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Architecture & the Patternmaker

Part 2 Project 2012
Sam Wilson
University of Dundee Dundee UK
Anyone, regardless of profession, background, or age has the inherent ability to shape their own environment exactly and successfully. This is the key driver behind a pattern language. The direct and shared involvement of ordinary people is both the root and the vehicle by which such a language can exist and evolve to generate successful built environments.

A ‘Pattern Language’ introduces the idea of a fluid and generative framework to be used universally - enabling ordinary people to engage in, understand, and share individual acts of building. The framework itself comprises of a series of recurring ‘problems’ in the built environment and solutions taking the form of instructions called ‘patterns.’ Each pattern provides a hypothesis for the best arrangement of the physical environment to solve each problem - linked in sequence so that each directly relates to the next; none can exist in isolation. The result of these carefully ordered individual acts comprises a cohesive whole, a language.

This work takes the principles introduced in Alexander’s ‘a pattern language’ as a point of departure in the development of a pattern language for industrial districts. Could there be a direct and valid method(s) by which the increasing number of derelict industrial structures in the UK could be constructively re-used? Pragmatically, such a solution would call for the sustainable utilization of industrial sites both in terms of their material resource and intellectual heritage.

This thesis uses the creative power of the architect in the role of an observer; watching, studying, researching, and finally hypothesizing in the form of each pattern. Ultimately, the aim was to generate a powerful and sequential pattern language, the theory of which was compiled to form the book ‘Architecture & the Patternmaker’. It is a practical language specific to industrial sites that, in theory, anyone could use in the processes of adaptive re-use or new building.

In a pattern language it is not only what is ‘new’ that is important. It is also what we have known and forgotten, simple yet successful ‘ordinary’ conventions and construction. Industrial fabric, free from idiom and style, offers the purest variant for this observation.

Sam Wilson


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