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A Pattern A Day [Design
Posted on June 23, 2016 @ 04:43:00 AM by Paul Meagher

In my last blog, learning a pattern language, I suggested that learning a pattern language is a long term committment. In the case of Christoper Alexander's pattern language, there are 253 patterns to learn. There are other patterns to learn besides Alexander's which mainly catalogues patterns related to towns, buildings and construction.

If learning a pattern language is a long term committment, then how should we proceed to learn a pattern language? My own ideal approach, which I'm toying with, is to learn a pattern a day. Today that will involve studying one of the patterns in Alexander's book. It will also involve reading about a plant family pattern in Thomas Eppel's book Botany in a Day (2013, 6th Edition). Thomas has a recent video on plant identification that discusses his "patterns method" to plant identification.

Another place I'll try to learn some patterns is through observation of nature and the recordings of those observations. Observing a pattern might be like landing a big fish, a bit much to expect on every outing into nature. Perhaps if you come to the landscape with a pattern language observing patterns each day becomes more likely.

Before trying to develop a pattern language for business, it is probably advisable to master a pattern language from some of the masters and then use that fluency as the basis for coming up with a pattern language for business.

One of the motivations for learning a pattern language is that there are alot of unnamed or unobserved patterns right in front of our noses that we lack the language to express or identify. Naming a pattern is important so that we have a language to discuss how we might use those patterns in some design we might be contemplating.

Alot of good pinterest pages strike me as someone's cataloging of patterns applicable to some domain they are interested in. What is lacking is an attempt to name patterns and identify the field of forces giving rise to the patterns and how they resolve it. The pattern brings joy to the pinterester which is often the basis for identifying patterns worth caring about, but they are mere novelties if they are not accompanied by labelling and some explication of why the pattern works.

The pattern I studied today from Christopher Alexander's book was selected at random was pattern 33 labelled "Night life". Here is the context statement for the pattern: Most of the city's activities close down at night; those which stay open won't do much for the night life of the city unless they are together (p. 180). Here is the pattern he suggests as the solution: Knit together shops, amusements, and services which are open at night, along with hotels, bars, and all-night diners to form centers of night life: well-lit, safe, and lively places that increase the intesity of pedestian activity at night by drawing all the people who are out at night to the same few spots in the town. Encourage these evening centers to distribute themselves evenly accross the town. (p. 182).

I recently heard an interview by Ben Cowan-Dewar on the opening of his second golf course, the acclaimed Cabot Cliffs golf course. They have one world class oceanside golf course built, the Cabot Links, and built a second nearby golf course, the Cabot Cliffs with commanding views of the ocean below. His comment was that "one golf course is a novelty, 2 golf courses is a destination". Likewise, one night life amusement is a novelty but many night life amusements becomes a destination. The night life pattern can be applied beyond night life situations which is what makes learning a pattern language a potentially useful design tool. The night life pattern applied to golf tourism.

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