Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, Sara Ishikawa - A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

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A Pattern Language (from Vacuum)

Oct 15, 1999 (Updated Oct 21, 1999)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:To be read over and over again, even if you're not an architect

Cons:A few specific urban designs look dated

My favorite big book for getting immersed in the details of thinking about network structure, infrastructure, and architecture in general is Alexander et al's classic "A Pattern Language". It's a good inch thick, a densely interconnected series of 253 essays on fundamental architectural elements and how they all relate to each other at the level of human settlements, individual buildings, even the details of construction. Eight years and six authors (and 30 credits) in the making, it's a monumental work.

If there were to be 253 issues of Vacuum, and at the current pace that's maybe 5 years worth, and if they could intertwine as neatly as those essays in "A Pattern Language" I would consider it an enormous success.
Even a half or a quarter of that would be worthwhile as a goal. Think big, why not!

"A Pattern Language" follows a very rigid internal style of typographical conventions and inter-essay referential links to make the collection a unified whole. It's worth pulling off a library shelf if you don't have a copy just to see how a large complex multi-author work can be made to cohere together. It's about forming a common architectural language of elements that can be combined to form a harmonious whole, and the harmonious whole of the book gives you hope that the architectural design principles will hold together as well.

[originally published in the Vacuum newsletter]



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