Last revised: Friday, 7 September 18 09:03:51 Europe/London

From the book, ' A Pattern Language'


Volume 1 , The Timeless Way of Building, and Volume 2, A Pattern Language, are two halves of a single work. 

This book provides a language, for building and planning - the other book provides the theory and instructions for the use of the language. This book describes the detailed patterns for towns and neighborhoods, houses, gardens, and rooms. The other book explains the discipline which makes it possible to use these patterns to create a building or a town. This book is the sourcebook of the timeless way- the other is its practice and its origin. 


The two books have evolved very much in parallel. They have been growing over the last eight years, as we have worked on the one hand to understand the nature of the building process, and on the other hand to construct an actual, possible pattern language. We have been forced by practical considerations, to publish these two books under separate covers - but in fact, they form an indivisible whole. It is possible to read them separately. But to gain the insight which we have tried to communicate in them, it is essential that you read them both. 


The Timeless Way of Building describes the fundamental nature of the task of making towns and buildings. 


It is shown there, that towns and buildings will not be able to become alive, unless they are made by all the 

people in society, and unless these people share a common pattern language, within which to make these 

buildings, and unless this common pattern language is alive itself. 


In this book, we present one possible pattern language, of the kind called for in The Timeless Way. This language is extremely practical. It is a language that we have distilled from our own building and planning efforts over the last eight years. You can use it to work with your neighbors, to improve your town and neighborhood. You can use it to design a house for yourself, with your family- or to work with other people to design an office or a workshop or a public building like a school. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction. 


The elements of this language are entities called patterns. Each pattern describes a problem which occurs 

over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such 

a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice. 


For convenience and clarity, each pattern has the same format. First, there is a picture, which shows an archetypal example of that pattern. Second, after the picture, each pattern has an introductory paragraph, which sets the context for the pattern, by explaining how it helps to complete certain larger patterns. Then there are three diamonds to mark the beginning of the problem. After the diamonds there is a headline, in bold type. This headline gives the essence of the problem in one or two sentences. After the headline comes the body of the problem. This is the longest section. It describes the empirical background of the pattern, the evidence for its validity, the range of different ways the pattern can be manifested in a building, and so on. 


Then, again in bold type, like the headline, is the solution — the heart of the pattern — which describes the field of physical and social relationships which are required to solve the stated problem, in the stated context. This solution is always stated in the form of an instruction — so that you know exactly what you need to do, to build the pattern. Then, after the solution, there is a diagram, which shows the solution in the form of a diagram, with labels to indicate its main components. 


After the diagram, another three diamonds, to show that the main body of the pattern is finished. And finally, after the diamonds there is a paragraph which ties the pattern to all those smaller patterns in the language, which are needed to complete this pattern, to embellish it, to fill it out. 


There are two essential purposes behind this format. First, to present each pattern connected to other patterns, so that you grasp the collection of all 253 patterns as a whole, as a language, within which you can create an in- finite variety of combinations. Second, to present the problem and solution of each pattern in such a way that you can judge it for yourself, and modify it, without losing the essence that is central to it. 


Let us next understand the nature of the connection between patterns. 


The patterns are ordered, beginning with the very largest, for regions and towns, then working down 

through neighborhoods, clusters of buildings, buildings, rooms and alcoves, ending finally with details of construction. 


This order, which is presented as a straight linear sequence, is essential to the way the language works. It is 

presented, and explained more fully, in the next section. What is most important about this sequence, is that it is based on the connections between the patterns. Each 

pattern is connected to certain "larger" patterns which come above it in the language; and to certain "smaller" patterns which come below it in the language. The pattern helps to complete those larger patterns which are "above" it, and is itself completed by those smaller patterns which are "below" it. 


Thus, for example, you will find that the pattern ACCESSIBLE GREEN (60), is connected first to certain larger patterns: SUBCULTURE BOUNDARY (13), IDENTIFIABLE NEIGHBORHOOD (14), WORK COMMUNITY (41), and QUIET BACKS (59). These appear on its first page. And it is also connected to certain smaller patterns: POSITIVE OUTDOOR SPACE (1O7), TREE PLACES (171), and GARDEN 

WALL (173). These appear on its last page. 


What this means, is that IDENTIFIABLE NEIGHBORHOOD, SUBCULTURE BOUNDARY, WORK COMMUNITY, and QUIET BACKS are incomplete, unless they contain an ACCESSIBLE GREEN; and that an ACCESSIBLE GREEN is itself incomplete, unless it contains POSITIVE OUTDOOR SPACE, 

TREE PLACES, and a GARDEN WALL. 


And what it means in practical terms is that, if you want to lay out a green according to this pattern, you 

must not only follow the instructions which describe the pattern itself, but must also try to embed the green 

within an identifiable neighborhood or in some subculture boundary, and in a way that helps to form 

quiet backs; and then you must work to complete the green by building in some positive outdoor space, 

tree places, and a garden wall. 


In short, no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world, only to the extent that is supported by other patterns : the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it. 


This is a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing you cannot merely build that 

thing in isolation, but must also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one 

place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it. 


Now we explain the nature of the relation between problems and solutions, within the individual patterns. 


Each solution is stated in such a way that it gives the essential field of relationships needed to solve the problem, but in a very general and abstract way — so that you can solve the problem for yourself, in your own way, by adapting it to your preferences, and the local conditions at the place where you are making it. 


For this reason, we have tried to write each solution in a way which imposes nothing on you. It contains only those essentials which cannot be avoided if you really want to solve the problem. In this sense, we have tried, in each solution, to capture the invariant property common to all places which succeed in solving the problem. 


But of course, we have not always succeeded. The solutions we have given to these problems vary in significance. Some are more true, more profound, more certain, than others. To show this clearly we have marked every pattern, in the text itself, with two asterisks, or one asterisk, or no asterisks. 


In the patterns marked with two asterisks, we believe that we have succeeded in stating a true invariant: in 

short, that the solution we have stated summarizes a property common to all possible ways of solving the 

stated problem. In these two-asterisk cases we believe, in short, that it is not possible to solve the stated problem properly, without shaping the environment in one way or another according to the pattern that we have given — and that, in these cases, the pattern describes a deep and inescapable property of a well-formed environment. 


In the patterns marked with one asterisk, we believe that we have made some progress towards identifying 

such an invariant: but that with careful work it will certainly be possible to improve on the solution. In 

these cases, we believe it would be wise for you to treat the pattern with a certain amount of disrespect — and that you seek out variants of the solution which we have given, since there are almost certainly possible ranges of solutions which are not covered by what we have written. 


Finally, in the patterns without an asterisk, we are certain that we have not succeeded in defining a true invariant — that, on the contrary, there are certainly ways of solving the problem different from the one which we have given. In these cases we have still stated a solution, in order to be concrete — to provide the reader with at least one way of solving the problem — but the task of finding the true invariant, the true property which lies at the heart of all possible solutions to this problem, remains undone. 


We hope, of course, that many of the people who read, and use this language, will try to improve these 

patterns — will put their energy to work, in this task of finding more true, more profound invariants — and we hope that gradually these more true patterns, which are slowly discovered, as time goes on, will enter a common language, which all of us can share. 


You see then that the patterns are very much alive and evolving. In fact, if you like, each pattern may be 

looked upon as a hypothesis like one of the hypotheses of science. In this sense, each pattern represents our current best guess as to what arrangement of the physical environment will work to solve the problem presented. The empirical questions center on the problem — does it occur and is it felt in the way we have described it? — and the solution — does the arrangement we propose in fact resolve the problem? And the asterisks represent our degree of faith in these hypotheses. But of course, no matter what the asterisks say, the patterns are still hypotheses, all 253 of them — and are therefore all tentative, all free to evolve under the impact of new experience and observation. 


Let us finally explain the status of this language, why we have called it a "A Pattern Language" with the emphasis on the word "A," and how we imagine this pattern language might be related to the countless thousands of other languages we hope that people will make for themselves, in the future. 


The Timeless Way of Building says that every society which is alive and whole, will have its own unique and distinct pattern language; and further, that every individual in such a society will have a unique language, shared in part, but which as a totality is unique to the mind of the person who has it. In this sense, in a healthy society there will be as many pattern languages as there are people — even though these languages are shared and similar. 


The question then arises: What exactly is the status of this published language? In what frame of mind, and 

with what intention, are we publishing this language here? The fact that it is published as a book means that 

many thousands of people can use it. Is it not true that there is a danger that people might come to rely on this one printed language, instead of developing their own languages, in their own minds? 


The fact is, that we have written this book as a first step in the society-wide process by which people will 

gradually become conscious of their own pattern languages, and work to improve them. We believe, and 

have explained in The Timeless Way of Building, that the languages which people have today are so brutal, and so fragmented, that most people no longer have any language to speak of at all — and what they do have is not based on human, or natural considerations. 


We have spent years trying to formulate this language, in the hope that when a person uses it, he will 

be so impressed by its power, and so joyful in its use, that he will understand again, what it means to have a 

living language of this kind. If we only succeed in that, it is possible that each person may once again embark on the construction and development of his own language — perhaps taking the language printed in this book, as a point of departure. 


And yet, we do believe, of course, that this language which is printed here is something more than a manual, or a teacher, or a version of a possible pattern language. 

Many of the patterns here are archetypal — so deep, so deeply rooted in the nature of things, that it seems likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years, as they are today. We doubt very much whether anyone could construct a valid pattern language, in his own mind, which did not include the PATTERN ARCADES (119) for example, or 

the pattern alcoves (179). 


In this sense, we have also tried to penetrate, as deep 

as we are able, into the nature of things in the environ- 

ment: and hope that a great part of this language, which 

we print here, will be a core of any sensible human pat- 

tern language, which any person constructs for himself, 

in his own mind. In this sense, at least a part of the 

language we have presented here, is the archetypal core 

of all possible pattern languages, which can make people 

feel alive and human. 




XVII 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 




A pattern language has the structure of a network. This 

is explained fully in The Timeless Way of Building. 

However, when we use the network of a language, we 

always use it as a sequence ; going through the patterns, 

moving always from the larger patterns to the smaller, 

always from the ones which create structures, to the ones 

which then embellish those structures, and then to those 

which embellish the embellishments. . . . 


Since the language is in truth a network, there is no 

one sequence which perfectly captures it. But the se- 

quence which follows, captures the broad sweep of the 

full network j in doing so, it follows a line, dips down, 

dips up again, and follows an irregular course, a little 

like a needle following a tapestry. 


The sequence of patterns is both a summary of the 

language, and at the same time, an index to the patterns. 

If you read through the sentences which connect the 

groups of patterns to one another, you will get an over- 

view of the whole language. And once you get this over- 

view, you will then be able to find the patterns which 

are relevant to your own project. 


And finally, as we shall explain in the next section, 

this sequence of patterns is also the "base map," from 




XVlll 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


which you can make a language for your own project, 

by choosing the patterns which are most useful to you, 

and leaving them more or less in the order that you 

find them printed here. 


5* •$* 


We begin with that fart of the language which defines 

a town or community. These fat terns can never be "de- 

signed" or "built" in one jell swoof — but fatient fiece- 

meal growth, designed in such a way that every indi- 

vidual act is always helftng to create or generate these 

larger global fatterns y will, slowly and surely, over the 

years, make a community that has these global fat terns 

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; 


2. THE DISTRIBUTION OF TOWNS 


3. CITY COUNTRY FINGERS 


4. AGRICULTURAL VALLEYS 


5. LACE OF COUNTRY STREETS 


6. COUNTRY TOWNS 


7. THE COUNTRYSIDE 


xix 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


through city policies, encourage the piecemeal forma- 

tion of those major structures which define the city; 


8. MOSAIC OF SUBCULTURES 


9. SCATTERED WORK 


10. MAGIC OF THE CITY 


11. LOCAL TRANSPORT AREAS 


build up these larger city patterns from the grass roots, 

through action essentially controlled by two levels of 

self-governing communities, which exist as physically 

identifiable places; 


12. COMMUNITY OF 7000 


13. SUBCULTURE BOUNDARY 


14. IDENTIFIABLE NEIGHBORHOOD 

If. NEIGHBORHOOD BOUNDARY 


connect communities to one another by encouraging the 

growth of the following networks; 


16. WEB OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 


17. RING ROADS 


18. NETWORK OF LEARNING 


19. WEB OF SHOPPING 


20. MINI-BUSES 


establish community and neighborhood policy to con- 

trol the character of the local environment according to 

the following fundamental principles; 


21. FOUR-STORY LIMIT 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


22. NINE PER CENT PARKING 


23. PARALLEL ROADS 


24. SACRED SITES 


25. ACCESS TO WATER 


26. LIFE CYCLE 


27. MEN AND WOMEN 


both in the neighborhoods and the communities, and in 

between them, in the boundaries, encourage the forma- 

tion of local centers 3 


2 8. ECCENTRIC NUCLEUS 


29. DENSITY RINGS 


30. ACTIVITY NODES 


31. PROMENADE 


32. SHOPPING STREET 


33. NIGHT LIFE 


34. INTERCHANGE 


around these centers, provide for the growth of housing 

in the form of clusters, based on face-to-face human 

groups J 


35. HOUSEHOLD MIX 


36. DEGREES OF PUBLICNESS 


37. HOUSE CLUSTER 


38. ROW HOUSES 


39. HOUSING HILL 


40. OLD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE 


xxi 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


between the house clusters, around the centers, and 

especially in the boundaries between neighborhoods, en- 

courage the formation of work communities j 


41. WORK COMMUNITY 


42. INDUSTRIAL RIBBON 


43. UNIVERSITY AS A MARKETPLACE 


44. LOCAL TOWN HALL 


45. NECKLACE OF COMMUNITY PROJECTS 


46. MARKET OF MANY SHOPS 


47. HEALTH CENTER 


48. HOUSING IN BETWEEN 




between the house clusters and work communities, allow 

the local road and path network to grow informally, 

piecemeal; 


49. LOOPED LOCAL ROADS 


50. T JUNCTIONS 


51. GREEN STREETS 


52. NETWORK OF PATHS AND CARS 


53. MAIN GATEWAYS 


54. ROAD CROSSING 


55. RAISED WALK 


56. BIKE PATHS AND RACKS 


57. CHILDREN IN THE CITY 




xxii 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


in the communities and neighborhoods, provide public 

open land where people can relax, rub shoulders and 

renew themselves 3 


58. CARNIVAL 


59. QUIET BACKS 


60. ACCESSIBLE GREEN 


61. SMALL PUBLIC SQUARES 


62. HIGH PLACES 


63. DANCING IN THE STREET 


64. POOLS AND STREAMS 


65. BIRTH PLACES 


66. HOLY GROUND 


in each house cluster and work community, provide the 

smaller bits of common land, to provide for local ver- 

sions of the same needs 3 


67. COMMON LAND 


68. CONNECTED PLAY 


69. PUBLIC OUTDOOR ROOM 


70. GRAVE SITES 


71. STILL WATER 


72. LOCAL SPORTS 


73. ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND 


74. ANIMALS 


within the framework of the common land, the clusters, 

and the work communities encourage transformation of 




XXI 11 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


the smallest independent social institutions: the families, 

workgroups, and gathering places. The family, in all its 

forms 3 


75. THE FAMILY 


76. HOUSE FOR A SMALL FAMILY 


77. HOUSE FOR A COUPLE 


78. HOUSE FOR ONE PERSON 


79. YOUR OWN HOME 


the workgroups, including all kinds of workshops and 

offices and even children's learning groups 3 


80. SELF-GOVERNING WORKSHOPS 

AND OFFICES 


81. SMALL SERVICES WITHOUT RED TAPE 


82. OFFICE CONNECTIONS 


83. MASTER AND APPRENTICES 


84. TEENAGE SOCIETY 


85. SHOPFRONT SCHOOLS 


86. CHILDREN^ HOME 


the local shops and gathering places. 


87. INDIVIDUALLY OWNED SHOPS 


88. STREET CAFE 


89. CORNER GROCERY 


90. BEER HALL 


91. traveler's INN 


92. BUS STOP 




xxiv 




I 


SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


93. FOOD STANDS 


94. SLEEPING IN PUBLIC 


T/zij completes the global patterns which define a 

town or a community. We now start that fart of the 

language which gives shafe to groufs of buildings y and 

individual buildings y on the land y in three dimensions. 

These are the patterns which can be "designed" or 

"built" — the patterns which define the individual build- 

ings and the sface between buildings; where we are deal- 

ing for the first time with patterns that are under the 

control of individuals or small groufs of individuals y 

who are able to build the patterns all at once. 


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 com- 

plex j 


95. BUILDING COMPLEX 


96. NUMBER OF STORIES 


97. SHIELDED PARKING 


98. CIRCULATION REALMS 


99. MAIN BUILDING 


100. PEDESTRIAN STREET 


101. BUILDING THOROUGHFARE 


102. FAMILY OF ENTRANCES 


103. SMALL PARKING LOTS 




XXV 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


fix the position of individual buildings on the site, within 

the complex, one by one, according to the nature of the 

site, the trees, the sun: this is one of the most important 

moments in the language 3 


104. SITE REPAIR 


105. SOUTH FACING OUTDOORS 


106. POSITIVE OUTDOOR SPACE 


107. WINGS OF LIGHT 


108. CONNECTED BUILDINGS 


109. 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 be- 

tween the buildings at the same time — remembering 

that indoor space and outdoor space, yin and yang, must 

always get their shape together 3 


I 10. MAIN ENTRANCE 


111. HALF-HIDDEN GARDEN 


112. ENTRANCE TRANSITION 


113. CAR CONNECTION 


114. HIERARCHY OF OPEN SPACE 


115. COURTYARDS WHICH LIVE 


116. CASCADE OF ROOFS 


117. SHELTERING ROOF 


118. ROOF GARDEN 




xxv "1 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


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 $ 


119. ARCADES 


120. PATHS AND GOALS 


121. PATH SHAPE 


122. BUILDING FRONTS 


123. PEDESTRIAN DENSITY 


124. ACTIVITY POCKETS 


125. STAIR SEATS 


126. SOMETHING ROUGHLY IN THE 

MIDDLE 


now, with the paths fixed, we come back to the build- 

ings: within the various wings of any one building, work 

out the fundamental gradients of space, and decide how 

the movement will connect the spaces in the gradients 3 


127. INTIMACY GRADIENT 


128. INDOOR SUNLIGHT 


129. COMMON AREAS AT THE HEART 


130. ENTRANCE ROOM 


131. THE FLOW THROUGH ROOMS 


132. SHORT PASSAGES 


133. STAIRCASE AS A STAGE 


134. ZEN VIEW 


135. TAPESTRY OF LIGHT AND DARK 




XXV 11 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


within the framework of the wings and their internal 

gradients of space and movement, define the most im- 

portant areas and rooms. First, for a house ; 


136. couple's realm 


137. children's realm 


138. sleeping to the east 


139. farmhouse kitchen 


140. private terrace on the street 


141. a room of one's own 


142. sequence of sitting spaces 


143. bed cluster 


144. BATHING ROOM 


145. BULK STORAGE 


then the same for offices, workshops, and public build- 

ings 5 


146. FLEXIBLE OFFICE SPACE 


147. COMMUNAL EATING 


148. SMALL WORK GROUPS 


149. RECEPTION WELCOMES YOU 


150. A PLACE TO WAIT 


151. SMALL MEETING ROOMS 


152. HALF-PRIVATE OFFICE 


add those small outbuildings which must be slightly in- 

dependent from the main structure, and put in the access 

from the upper stories to the street and gardens; 




xxviii 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


153. ROOMS TO RENT 


154. TEENAGER'S COTTAGE 


155. OLD AGE COTTAGE 


156. SETTLED WORK 


157. HOME WORKSHOP 


158. 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 ; 


159. LIGHT ON TWO SIDES OF EVERY ROOM 


160. BUILDING EDGE 


161. SUNNY PLACE 


162. NORTH FACE 


163. OUTDOOR ROOM 


164. STREET WINDOWS 


165. OPENING TO THE STREET 


166. GALLERY SURROUND 


167. SIX-FOOT BALCONY 


168. CONNECTION TO THE EARTH 


decide on the arrangement of the gardens, and the places 

in the gardens; 


169. TERRACED SLOPE 


170. FRUIT TREES 


171. TREE PLACES 


xxix 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


172. GARDEN GROWING WILD 


173. GARDEN WALL 


174. TRELLISED WALK 


175. GREENHOUSE 


176. GARDEN SEAT 


177. VEGETABLE GARDEN 


178. COMPOST 


go back to the inside of the building and attach the neces- 

sary minor rooms and alcoves to complete the main 

rooms j 


179. ALCOVES 


180. WINDOW PLACE 


181. THE FIRE 


182. EATING ATMOSPHERE 


183. WORKSPACE ENCLOSURE 


184. COOKING LAYOUT 


185. SITTING CIRCLE 


186. COMMUNAL SLEEPING 


187. MARRIAGE BED 


188. BED ALCOVE 


189. DRESSING ROOM 


fine tune the shape and size of rooms and alcoves to 

make them precise and buildable; 


190. CEILING HEIGHT VARIETY 




XXX 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


191. THE SHAPE OF INDOOR SPACE 


192. WINDOWS OVERLOOKING LIFE 


193. HALF-OPEN WALL 


194. INTERIOR WINDOWS 


195. STAIRCASE VOLUME 


196. CORNER DOORS 


give all the walls some depth, wherever there are to be 

alcoves, windows, shelves, closets, or seats 3 


197. THICK WALLS 


198. CLOSETS BETWEEN ROOMS 


199. SUNNY COUNTER 


200. OPEN SHELVES 


201. WAIST-HIGH SHELF 


202. BUILT-IN SEATS 


203. CHILD CAVES 


204. SECRET PLACE 


At this stage, you have a complete design for an in- 

dividual building. If you have followed the patterns 

given , you have a scheme of s faces, either marked on 

the ground^ with stakes y or on a piece of paper, accurate 

to the nearest foot or so. You know the height of rooms, 

the rough size and position of windows and doors, and 

you know roughly how the roofs of the building, and 

the gardens are laid out. 


The next, and last part of the language, tells how to 




XXXI 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 




make a buildable building directly from this rough 

scheme of sfaces y and tells you how to build it y in detail. 


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 3 


205. STRUCTURE FOLLOWS SOCIAL SPACES 


206. EFFICIENT STRUCTURE 


207. GOOD MATERIALS 


208. GRADUAL STIFFENING 


within this philosophy of structure, on the basis of the 

plans which you have made, work out the complete 

structural layout 5 this is the last thing you do on paper, 

before you actually start to build; 


209. ROOF LAYOUT 


210. FLOOR AND CEILING LAYOUT 


211. THICKENING THE OUTER WALLS 


212. COLUMNS AT THE CORNERS 


213. FINAL COLUMN DISTRIBUTION 


put stakes in the ground to mark the columns on the site, 

and start erecting the main frame of the building accord- 

ing to the layout of these stakes; 


214. ROOT FOUNDATIONS 


215. GROUND FLOOR SLAB 


216. BOX COLUMNS 




xxxi 1 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


217. PERIMETER BEAMS 


218. WALL MEMBRANES 


219. FLOOR-CEILING VAULTS 


220. ROOF VAULTS 


within the main frame of the building, fix the exact po- 

sitions for openings — the doors and windows — and frame 

these openings; 


221. NATURAL DOORS AND WINDOWS 


222. LOW SILL 


223. DEEP REVEALS 


224. LOW DOORWAY 


225. FRAMES AS THICKENED EDGES 


as you build the main frame and its openings, put in the 

following subsidiary patterns where they are appropriate; 


226. COLUMN PLACE 


227. COLUMN CONNECTION 


228. STAIR VAULT 


229. DUCT SPACE 


230. RADIANT HEAT 


231. DORMER WINDOWS 


232. ROOF CAPS 


put in the surfaces and indoor details; 


233. FLOOR SURFACE 


234. LAPPED OUTSIDE WALLS 




XXXI 11 




SUMMARY OF THE LANGUAGE 


235. SOFT INSIDE WALLS 


236. WINDOWS WHICH OPEN WIDE 


237. SOLID DOORS WITH GLASS 


238. FILTERED LIGHT 


239. SMALL PANES 


240. HALF-INCH TRIM 


build outdoor details to finish the outdoors as fully as 

the indoor spaces 3 


241. SEAT SPOTS 


242. FRONT DOOR BENCH 


243. SITTING WALL 


244. CANVAS ROOFS 


245. RAISED FLOWERS 


246. CLIMBING PLANTS 


247. PAVING WITH CRACKS BETWEEN 

THE STONES 


248. SOFT TILE AND BRICK 


complete the building with ornament and light and color 

and your own things 3 


249. ORNAMENT 


250. WARM COLORS 


251. DIFFERENT CHAIRS 


252. POOLS OF LIGHT 


253. THINGS FROM YOUR LIFE 


xxx iv 




CHOOSING A LANGUAGE 

FOR YOUR PROJECT 




All 253 patterns together form a language. They create 

a coherent picture of an entire region, with the power 

to generate such regions in a million forms, with in- 

finite variety in all the details. 


It is also true that any small sequence of patterns from 

this language is itself a language for a smaller part of 

the environment 3 and this small list of patterns is then 

capable of generating a million parks, paths, houses, 

workshops, or gardens. 


For example, consider the following ten patterns: 


PRIVATE TERRACE ON THE STREET (140) 


SUNNY PLACE ( l6l) 


OUTDOOR ROOM (163) 


SIX-FOOT BALCONY (167) 


PATHS AND GOALS (l20) 


CEILING HEIGHT VARIETY (190) 


COLUMNS AT THE CORNERS (2 12) 


FRONT DOOR BENCH (242) 


RAISED FLOWERS (245) 


DIFFERENT CHAIRS (251) 


This short list of patterns is itself a language: it is one 

of a thousand possible languages for a porch, at the front 

of a house. One of us chose this small language, to build 




XXXV 




CHOOSING A LANGUAGE FOR YOUR SUBJECT 




a porch onto the front of his house. This is the way the 

language,, and its patterns, helped to generate this porch. 


I started with private terrace on the street (140). That 

pattern calls for a terrace, slightly raised, connected to the house, 

and on the street side, sunny place (161) suggests that a special 

place on the sunny side of the yard should be intensified and 

made into a place by the use of a patio, balcony, outdoor room, 

etc. I used these two patterns to locate a raised platform on the 

south side of the house. 


To make this platform into an outdoor room (163), I put 

it half under the existing roof overhang, and kept a mature 

pyracanthus tree right smack in the middle of the platform. The 

overhead foliage of the tree added to the roof-like enclosure of 

the space. I put a wind screen of fixed glass on the west side of 

the platform too, to give it even more enclosure. 


I used six-foot balcony ( 1 67) to determine the size of the 

platform. But this pattern had to be used judiciously and not 

blindly — the reasoning for the pattern has to do with the mini- 

mum space required for people to sit comfortably and carry on a 

discussion around a small side-table. Since I wanted space for at 

least two of these conversation areas — one under the roof for very 

hot or rainy days, and one out under the sky for days when you 

wanted to be full in the sun, the balcony had to be made 12x12 

feet square. 


Now paths and goals ( 1 20) Usually, this pattern deals with 

large paths in a neighborhood, and comes much earlier in a lan- 

guage. But I used it in a special way. It says that the paths which 

naturally get formed by people's walking, on the land, should be 

preserved and intensified. Since the path to our front door cut 

right across the corner of the place where I had planned to put 

the platform, I cut the corner of the platform off. 


The height of the platform above the ground was determined 

by ceiling height variety (190). By building the platform 

approximately one foot above the ground line, the ceiling height 

of the covered portion came out at between 6 and 7 feet — just 

right for a space as small as this. Since this height above the 

ground level is just about right for sitting, the pattern front 

door bench (242) was automatically satisfied. 


There were three columns standing, supporting the roof over 




xxx vi 




CHOOSING A LANGUAGE FOR YOUR SUBJECT 


the old porch. They had to stay where they are, because they hold 

the roof up. But, following columns at the corners (212), 

the platform was very carefully tailored to their positions — so that 

the columns help define the social spaces on either side of them. 


Finally, we put a couple of flower boxes next to the "front door 

bench" — it's nice to smell them when you sit there — according to 

raised flowers (245). And the old chairs you can see in the 

porch are different chairs (251). 


You can see, from this short example, how powerful 

and simple a pattern language is. And you are now, 

perhaps ready to appreciate how careful you must be, 

when you construct a language for yourself and your 

own project. 





The finished forch 


The character of the porch is given by the ten patterns 

in this short language. In just this way, each part of the 

environment is given its character by the collection of 

patterns which we choose to build into it. The character 

of what you build, will be given to it by the language of 

patterns you use, to generate it. 




xxxv u 




CHOOSING A LANGUAGE FOR YOUR SUBJECT 


For this reason, of course, the task of choosing a lan- 

guage for your project is fundamental. The pattern lan- 

guage we have given here contains 253 patterns. You 

can therefore use it to generate an almost unimaginably 

large number of possible different smaller languages, 

for all the different projects you may choose to do, 

simply by picking patterns from it. 


We shall now describe a rough procedure by which 

you can choose a language for your own project, first by 

taking patterns from this language we have printed here, 

and then by adding patterns of your own. 


1. First of all, make a copy of the master sequence 

(pages xix-xxxiv) on which you can tick off the patterns 

which will form the language for your project. If you 

don't have access to a copying machine, you can tick off 

patterns in the list printed in the book, use paper clips 

to mark pages, write your own list, use paper markers — 

whatever you like. But just for now, to explain it clearly, 

we shall assume that you have a copy of the list in front 

of you. 


2. Scan down the list, and find the pattern which 

best describes the overall scope of the project you have 

in mind. This is the starting pattern for your project. 

Tick it. (If there are two or three possible candidates, 

don't worry: just pick the one which seems best: the 

others will fall in place as you move forward.) 


3. Turn to the starting pattern itself, in the book, and 

read it through. Notice that the other patterns men- 

tioned by name at the beginning and at the end, of the 

pattern you are reading, are also possible candidates for 

your language. The ones at the beginning will tend to be 

"larger" than your project. Don't include them, unless 




xxxviii 




CHOOSING A LANGUAGE FOR YOUR SUBJECT 


you have the power to help create these patterns, at least 

in a small way, in the world around your project. The 

ones at the end are "smaller." Almost all of them will 

be important. Tick all of them, on your list, unless you 

have some special reason for not wanting to include 

them. 


4. Now your list has some more ticks on it. Turn to 

the next highest pattern on the list which is ticked, and 

open the book to that pattern. Once again, it will lead 

you to other patterns. Once again, tick those which are 

relevant — especially the ones which are "smaller" that 

come at the end. As a general rule, do not tick the ones 

which are "larger" unless you can do something about 

them, concretely, in your own project. 


5. When in doubt about a pattern, don't include it. 

Your list can easily get too long: and if it does, it will 

become confusing. The list will be quite long enough, 

even if you only include the patterns you especially like. 


6. Keep going like this, until you have ticked all the 

patterns you want for your project. 


7. Now, adjust the sequence by adding your own ma- 

terial. If there are things you want to include in your 

project, but you have not been able to find patterns which 

correspond to them, then write them in, at an appropri- 

ate point in the sequence, near other patterns which are 

of about the same size and importance. For example, 

there is no pattern for a sauna. If you want to include 

one, write it in somewhere near bathing room (144) 

in your sequence. 


8. And of course, if you want to change any patterns, 

change them. There are often cases where you may have 

a personal version of a pattern, which is more true, or 




xxxix 




CHOOSING A LANGUAGE FOR YOUR SUBJECT 


more relevant for you. In this case, you will get the most 

"power" over the language, and make it your own most 

effectively, if you write the changes in, at the appropri- 

ate places in the book. And, it will be most concrete of 

all, if you change the name of the pattern too — so that 

it captures your own changes clearly. 


J? 


Suppose now that you have a language for your proj- 

ect. The way to use the language depends very much 

on its scale. Patterns dealing with towns can only be 

implemented gradually, by grass roots action- patterns 

for a building can be built up in your mind, and marked 

out on the ground; patterns for construction must be 

built physically, on the site. For this reason we have 

given three separate instructions, for these three different 

scales. For towns, see page 3; for buildings, see page 

463; for construction, see page 935. 


The procedures for each of these three scales are de- 

scribed in much more detail with extensive examples, 

in the appropriate chapters of The Timeless Way of 

Building. For the town — see chapters 24 and 25; for an 

individual building — see chapters 20, 21, and 22; and for 

the process of construction which describes the way a 

building is actually built see chapter 23. 




xl 




THE POETRY OF THE LANGUAGE 




Finally, a note of caution. This language, like English, 

can be a medium for prose, or a medium for poetry. The 

difference between prose and poetry is not that different 

languages are used, but that the same language is used, 

differently. In an ordinary English sentence, each word 

has one meaning, and the sentence too, has one simple 

meaning. In a poem, the meaning is far more dense. 

Each word carries several meanings 3 and the sentence 

as a whole carries an enormous density of interlocking 

meanings, which together illuminate the whole. 


The same is true for pattern languages. It is possible 

to make buildings by stringing together patterns, in a 

rather loose way. A building made like this, is an as- 

sembly of patterns. It is not dense. It is not profound. 

But it is also possible to put patterns together in such a 

way that many many patterns overlap in the same 

physical space: the building is very dense ; it has many 

meanings captured in a small space j and through this 

density, it becomes profound. 


In a poem, this kind of density, creates illumination, 

by making identities between words, and meanings, 

whose identity we have not understood before. In "O 

Rose thou art sick," the rose is identified with many 




xJi 




THE POETRY OF THE LANGUAGE 


greater, and more personal things than any rose — and 

the poem illuminates the person, and the rose, because of 

this connection. The connection not only illuminates the 

words, but also illuminates our actual lives. 


O Rose thou art sick. 

The invisible worni^ 

That flies in the night 

In the howling storm: 


Has found out thy bed 

Of crimson joy: 

And his dark secret love 

Does thy life destroy. 


WILLIAM BLAKE 


The same exactly, happens in a building. Consider, for 

example, the two patterns bathing room (144) and 

still water (71). One defines a part of a house where 

you can bathe yourself slowly, with pleasure, perhaps 

in company j a place to rest your limbs, and to relax. The 

other is a place in a neighborhood, where this is water 

to gaze into, perhaps to swim in, where children can sail 

boats, and splash about, which nourishes those parts of 

ourselves which rely on water as one of the great 

elements of the unconscious. 


Suppose now, that we make a complex of buildings 

where individual bathing rooms are somehow connected 

to a common pond, or lake, or pool — where the bathing 

room merges with this common place; where there is no 

sharp distinction between the individual and family pro- 

cesses of the bathing room, and the common pleasure 

of the common pool. In this place, these two patterns 




xlii 




THE POETRY OF THE LANGUAGE 


exist in the same space ; they are identified - } there is a 

compression of the two, which requires less space, and 

which is more profound than in a place where they are 

merely side by side. The compression illuminates each 

of the patterns, sheds light on its meaning- and also il- 

luminates our lives, as we understand a little more about 

the connections of our inner needs. 


But this kind of compression is not only poetic and 

profound. It is not only the stuff of poems and exotic 

statements, but to some degree, the stuff of every English 

sentence. To some degree, there is compression in every 

single word we utter, just because each word carries the 

whisper of the meanings of the words it is connected to. 

Even "Please pass the butter, Fred" has some compres- 

sion in it, because it carries overtones that lie in the con- 

nections of these words to all the words which came be- 

fore it. 


Each of us, talking to our friends, or to our families, 

makes use of these compressions, which are drawn out 

from the connections between words which are given by 

the language. The more we can feel all the connections 

in the language, the more rich and subtle are the things 

we say at the most ordinary times. 


And once again, the same is true in building. The com- 

pression of patterns into a single space, is not a poetic 

and exotic thing, kept for special buildings which are 

works of art. It is the most ordinary economy of space. It 

is quite possible that all the patterns for a house might, 

in some form be present, and overlapping, in a simple 

one-room cabin. The patterns do not need to be strung 

out, and kept separate. Every building, every room, 




xliii 




THE POETRY OF THE LANGUAGE 




every garden is better, when all the patterns which it 

needs are compressed as far as it is possible for them to 

be. The building will be cheaper; and the meanings in it 

will be denser. 


It is essential then, once you have learned to use the 

language, that you pay attention to the possibility of 

compressing the many patterns which you put together, 

in the smallest possible space. You may think of this 

process of compressing patterns, as a way to make the 

cheapest possible building which has the necessary pat- 

terns in it. It is, also, the only way of using a pattern 

language to make buildings which are poems.

SansSerif

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