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Knowledge of urban complexity: Reformulating pattern language

Research output: Other conference contributionPaper, poster or abstractScientific


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017
EventPLANNORD 2017 The 8th Nordic Planning Research Symposium : Planning Redefined - Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 15 Aug 201718 Aug 2017


ConferencePLANNORD 2017 The 8th Nordic Planning Research Symposium


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publishing of Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction, a seminal oeuvre focusing on architecture, urban design and community livability. Published in 1977 and co-authored by Sara Ishigawa and Murray Silverstein, among others, the book outlined a broad collection of good design practices and timeless qualitative principles termed patterns. Together patterns formed a language highlighting their interconnections. While representing patterns as interactive and connected across scales, pattern language introduced a holistic approach, which links it to the contemporary discussion and development of integrative methods and systems approach. Today, the applicability of the idea of perennial design solutions, however, seems outdated, as the conception of cities and socio-spatial phenomena as dynamic complex systems suggests a constant emergence of novel qualities. Nevertheless, the authors made the method adaptable and open for exploration of new hypothesis and reinterpretations.
Complexity theories of cities have come of age, yet bridging theory and practice is still in progress. This paper examines the concept and key ideas of pattern language against complexity theoretical discussion, contributing to the knowledge construction of urban complexity and planning. It aims at elaborating a reformulation of the original method, linking it with theories of complex adaptive systems and resilience, while discussing the potentials and limitations of the method in renewing our planning system.
keywords: pattern language, complex adaptive systems, planning system