5-fold Pattern Language
Proposed for inclusion in Encyclopedia of World Problems
and Human Potential
- / -
Also published in modified form in Statistics, Visualizations
(Vol 5 of the Yearbook
of International Organizations
, K G Saur Verlag, 6th edition,
2006/2007, as section 10.3) [searchable PDF version
Experimental draft of 4-fold "translation" of selected patterns from
Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language (1977). The individual texts
(referenced here) were subsequently included in "Patterns of Concepts"
-- an experimental part of
the Encyclopedia of World
Problems and Human Potential (1986). A variant is available in the online
version of the associated databases.
1. In a 3 volume work, designer-architect Christopher Alexander has elaborated
and tested a "pattern language" for building and planning at both the
macro and the micro level. The titles of the volumes are:
2. The value and purpose of such an exercise is to provide people with a kind
of vocabulary, a phrase book, a large and accessible store of metaphors, images
and elements that are formed into the patterns of our various environments.
Enriching vocabulary enriches the structure of choice. A person with a limited
vocabulary has a limited field of consciousness. Pattern languages provide this
enriching vocabulary of semantically meaningful concepts -- each a pattern of
elements in themselves and yet each combinable with the others in the definition
and design of the environments in which people choose to live.
Certain patterns are intuitively recognised and predictable, they appear wholesome, they' have a quality, impossible to define, yet experienced and understood deep in the collective consciousness of the human race. Emphasis is placed on these concepts, these patterns which help to define a qualitatively superior environment.
3. Alexander (and his team) have clarified 254 interlinked patterns as providing
one such language. They stress that other languages are possible and other patterns
may be added to the language they have elaborated. Nevertheless, their language
can be viewed as a very useful coherent structure.
4. Alexander's language focuses on the physical environment of towns,
buildings, and construction. It has been used here as a form of template from
which 4 corresponding sets of patterns have been generated. The numbered patterns
[on the referenced pages] are therefore split into 5 sub-paragraphs:
Template: This endeavours to describe the pattern in content-free
terms as pure relationship. As such it is a guideline for the elaboration
of patterns for other arenas.
Physical environment: This is an adaptation of Alexander's own pattern
Socio-organizational environment: This describes the pattern as it
applies to the organization of social groups, organizations and networks.
Conceptual environment: This describes the pattern as it applies
to the organization of a conceptual framework or a body of knowledge.
Intra-personal environment: This describes the pattern as it applies
to the organization of modes of awareness adopted by a person.
5. The procedure of "translating" or transposing the original physical
pattern to other domains obviously raises difficulties. These include:
- problem of adequacy of terminology;
- stilted phrasing.
are normal problems encountered in translation. These difficulties can however
be reduced by further editing. Clearly it would be an advantage to get feedback
from those more familiar with the terminology used in each domain.
6. This draft is being circulated to a few people at this stage to get some
feedback on the strengths or weaknesses of the approach. Any comments, specific
or general, would therefore be appreciated.
7. The basic reason for attempting to complete this exercise is that as a
set of physical patterns it provides one of the very few coherent, yet precise,
efforts to organize the environment in a manner which is qualitatively sensitive.
If it is possible to learn from this by adapting the patterns to other realms
in which humanity is faced with incoherence and problems of quality, then the
exercise has merit.