❄️ A Pattern Language

Make spaces come alive


Written by Christopher Alexander in 1977.

The book includes sections for Towns, Buildings, and Construction. For the moment I'll be focusing on Buildings and Construction.

Towns (Communities)

We begin with that part of the language which defines a town or community. These patterns can never be "designed" or "built" in one fell swoop -- but patient piecemeal growth, designed in such a way that every individual act is always helping ot create or generate these larger global patterns, will, slowly and surely, over the years, make a community that has these global pattern in it.

    1. Independent Regions

within each region work toward those regional policies which will protect the land and mark the limits of the cities;

    1. The Distribution of Towns
    1. City Country Fingers
    1. Agricultural Valleys
    1. Lace of Country Streets
    1. Country Towns
    1. The Countryside

through city policies, encourage the piecemeal formation of those major structures which define the city;

    1. Mosaic of Subcultures
    1. Scattered Work
    1. Magic of the City
    1. Local Transport Areas



The first group of patterns helps to lay out the overall arrangement of a group of buildings: the height and number of these buildings, the entrances to the site, main parking areas, and lines of movement through the complex;

    1. Building Complex
    1. Number of Stories
  • 97. Shielded Parking*
    1. Circulation Realms
    1. Main Building
    1. Pedestrian Street
    1. Building Thoroughfare
    1. Family of Entrances
    1. Small Parking Lots

fix the position of individual buildings on the site within the complex, one by one, accordingto the nature of the site, the trees, the sun: this is one of the moment important moments in the language;

    1. Site Repair
    1. South Facing Outdoors
    1. Positive Outdoor Space
    1. Wings of Light
    1. Connected Buildings
    1. Long Thin House

within the buildings' wings, lay out the entrances, the gardens, courtyards, roofs, and terraces: shape both the volume of the buildings and the volume of the space between the buildings at the same time--remembering that indoor space and outdoor space, yin and yang, must always get their shape together;

  • 110. Main Entrance*
    1. Half-hidden Garden
    1. Entrance Transition
    1. Car Connection
    1. Hierarchy of Open Space
    1. Courtyards Which Live
    1. Cascade of Roofs
    1. Sheltering Roof
    1. Roof Garden

when the major parts of buildings and the outdoor areas have been given their rough shape, it is the right time to give more detailed attention to the paths and squares between the buildings;

now, with the paths fixed, we come back to the buildings: within the varous wings of any one building, work out the fundamental gradients of space, and decide how the movement will connect the spaces in the gradients;

within the framework of the wings and their internal gradients of space and movement, define the most important areas and rooms. First, for a house;

    1. Couple's Realm
    1. Children's Realm
    1. Sleeping to the East
  • 139. Farmhouse Kitchen**
    1. Private Terrace on the Street
    1. A Room of One's Own
    1. Sequence of Sitting Spaces
    1. Bed Cluster
    1. Bathing Room
    1. Bulk Storage

then the same for offices, workshops, and public buildings;

    1. Flexible Office Space
    1. Communal Eating
    1. Small Work Groups
    1. Reception Welcomes You
    1. A Place to Wait
    1. Small Meeting Rooms
    1. Half-private Office

add those small outbuildings which must be slightly independent from the main structure, and put in the access from the upper stories to the street and gardens;

    1. Rooms to Rent
    1. Teenager's Cottage
    1. Old Age Cottage
    1. Settled Work
    1. Home Workshop
    1. Open Stairs

prepare to knit the inside of the building to the outside, by treating the edge between the two as a place in its own right, and making human details there;

    1. Light on Two Sides of Every Room
    1. Building Edge
    1. Sunny Place
    1. North Face
    1. Outdoor Room
    1. Street Windows
    1. Opening to the Street
    1. Gallery Surround
    1. Six-foot Balcony
    1. Connection to the Earth

decide on the arrangement of the gardens, and the places in the gardens;

    1. Terraced Slope
    1. Fruit Trees
    1. Tree Places
    1. Garden Growing Wild
    1. Garden Wall
    1. Trellised Walk
    1. Greenhouse
    1. Garden Seat
    1. Vegetable Garden
    1. Compost

go back to the inside of the building and attach the necessary minor rooms and alcoves to complete the main rooms;

    1. Alcoves
    1. Window Place
    1. The Fire
    1. Eating Atmosphere
    1. Workspace Enclosure
    1. Cooking Layout
    1. Sitting Circle
    1. Communal Sleeping
    1. Marriage Bed
    1. Bed Alcove
    1. Dressing Room

fine tune the shape and size of rooms and alcoves to make them precise and buildable;

    1. Ceiling Height Variety
    1. The Shape of Indoor Space
    1. Windows Overlooking Life
    1. Half-open Wall
    1. Interior Windows
    1. Staircase Volume
    1. Corner Doors

give all the walls some depth, wherever there are to be alcoves, windows, shelves, closets, or seats;

    1. Thick Walls
    1. Closets Between Rooms
    1. Sunny Counter
    1. Open Shelves
    1. Waist-high Shelf
    1. Built-in Seats
    1. Child Caves
    1. Secret Place


Before you lay out structural details, establish a philosophy of structure which will let the structure grow directly from your plans and your conception of the buildings;

    1. Structure Follows Social Spaces
    1. Efficient Structure
    1. Good Materials
    1. Gradual Stiffening

within this philosophy of structure, on the basis of the plans which you have made, work out the complete structural layout; this is the last thing you do on paper, before you actually start to build;

    1. Roof Layout
    1. Floor and Ceiling Layout
    1. Thickening the Outer Walls
    1. Columns at the Corners
    1. Final Column Distribution

put stakes in the ground to mark the columns on the site, and start erecting the main frame of the building according to the layout of these stakes;

    1. Root Foundations
    1. Ground Floor Slab
    1. Box Columns
    1. Perimeter Beams
    1. Wall Membranes
    1. Floor-Ceiling Vaults
    1. Roof Vaults

within the main frame of the building, fix the exact positions for openings -- the doors and windows -- and frame these openings;

    1. Natural Doors and Windows
    1. Low Sill
    1. Deep Reveals
    1. Low Doorway
    1. Frames as Thickened Edges

as you build the main frame and its openings, put in the following subsidiary patterns where they areappropriate;

    1. Column Place
    1. Column Connection
    1. Stair Vault
    1. Duct Space
    1. Radiant Heat
    1. Dormer Windows
    1. Roof Caps

put in the surfaces and indoor details;

    1. Floor Surface
    1. Lapped Outside Walls
    1. Soft Inside Walls
    1. Windows Which Open Wide
    1. Solid Doors with Glass
    1. Filtered Light
    1. Small Panes
    1. Half-inch Trim

build outdoor details to finish the outdoors as fully as the indoor spaces;

    1. Seat Spots
    1. Front Door Bench
    1. Sitting Wall
    1. Canvas Roofs
    1. Raised Flowers
    1. Climbing Plants
    1. Paving with Cracks Between the Stones



🏛 Christopher Alexander

Exploring "the nature of order"


Volume 2 A Pattern Language

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