Christopher Alexander, pioneering architect and creator of A Pattern Language, has died

Originally published at: Christopher Alexander, pioneering architect and creator of A Pattern Language, has died | Boing Boing


The first time I picked up “A pattern language”, it engrossed me like a novel would. After my second read, I bought a copy; a rarity for me, as I prefer to borrow from the library. I bought it over 25 years ago, and it was over $100 even then, but I thought it was worth the money. Fantastic book.


One of the best books for community planning, neighborhood planning, humans living with humans in a society.

I learned why cities and villages on our planet were shaped the way they were, and what made some successful and long-lived (as in hundreds or thousands of years), and key characteristics for towns doomed to fail. A humble, insightful guy who was tapped into something really deep.

This youtuber calls this a digital book, it’s a nice little intro into some parts of A Pattern Language … words not sound, so it is kinda book-like:

I love this interview with him. It says so much about who he is and the magic he knew existed inside this human artifact called “village.”

Alexander had an offer to build an entire new village in Gujarat, India. He refused. “I knew, that the real life of a real village comes from all the people in that village… I would have made a complete mess of it.”


I caught the news last week. Bummer. He was a major influence on my work, and on that of many who I respect and learned from.

Many Pattern Language design elements show up a lot in the cohousing neighborhoods I live in and help folks build, resident-led planning that helps these elements of humanity rapidly emerge.

It turns out this whole concept of pattern as lens can serve many different disciplines, and act as an attractor/filter/selector for people who “get it” and are curious enough to go beyond the surface of “what is” and explore some of the “why” and deeper context and connections. The whole aspect of holding something lightly, sketching the outlines rather than trying to capture the ultimate hi-res photo, lends itself to many insights.

I got to be a small part of a great team of group facilitators and group-process teachers, team leaders and method mappers who co-created a pattern language around productive meetings and successful group culture, best encapsulated in the CC-licensed open Group Works card deck.

There’s lots of things you can do with a tool like that, from helping practicioners of one method find common ground and language with others, to using it Tarot style to provoke further thought and insights, but my favorite activity remains going to events, spreading cards out on a table, and seeing who gets engrossed… it makes a lovely “facilitator detector.”

My wife Betsy Morris (who, with an urban planning PhD, has been into this stuff longer than me) has found her tribe in the international academic conferences centered around the concept, Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP, this year a virtual “PLoPourri”) and PUARL.


To remember Christopher Alexander I republishined two thought experiments I did using A Pattern Language:
A Pattern Language of Work

A Pattern Language for an Urban Agriculture System

I did another, a pattern language for the area in which I live, about 30 years ago but I have it only in hard copy.

Now I have to think about investing time and money in his magnum opus, The Nature or Order.


Same here. I can’t even begin to describe the influence that learning about patterns had on my life.

True. Patterns are so much more powerful than recipes or methods both both for sense-making and for (co-)creation, and I’m happy to see more and more people picking up on that.

For a long while, patterns were little known outside of architecture and software design, but that has changed now.

Thank you for Group Works, I’m drawing on it for inspiration quite often when I design group formats. It’s so simple, yet so powerful.


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