The Pattern That Connects: Practicing Sustainability At Many Scales . David M. Foley Holland & Foley Building Design, LLC Northport, Maine. Dedicated To Christopher Alexander. Architect Builder Author Teacher. Alexander’s Thesis:.
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The Pattern That Connects: Practicing Sustainability At Many Scales
David M. Foley
Holland & Foley Building Design, LLC
“How, after all, can anybody…heal a planet?…The large problems occur because all of us are living either partly wrong or almost entirely wrong…Our problems, as they are suffered in our lives, our households and our communities, have attracted very little intelligence…Our understandable wish to preserve the planet must somehow be reduced to the scale of our competence - that is, thewish to preserve all of its humble households and neighborhoods.”• Wendell Berry
“Can we move nations and people in the direction of sustainability? Such a move would be a modification of society comparable in scale to…the Agricultural Revolution…and the Industrial Revolution…Those revolutions were gradual, spontaneous and largely unconscious. This one will have to be a fully conscious operation…If we actually do it, the undertaking will be absolutely unique in humanity’s stay on Earth.”• William D. Ruckelshaus
Environmental problems have multiple causes across multiple scales. So do the solutions.
Large to Small:
Maine Turnpike Authority decides to widen turnpike to alleviate congestion;
Wider turnpike encourages more traffic;
Traffic congestion increases, spills onto secondary roads;
State & towns contemplate widening secondary roads.
Small to Large:
Each farmer wants to earn more;
Each farmer buys more inputs and grows more crops;
Price of inputs rises & price of crops falls;
Each farmer, to break even, buys more inputs and grows more crops.
Multi-billion dollar Federal crop support & offset programs.
3rd World Micro Credit:
Reduces child mortality;
Lowers population growth.
Effects across scales are called “cascades.” We need to create “beneficial cascades”. Pattern Languages can help us do this.
“Patterns of A Conservation Economy”
“A Conservation Economy • What Does A Sustainable Society Look Like?”
Our world isn’t made of things; it’s generated from Patterns.
Patterns are rules that describe a problem and give a tangible solution that can be locally adapted.
Patterns are linked, from large to small, to form Pattern Languages.
Pattern Languages can be shared, discussed and improved.
Pattern Languages are a common ground for people working in different disciplines and at different scales.
That’s why Pattern Languages are vital for sustainability efforts.
A Pattern doesn’t just describe a solution - it teaches you how to generate the solution, concretely, in the world.
How do I create it?
What is it?
Genes don’t carry descriptions, they carry instructions.
Here’s the result...
Here’s what to do…
Describing the result isn’t the same as giving instructions.
Architecture describing end result.
Architecture showing how to generate a result.
A Pattern helps you understand what to do.
Current business practices often harm ecosystems & human communities.
Green businesses use resources efficiently & emphasize broader community benefit for a “Triple Bottom Line”.
A lovely sentiment, but not yet a Pattern.
Describes a worthwhile end, but doesn’t contain instructions.
A “Green Business Rating” might be a Pattern.
We need opportunities for deep relaxation, for beauty, and to simply play.
Celebrate beauty, wholeness and play as central features of life.
We aren’t directly empowered to create something by this.
A description of a lovely outcome, but not generative instructions - not a Pattern.
A Pattern describes a problem, the system of forces usually present in the problem, and a solution that resolves those forces.
A Pattern is an instruction showing you how the solution can be used repeatedly to solve the problem.
A Pattern is a solution presented as something tangible and desirable that can be created.
A Pattern doesn’t just describe a desirable outcome - it contains instructions for generating the outcome.
A Pattern is like a seed or gene.
A Pattern doesn’t describe a specific thing to be copied.
It describes the general field of relationships that solves a recurring problem in the world.
Specific relationships govern a Pattern, not specific parts.
A Pattern is specific about how things must work and relate to solve a problem.
But a Pattern can be adapted to local circumstances, made of local materials, modified where local culture and customs require.
The same Pattern expressed in different cultures, contexts and materials.
The process generates the same relationships, but adapts them to a particular setting.
Pictures courtesy of Samuel Zschokke
The same process generates endless variety.
“The Problem Is The Solution”
“One of the beauties of biology is that its facts can become our metaphors. These underlying codes may also serve as inspiring parables for how as human beings we might organize a more just, humane and authentically sustainable society.”- Kenny Ausubel
“This is a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing you cannot build that thing in isolation, but must also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it.”- Christopher Alexander
In Nature, the same process grows and heals organisms.
Focus on a problem;
Articulate why it’s a problem;
Look for problem’s cause in failed relationships;
Look for healthy, functioning relationships as an alternative - envision what you really want;
Propose repairs to the relationships;
Describe the repairs as an instruction, so someone else can do it too;
Describe the context in which your Pattern makes sense;
Share the Pattern, and let it be improved by experience and feedback.
These Patterns combine to form part of the Pattern Language of these villages.
If you produce these Patterns, one by one, eventually you’ll create streets like these.
Patterns and their linkages together form Pattern Languages.
Patterns have different scales. Smaller scale Patterns are born from larger scale ones.
Use Patterns in sequence to keep things manageable.
At a given scale, the ideal number of Patterns is between 5 and 9.
Butterfly & Flowers
Bramante’s Church Plan
Arcade at Eishin
Great Hall at Eishin
Julian St. Homeless Shelter
Plan for Oregon Campus
(Source: Nikos Salingaros)
Strong “Centers” and Profound Boundaries
Plan of African
Chartres Rose Window
Patterns create geometry that:
Is made of multiple “centers”, each “center” helping form other “centers”;
Forms profound boundaries that are places in and of themselves;
Is “fractal”, with repeating patterns in space across multiple scales;
Is akin to the geometry of Nature.
Pattern Languages teach that sustainability requires us to repair and enrich relationships across multiple scales.
They ask us to reintegrate our civilization with Nature.
“Regenerative design requires that we participate with nature in a mutually beneficial relationship…(and) an awareness of what gives health to a place… so that the systems (human and natural) have an opportunity to organize in self-healing relationships.”
-William Reed & David Eisenberg
Map of the Internet
(Source: The Opte Project)