worked in various places, I have found this to be very true. This book talks about the larger patterns as they apply to public spaces and town planning, more than individual buildings.

Must-read for public
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Mj Hendricks
Jan 18, 2016 Mj Hendricks rated it it was amazing
From an artist that transformed the University of Oregon. He shows meaningful design of the city and supporting structures
Jonathan
Apr 20, 2016 Jonathan rated it really liked it
This book is a comprehensive compendium of design ideas, and a staple of the alternative design movement. I got lots of good ideas from this book and recommend it to anyone designing a structure, remodel, addition, or landscaping project of any size. In terms of the construction ideas, some of them seem to have been written before the widespread application of building codes. Some are utopian. Others are impractical. But I got lots and lots of good ideas from this book and I'm sure I'll be refer ...more
Debbie
Nov 24, 2014 Debbie rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-design
Read this before you embark on a home building project. Wish I had! The authors identify 253 "patterns" in city planning, architecture and design that make spaces more pleasing and livable to people. The chapters on home architecture were most interesting to me. This is not a typical coffee table style book on design with beautiful full color photos. This is more textbook with nuts and bolts information on how people interact with spaces.

For instance, it is currently all the rage in home archite
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Karen
Apr 05, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Karen by: Cait
Shelves: read_chunks_of
Holy f***! This just arrived at my house! I yelled "ITS A PATTERN LANGUAGE!" out loud alone in my room in delight! Thank you, mysterious surprise gift giver - I have been lusting after this ridiculously expensive ridiculously brilliant book ever since Cait and Jay set up their apartment all cool based on ideas from it. Oh yes, yes, yes! I own it! I can read it whenever I want! I literally now own the most badass wisdom about living in spaces ever compiled. Yes.
thecrx
Jul 08, 2008 thecrx rated it it was amazing
Read, reading, to read, on my shelf, on my kitchen table, at all times and everywhere. Ostensibly about architecture and town planning, but what book about design quotes from The Odyssey (Marriage Bed, 187) and Aldous Huxley (The Family, 75), Ray Bradbury (Promenade, 31), and champions the "re-emergence of the nurse-midwife" (Birth Places, 65)?

Half-Private Office (152)...
Secret Place (204)...
Courtyards Which Live (115)...
Heather
Feb 04, 2015 Heather rated it liked it
I've never read a book about building design before and I still know very little about any of it, so my remarks are basically: this is interesting stuff to read, think about and then observe on your own. My library turn with this second book, came to end way too quickly and I haven't requested it again because I'm trying to finish the first book. You may not agree with all of ideas, like bed alcoves and such but he at least will make you consider things about your home and surroundings that you ...more
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