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Do You See a Pattern?
An architectural theorist who has inspired smart-growth
advocates, counterculture DIY-ers, and computer
Notes on combination of form and
pattern language to new concepts of
Essay Received Date: 11/08/2007
Date of Acceptance: 29/12/2008
Girne American University,
Architecture & Fine Art Faculty
Ms. Student 143204002
Girne American University,
Architecture & Fine Art Faculty
By Witold Rybczynski
DEC. 2 2009 7:15 AM
Last month, the architect and
author Christopher Alexander
received the Vincent Scully Prize,
given annually by the National
Building Museum "to recognize
exemplary practice, scholarship or
criticism in architecture, historic
preservation and urban design."
For the last 45 years, Alexander has been a controversial
figure on the architectural scene, both revered and reviled;
yet in an period burdened by flocks of architectural
theorists, I would guess that he is one of very few whose
work will endure.
If Alexander often irritates his critics, it is in part
because he is so obviously gifted. Born in Vienna
in 1936, he was raised in England; won a
prestigious scholarship to Cambridge, where he
studied architecture and mathematics; and went on
to receive Harvard's first architecture Ph.D. Not yet
30, he published his doctoral thesis as book, on the
strength of which he received the American
Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the first ever
awarded for research.
Most people discover Alexander through his classic, A
Pattern Language, which appeared in 1977. Small and fat
(more than 1,000 pages), printed on fine paper, and bound in
a plain maroon cover embossed with a gold escutcheon, it
resembles a Latin breviary. Its author's ambitious goal was
nothing less than to catalog the entire built environment—
from towns to bedrooms—as a collection of discrete
"patterns," 253 of them. Each pattern was explained,
supported by research, and illustrated by sketches and
"Each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our
environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such
a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it
the same way twice." (Alexander 1979)
The patterns were linked to one another, showing which
ones worked well together, and arranged hierarchically from
large to small. "Neighborhood Boundaries," for example,
suggests that strong neighborhoods require clear edges and
restricted access. At the other end of the scale, "Ceiling
Height Variety" observes that buildings with uniform
ceilings are uncomfortable and recommends varying ceiling
heights between large and small rooms to create different
degrees of intimacy. In other words, the breviary is a
A Pattern Language proved invaluable to nonarchitects
building their own homes, and by 1980 Alexander, who
was based in Berkeley, Calif., and leavened a
mathematician's precision with Zen-like
pronouncements, had become something of a guru in
the youthful Whole Earth Catalog-influenced
counterculture. His fellow architects, on the other hand,
who didn't like seeing their art reduced to a formula,
were ambivalent. There was also the question of style.
The pattern language calls for architectural features
such as sheltering roofs and small window panes, while
Modernist design favors flat roofs and large sheets of
glass. This anti-Modernist bias was confirmed by
Alexander's next book, The Timeless Way of
Building(1979), which was an overt and often
devastating attack on modern construction techniques in
general and on contemporary architecture in particular
Alexander argued that the standardized,
mass-produced way in which buildings are
designed and built today is wrongheaded,
and to demonstrate an alternative he started
to build himself—houses in Mexico,
institutional buildings in Northern
California, eventually an entire university
campus in Japan —to date more than 200
projects. Alexander often uses decorative
patterns derived from his intimate
familiarity with Oriental carpets, which
gives his buildings a handmade quality.
While quite beautiful, his built work has
received less attention than his books.
Traditional in appearance—some of it
reminds me of the Swedish painter/builder
Carl Larsson —it is not witty enough for
Postmodernists, not historic enough for
die-hard Classicists, and too traditional for
the architectural mainstream.
Alexander thought this article was about his design theories, the book
Notes on the order of nature combine to form (new concepts of
complexity theory), analyzed and evaluated. In the theories of
Alexander in the connection between various components in the design
and planning was not successful. But this theory has been successful in
his recent works. Notes on combination of form, his rational approach
to planning and design, and almost opposing position to defend its
subsequent comments. The new theory of urban design, Alexander the
importance of the principle of "universality" as a basis for the design
and urban planning emphasized.
Pattern language and eternal buildings, the application of design
patterns to provide physical environments. Alexander's book is not a
quick and easy reference for solving all the problems of design are
considered, but should be used as a design guide. The design is based on
an understanding of the patterns is possible to achieve success as a
result of the experiences of people over the ages and time.
References from internet
1. Alexander, Christopher, (2004), "Notes on combining form", translated by S. Resin Mehr, Rozaneh published, Tehran.
2. Alexander, Christopher, (2001), "Architecture and the secret of immortality (the time of construction)", translated by M. Qayyum
Bidhendi, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran.
3. Alexander, Christopher, (1993), "New Theory of Urban Design", translated by Consultants Tash publishing, Tehran.
4. Lalín Mack, Brian J., (2006), "Urban planning and regional planning system approach", translated by Dr. F. Habib, Islamic Azad
5. Yar Ahmadi, A., (1996), "The city of the humanist", publishing companies and urban planning process, Tehran.
6- Alexander, Christopher, (1964), "Notes on the Synthesis of Form", Harvard University press, Cambridge and Massachusetts.
7- Alexander, Christopher, (1966), "A City is not a Tree", Urban Design Journal, no.206, pp.44-45
8- Alexander, Christopher, (1977), "A Pattern Language", Oxford university press, New York.
9-Alexander, C. (1979), “The Timeless Way of Building” , Oxford University Press, New York.
10- Brolin, Brent c., (1976), "Failure of Modern Architecture", Van No strand Reinhold Company, New
11- Grabow, Stephen, (1983), "Christopher Alexander and the Search for a New Paradigm in
Architecture ", Oriel press, Stocks field.
12- Shipsk, james, (1984), "Christopher Alexander Theory and Practice", Architecture Issue.
13- Sitte, Camillio, (1965), "City Planning According to Artistic Principles", Phaidon press, Ltd, London.
14- Alexander, Christopher, (2004), "The Nature of Order: an Essay on the Art of Building and the
Nature of Universe "(four books), Oxford university press, New York.
15- Sanders, William, (2005), "In the Cause of Architecture", Architectural Record.