A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein with Max Jacobsen, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King and Shlomo Angel is a fat book of architectural recipes published in 1977. It’s been sitting on my desk for the last couple of months and I've been dipping into it occasionally.
The book is arranged as a numbered and cross-referenced collection of design patterns. Each attempts to offer a general prescription for a specific design problem or architectural situation, and is then cross-linked (by name and number) to other related patterns.
I've been interested in A Pattern Language because of how it was adopted as a design manual by Bay Area computer programmers 10 years after it was published. The modular, collective and networked structure of the book makes a lot of sense in the context of object-oriented computer programming and code libraries. Still, I'm sure what interested me more than anything else was the transposition of one body of specialised knowledge into another field. We learn just by moving things from here to there.
I originally had it out to share with my 14-year-old daughter in our regular ‘computer programming with dad’ classes that we’ve been convening twice weekly over an extended lockdown period in New York this spring. Of course, I learned something about the book in order to talk to her about it. Perusing the open book on my desk just now it reminds me that the best education is the one that we assemble bit by bit, just by getting on with other things.
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