Pattern Language

"Pattern Language" can have distinct meanings, and in permaculture usually we refer to Alexander's architectural language, as he coined the term.   But with time this term has been popularized and now has a more generic meaning. 

From wikipedia:
  • Pattern language is a structured method of documenting good design practices in architecture, software engineering, and other design disciplines
  • A Pattern Language, a famous book written by Christopher Alexander on design patterns in architecture, which established the concept pattern language (see above)
  • Pattern language (formal languages), a class of strings generated from a pattern by substitutions, in formal language theory and machine learning

A Pattern Language for Ecosystems Mechanics

Howard T. Odum studied in great detail the energy flows & interactions in complex life systems, creating a simple pattern-language that serves as a powerful model for understanding how ecosystems work, in useful detail.

This model includes visible as well as invisible components of a system, & is so holistic that human economy as well as minerals & weather processes can be accounted for, making this the most integral of economics models.

He also proposed a new & provocative law of thermodynamics that includes Life.

Cristopher Alexander

Christopher Alexander is Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, best known for his seminal works on architecture including A Pattern LanguageNotes on the Synthesis of Form, and The Nature of Order, Volumes I-IV.

He is the father of the Pattern Language movement in computer science, and A Pattern Language was perhaps the first complete book ever written in hypertext fashion.

He has designed and built more than two hundred buildings on five continents: many of these buildings lay the ground work of a new form of architecture, which looks far into the future, yet has roots in ancient traditions. Much of his work has been based on inventions in technology, including, especially, inventions in concrete, shell design, and contracting procedures needed to attain a living architecture.

He was the founder of the Center for Environmental Structure in 1967, and remains President of that Company until today. In 2000, he founded, and is Chairman of the Board. He has been a consultant to city, county, and national governments on every continent, has advised corporations, government agencies, and architects and planners throughout the world.

Alexander was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996, is a fellow of the Swedish Royal Society, has been the recipient of innumerable architectural prizes and honors including the gold medal for research of the American Institute of Architects, awarded in 1970 and, more recently, the National Building Museum's Vincent Scully Prize in 2009.

He was born in Vienna, Austria in 1936. He was raised in England, and holds a Master's Degree in Mathematics and a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from Cambridge University, and a PhD in Architecture from Harvard University.

In 1958 he moved to the United States, and lived in Berkeley, California from 1963 until 2002; in 2002, he moved back to West Sussex, England, where he now resides. His most recent book, The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth was published in October 2012.

Pattern Language Explained

Examples of Pattern Languages

Cyberpatterns for software systems and websites 

Ecopatterns for ecosystems and the environment

A Pattern Language for Effective Activism

One more tip: sometimes the word “pattern” throws people off – we hear it and think about visual patterns like “plaid” or “spirals”.

The word is being used in a more abstract context here, of course, and that can be confusing.

If it helps, you can swap the word “pattern” for “archetype”, or “solution”, or “recipe”, or “strategy”.

What matters is understanding that each one is infinitely variable and at the same time also instantly recognizable as itself.