A Sustainable Pattern Language
|Concept:||A "pattern language" that begins to explore the architectural implications of the deeper social and economic changes implicit in a transition to a sustainable society.|
|Project Brief:||Two design explorations that test the implementation of patterns in different contexts and at different scales.|
|Awards:||Thesis document awarded a Citation for Outstanding Research.|
What will a sustainable society look like? What patterns will (re)shape our built environment?
The University of Cincinnati Master of Architecture thesis consists of two parts: a written research document and a design project. You can find the research component here.
Sustainable design as presently practiced focuses on technical solutions, ignoring the socio-cultural dimensions of sustainability. A truly sustainable society will require substantial change to our economic structure and social order. This thesis attempts to understand the architectural implications of these deeper, harder changes by developing and applying social-spatial patterns. The outcomes are (1) a menu of patterns, or a "pattern language," (2) a design methodology for pattern development and application, and (3) design explorations in two contexts.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability refers to the ability of a system to maintain viability over the long term. Human society and the natural environment form a complex, interrelated system that is dynamic and ever changing. Structural characteristics such as resilience, diversity, and capacity for self-organization tend to contribute positively to adaptive change, crisis avoidance, and long-term viability. These characteristics also have significant social and economic implications, which are discussed in greater detail in the thesis document.
The intent of this thesis is to navigate between the general principles of a sustainable society on one hand and the specific design of the build environment on the other. Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language provides a framework for completing this task. Among their many strengths, patterns (1) have both social and spatial dimensions; (2) are multi-scalar, and can be at the scale or a region or a building detail; (3) are mutable rather than prescriptive, and can be adapted to many contexts; and (4) are amenable to participation, an important processual characteristic.
Patterns were tested and refined via design explorations in two contexts: a 1970s-era suburban development (Forest Park, Ohio, featured above), and a small rural town (Darrtown, Ohio, featured below). In these examples, patterns were applied in several steps. First, a strategy or set of strategies was developed in response to the particular conditions of a place. Second, appropriate patterns were selected in service of these strategies. Third, these patterns were interrogated and refined through design. The combination and recombination of patterns revealed new opportunities and led to the creation of larger meta-patterns. Novel patterns emerged through design. Smaller-scale patterns were embedded within, and helped to flesh out, larger ones.
The full thesis document contains a full description of the designs and the process. This document is not currently available; it is expected to be made available in late 2011.