Saturday, October 4, 2014

Why I Love A Pattern Language #write31days

zen view

Pattern 134, ZEN VIEW. Image Source: Natural Homes

I’ve loved this book for over five years, and I’m excited to explore more of its treasures with you during the month of October.

Today I’m sharing the top six reasons I love the book. Tomorrow I’ll share why I’ve chosen it as my topic for the Write 31 challenge.

1. Timing is everything. I discovered A Pattern Language in 2010, a year that was both glorious and challenging. We had debated moving to Durango half of the year, and once we decided to stay in Moab, A Pattern Language helped me fall in love with our house again. I read half the book out loud to Brian because the book felt like special glasses that helped me really see our home, what worked and what didn’t and why.

2. Alleluia for very short chapters. Some patterns/chapters are just a page. I had a two year old at the time, so short chapters seemed doable. I began wanting information about home offices, because I was in the midst of rearranging mine for the umpteenth time. Pattern #141, A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN, is only four pages. If I had begun with Pattern #1, INDEPENDENT REGIONS, which has more to do with geography, population, and politics, I might not have gotten very far. Jump in wherever your interest lies right now.

3. The book will lead you down its own unique path. A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN references Pattern 76, A HOUSE FOR A SMALL FAMILY, as well as Pattern 155, OLD AGE COTTAGE, and a dozen more. I couldn’t resist finding out what Pattern 253, THINGS FROM YOUR LIFE, meant, so I flipped forward to that pattern, which then led me to another.

4. Alexander and the other authors don’t present their ideas as gospel. While they are convinced that there are universal patterns that create a structure for good design the same way grammar creates a structure or pattern for communication with words, they acknowledge that their patterns are theories.

Something I only paid attention to after several hopscotch readings was the asterisk system used on the title page of each pattern. The asterisks represent the authors’ “degree of faith in these hypotheses.” Two asterisks denotes a pattern in which Alexander is very confident, one a pattern that works but might not be the best, and no asterisk signals patterns they see as flawed, but the best they have arrived at so far.


Pattern 256: CLIMBING PLANTS. Image Source: Natural Homes

5. The language is beautiful. At times dated, steeped in the culture of America in the 1960s, it is nonetheless poetic and at times prophetic. Case in point, Pattern 35, HOUSEHOLD MIX, which describes how “normal growth through the stages of life requires contact, at each stage, with people and institutions from all the other ages of man.” In that one line, he provides a better argument against living in a retirement community than I ever could.

6. Each time I reread it, I gain new understanding. And while looking at homes (which we’ve spent the last five months doing), I would often recall lines from this book. Even Brian was eventually pointing out those golden rooms that received natural light from two sides (Pattern 159).

I’m still learning. I don’t take the patterns at face value---I couldn’t disagree more with Pattern 94 (more on that to come). And yet so many of the patterns ring true for me. They help me appreciate why some homes delight and others leave you cold.

I hope you’ll see if your library has a copy too, and share which pattern draws you onto your own unique path through this magical book.


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This post is part of Myquillin Smith’s Write 31 Days challenge. You can find all my posts on A Pattern Language here, and other blogs participating in the challenge (and writing on different topics) here.


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