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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (1977)

by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,203245,803 (4.45)22
You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbors to improve your town and neighborhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction. After a ten-year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure are now publishing a major statement in the form of three books which will, in their words, "lay the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture, building and planning, which will we hope replace existing ideas and practices entirely." The three books are The Timeless Way of Building, The Oregon Experiment, and this book, A Pattern Language. At the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may be radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people. At the core of the books, too, is the point 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 forma system which gives them coherence. This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable a person to make a design for almost any kind of building, or any part of the built environment. "Patterns," the units of this language, are answers to design problems (How high should a window sill be? How many stories should a building have? How much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?). More than 250 of the patterns in this pattern language are given: each consists of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seemly likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.… (more)
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» See also 22 mentions

English (23)  German (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Note to self: You lent this to S_____. Get it back before she moves. ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
not so much of a subway read as much as a reference tome for deconstructing what makes a space enjoyable. each section is organized from general to specific traits, and cross referenced with other compatible "patterns". Every pattern has a simple sketch, specific example and descriptive paragraph. delightful and imaginative, someone should really re-publish this in a more affordable package so that more young designers can learn from it. see also: Timeless Way of Building. ( )
  jhwhit | Oct 7, 2019 |
An excellent insightful taxonomy of building styles techniques and philosophies. Based on extensive research on vernacular architecture worldwide. 20th Century Books set in metal type that is very small and difficult to read. Would greatly benefit from a hyperlinked edition. ( )
  JesseTheK | Apr 14, 2019 |
Interesting, but extremely long. It also seemed like the whole book would never apply to everyone. Some people would like the parts about constructing houses, others would like parts about designing cities, etc, but no one would really be fully engaged by the whole book. ( )
  tgrosinger | Dec 31, 2018 |
I think this is a book loved by certain types of people. I am one of those people. It captures many of my favorite “things” (in a broad sense). These things include: consideration of how items are placed, curiosity about the underlying meaning of certain actions, organization, lists...and on and on. He even had printed in bold what was most important in each chapter. (Photo is in perfect pattern language)⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ( )
1 vote joyfulmimi | Jun 3, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alexander, Christopherprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ishikawa, Saramain authorall editionsconfirmed
Silverstein, Murraymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Angel, Schlomosecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fiksdahl-King, Ingridsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jacobson, Maxsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbors to improve your town and neighborhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction. After a ten-year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure are now publishing a major statement in the form of three books which will, in their words, "lay the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture, building and planning, which will we hope replace existing ideas and practices entirely." The three books are The Timeless Way of Building, The Oregon Experiment, and this book, A Pattern Language. At the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may be radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people. At the core of the books, too, is the point 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 forma system which gives them coherence. This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable a person to make a design for almost any kind of building, or any part of the built environment. "Patterns," the units of this language, are answers to design problems (How high should a window sill be? How many stories should a building have? How much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?). More than 250 of the patterns in this pattern language are given: each consists of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seemly likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.

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Haiku summary
Good houses have these:
Mudroom, child cave and storage.
Don't gape at the view.

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