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A Pattern Language of Work: Remembering Christopher Alexander

by gmoke Fri Mar 25th, 2022 at 01:59:35 AM EST

 I just learned that Christopher Alexander, the principal writer and force behind A Pattern Language, died on March 17.  This is to remember him, someone who made me see with a new focus.

A Pattern Language of Work
earlier version written in October 1997

There are 253 patterns Christopher Alexander et alia's A Pattern Language. There are over 30 that I identify as the patterns that make for human and humane work:

9 Scattered Work 19 Web of Shopping 32 Shopping Streets 41 Work Community 42 Industrial Ribbon 43 University as a Marketplace 46 Market of Many Shops 47 Health Center 61 Small Public Squares 80 Self-Governing Workshops and Offices 81 Small Services Without Red Tape 82 Office Connections 83 Master and Apprentices 85 Shopfront Schools 86 Children's Home 87 Individually Owned Shops 88 Street Cafe 89 Corner Groceries 90 Beer Hall 91 Traveler's Inn 92 Bus Stop 93 Food Stands 101 Building Thoroughfare 146 Flexible Office Space 148 Small Work Groups 149 Reception Welcomes You 150 A Place to Wait 151 Small Meeting Rooms 152 Half-Private Office 156 Settled Work 157 Home Workshop

These patterns can be roughly assembled into four groups - work, shopping, learning, and structure:

9 Scattered Work 41 Work Community 42 Industrial Ribbon 80 Self-Governing Workshops and Offices 81 Small Services Without Red Tape 148 Small Work Groups 156 Settled Work 157 Home Workshop

19 Web of Shopping 32 Shopping Streets 46 Market of Many Shops 47 Health Center 87 Individually Owned Shops 88 Street Cafe 89 Corner Groceries 90 Beer Hall 91 Traveler's Inn 92 Bus Stop 93 Food Stands

43 University as a Marketplace 83 Master and Apprentices 85 Shopfront Schools 86 Children's Home

61 Small Public Squares 82 Office Connections 101 Building Thoroughfare 146 Flexible Office Space 149 Reception Welcomes You 150 A Place to Wait 151 Small Meeting Rooms 152 Half-Private Office


Finally, these patterns and their underlying rules can be developed into sentences and paragraphs to tell something like a story:

A community should be built on walking distance so that all the basic needs can be met within a comfortable walk. Scatter work throughout the community so that there is less of a separation between living and working. No bedroom communities, no 5 pm deserted office blocks, no commutes. Build work communities, groups of a dozen or so businesses with common areas, throughout the whole community. Those activities that are noisy, dangerous, dirty should be concentrated in industrial ribbons at the edge of communities and serve as their boundaries. Work should be organized in small work groups, self-governing workshops and offices, providing small services without red tape and opportunities for home workshops and settled work.

Build a web of shopping which decentralizes services throughout the community into short, pedestrian shopping streets that are perpendicular to vehicular traffic. The shops should be individually owned rather than franchises or chains and concentrated in a market of many shops, like farmers' markets and flea markets, with push carts and kiosks, peddlers and street performers. There are opportunities for many businesses: cafes, restaurants, food stands, and bars with entertainment, health centers, corner groceries, inns and bed and breakfasts...

Education should also be decentralized with the university organized as a marketplace where anybody can give or take a course (the January Independent Activities Period [IAP] at MIT, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, any "open university" are models already in existence). Another model is that of master and apprentice, practical mentoring, where the community becomes part of the curriculum with shopfront schools and intergenerational learning from birth to death so that teaching and learning is perpetual and integral within the life of the community.

Now, how do we make that work economically, here and now in the cities and towns we already have?

Pattern Language for Urban Agriculture
https://solarray.blogspot.com/2013/10/pattern-language-for-urban-agriculture.html

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In the US, even up until around 1960 many subdivisions had nearby grocery stores and shops. It is 0.8 miles, just over a kilometer, from my 1956 house to the shopping center. That's comparable to the neighborhood I lived in in Massachusetts as a kid. However, there were and are no neighborhood worksites because people either took the train (Boston) or bus (Colorado) to offices downtown.

I'm not completely convinced of the "keep everything local" argument. Sears & Roebuck sold everything you need on the delivery to home system, comparable to today's Amazon, a century ago. And I enjoyed the recent ten-day delivery of some electronic equipment from a company in Turkey. Local shops are good but speciality items are going to have to come from far away.

by asdf on Sat Mar 26th, 2022 at 04:06:45 PM EST
note, asdf, "Keep everything local" is your phrase, not gmoke's. Obviously, the Sear's paradigm is now universal and there's no going back, but it should preferably be reserved for stuff that you can't get locally.

During lockdown and homeworking, members of my family, already somewhat addicted to Amazon, went into overdrive in compulsive-disorder mode, and we had daily deliveries of all sorts of crap. We also ehad fun ordering nice food from nearby closed restaurants, delivered by self-employed guys on bicycles who were grateful for the work, and tips, because their papers were not sufficiently in order to be eligible for furlough pay...

And I worried that this might become the new predominant "lifestyle choice" for city dwellers like us.

But no, I find we are now doing nearly all of our shopping on foot, within a radius of about 3 km of our home. And delighted to do so. With about one expedition per month by car for bulky or specialised stuff.

And still a bit of internet ordering for stuff that we can't (or are too lazy to) source locally.

We are lucky/smart to live somewhere where we can do this, even with our somewhat sophisticated tastes. Mission : extend the paradigm to everyone.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Mar 29th, 2022 at 10:43:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One factor is whether people choose to use their local option.

Another factor is whether they even have a local option. If you live in a sprawling suburb, or in a tiny rural town (or on an isolated farm), the local option might not even exist.

by asdf on Tue Mar 29th, 2022 at 02:46:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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