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2.1. What Are Patterns?

Patterns communicate insights into design problems, capturing the essence of the problems and their solutions in a compact form. They describe the problem in depth, the rationale for the solution, how to apply the solution, and some of the trade-offs in applying the solution.

Patterns were originally developed by the architect Christopher Alexander and his colleagues, in a 1977 groundbreaking book called A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Oxford University Press). Patterns, he said, can empower people by providing a living and shared language “for building and planning towns, neighborhoods, houses, gardens, and rooms.” Alexander intended for patterns to be used by everyday people to guide the process of creation, whether designing a house for themselves or working with others designing offices and public spaces. By creating a common language, would-be designers could discuss and take part in the design of the spaces in which they worked, lived, and played. Alexander's patterns were also a reaction against contemporary architectural design, which he felt did not take enough of human needs, nature, growth, spirituality, and community into consideration.


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