Organized Listening, Our Fundamental Skill
- Write Patterns
- Avoid the ‘program-as-bottleneck’
- Set the stage for a smooth unfolding design process
An architect who is committed to wholeness-based design recognizes that authentic listening/seeing is fundamental to all efforts directed at making a building that is alive, whole…a building that smiles. If the purpose of the design process is seen as the strengthening/enlivening of the wholeness that already exists, our ability to accurately see that wholeness is critical. We have adopted the writing of Patterns, best illustrated in the book by Christopher Alexander and others, A Pattern Language , as an organized way to listen to our clients and see both the cultural and natural landscapes from which a building design will unfold.
A Pattern describes the relationship between a human activity and the built form best suited to enliven that activity. Patterns are discovered first by seeing the wholeness of a situation and identifying places where; human activity is impinged by physical conditions, where natural systems are being degraded by human activity and where large scale features like the sun’s movement or major landmarks are being under-utilized. The issues raised in discovery are then addressed in the Patterns by written and diagrammed ‘solutions’, which propose generalized remedies for each issue. The resulting Patterns are then sorted by the respective scale of their issue, largest scale first. A successful Pattern clearly, and hopefully poetically, articulates the problem to be solved by the eventual architecture. The solution should suggest the conditions necessary for the problem’s resolution yet refrain from being formally prescriptive. By reading the entire set of Patterns one should be able to visualize and/or feel the eventual design solution.
What we have found most helpful is the shared experience of writing a set of patterns for each of our projects. When the client, occupants, contractor, engineers, architect, ecologist and consultants participate in the discovery of essential relationships between occupants and design at a wide variety of scales, a general consensus of intention is established. The set of Patterns becomes the DNA for a design that unfolds in response to many more constraints than are normally tackled in a typical design process.
As you browse our website, you will notice that a number of our projects include a link to the Patterns that were developed as part of our typical programming effort.