Dadamac Study Group - Dadamac and Pattern Language- session 4
The Oregon Experiment by Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, Shlomo Angel, Sara Ishikawa, Denny Abrams.
Chapter 4 - Patterns
This chapter gives a definition of patterns, with examples from architecture. There is "collective wisdom" in the patterns for architecture. My long term hope for Dadamac is that, by collecting enough stories from changemakers, we can similarly develop patterns with collective wisdom for community development.
Page 101 - 102
......the essential feature which every pattern has, is that it forms the basis for a shared agreement in a community. Each one is, therefore, a statement of some general planning principle so formulated that its correctness, or incorrectness, can be supported by empirical evidence, discussed in public, and then , according to the outcomes of these discussions adopted, or not, by a planning board which speaks for the whole community.
..we may define a pattern as any general planning principle, which states a clear problem that may occur repeatedly in the environment, states the range of contexts in which this problem will occur, and gives the general features required by all.. plans which solve this problem. In this sense, then, we may regard a pattern as an empirically grounded imperative, which states the preconditions for healthy individual and social life in a community.
The chapter examples are all patterns to do with the built environment such as: bike paths and racks, parking spaces, small student unions, local administration, circulation realms. I'll quote one to give the idea of what is covered:
Page 126 - Pattern 25 - (Title) Bike paths and racks
(Problem) Bikes are cheap, healthy, and good for the environment; but they are threatened by cars on major roads. and they threaten pedestrians on pedestrian paths.
(Solution) Therefore: Build a system with the following properties: The bike paths are marked clearly..... always coincide either with local roads or pedestrian paths. (It then gives the general principles to be applied to address the problems when coinciding with roads and when coinciding with paths.) The system of bike paths comes within 100 feet of every building, and every building has a bike rack near its main entrance.
This example illustrates the level of detail provided by a pattern. As I see it patterns usually capture the "common sense" things that are often overlooked, especially if people are doing something for the first time. Patterns answer questions like "What do I need to bear in mind before I get started?" "What are the details I might overlook through lack of experience?" "What do other people think is important that I may not have considered?"
If people are working to agreed patterns then there is no need for heavy administrative structures demanding unnecessary levels of detail. The pattern ensures that the important features have been considered and included. When details of a project are shared they can be related to the patterns that have been included when planning the project. This means that people reading the details can more easily understand the implications of the details and the choices behind them. Patterns are open to development. This happens as more examples are collected and more "common sense" emerges.
Page 136-137 explains how this works regarding design and construction at the University of Oregon: The principle of patterns: All design and construction will be guided by a collection of communally adopted planning principles called patterns. To this end, the planning staff shall modify the published pattern language, by deleting and inserting patterns, to meet local needs; those patterns which have global impact on the community shall be adopted formally by the planning board, on behalf of the community; the collection of formally adopted patterns shall be reviewed annually at public hearings, where any member of the community can introduce new patterns, on the basis of explicitly stated observations and experiments.
Page 137 - (i) The planning staff shall modify the published pattern language by deleting and inserting patterns to meet local needs. In this task is it is essential to begin with a distinction between those patterns which are global and those which are detailed. .... global have an overall impact on the community, and..can only be implemented... piecemeal, by the joint effect of dozens, even hundreds, of different projects.
Page 138 - 139 - A Pattern Language contains both global and local patterns... we suggest,,global patterns be modified by the planning staff... and then presented to the planning board for formal adoption; and we suggest the detailed patterns be modified much more informally... The global patterns... can be kept up-to- date.. and issued as a matter of course to any users who initiate a project. The detailed patterns do not need to be formally adopted. However.. the detailed patterns might also be given to every design team... It is possible to imagine .. every user design team.. will work from some version of the pattern language, and will be able to use it to work out the smallest details of their buildings.
Page 139 -
(ii) Those patterns which have global impact on the community, shall be adopted formally by the planning board, on behalf of the community.
(iii) The collection of formally adopted patterns shall be reviewed annually at public hearings, where any member of the community can introduce new patterns, or change old ones.
Page 141 -
(iv) The board shall only accept new patterns, or revisions of old patterns, on the basis of explicitly stated observations and experiments.
I know there is a wealth of collective wisdom amongst existing Dadamac changemakers, and there is experience within Dadamac in capturing the changemakers' ongoing stories. We could work with many more changemakers if we had additional resources. A pattern language approach to capturing their stories could be beneficial to many stakeholders. Pattern language can be the key to providing the opposite to top-down development. Pattern language addresses and captures the needs and opinions of "end users"i.e. the people who live and work in places, rather than putting decision making in the hands of external "planners".