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Design pattern implementation – stairs

Category: Barn Conversion Journal January 23rd, 2012 by mbc

A discussion over on Reddit prompted me to revisit my thinking in relation to design patterns and their contribution to the design of the conversion of the barn. (For a more detailed discussion of design patterns please see my post on A Pattern Language.)

The discussion on Reddit is titled ‘Why hasn’t Christopher Alexander been more influential for architects?‘ and linked to an old article on Slate.com that is a discussion of Christopher Alexander’s work, design patterns and the lack of attention paid to this work in the current training of architects. My personal take on why architects aren’t more greatly influenced by Alexander and his work is that (to quote from my Reddit comment)…

“architects aren’t generally keen on Alexander for reasons of ego – they don’t want to share the ‘glory’ of their designs with anyone else”

…a sweeping generalisation and uncharitable to boot, but the Reddit discussion, coupled with a comment from vasislos a who said ‘it would be interesting to see pictures of how you’re applying the patterns’ restarted my thinking on patterns and led to this post.

My use of patterns evolved through a couple of iterations – my choices in November 2007 and updated in September 2010.

So, I thought a review of my previous lists with some discussion of my own implementations of the selected patterns would be in order, I’ll start with two patterns that sit closely together.

125 Stair seats.
Seats on stairs provide a vantage point, but don’t remove the sitter from the action.
133 Staircase as a stage.
A flared bottom step gives the stairs a function that may otherwise be overlooked.

From Barn Conversion 2012

I can’t claim that these patterns were a great design leap forward or a difficult implementation, but these are powerful and worthwhile. Due to the openness of the ground floor of the barn and the just off centre positioning of the stairs the bottom step is a comfortable, accessible and central place to sit within the main open plan area of the barn. Implementing these patterns was a case of ensuring that the staircase itself was positioned centrally, that the bottom couple of steps provided a suitable place to sit for people of varying heights (as most sets of step do) and that the bottoms of the stairs remained an unclutter, open and defined space in its own right.

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A Pattern Language – Towns Buildings Construction

Category: Books October 16th, 2007 by mbc

Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein ~ 1977, Oxford University Press, New York.

In 1977, whilst in the UK the Sex Pistols where spreading a message of anarchy and being “Pretty Vacant”, in the USA Alexander, Ishikawa, Silverstein and co. were publishing three books that would enable us to bring order and thoughtful design to our homes, neighbourhoods, towns and cities. This, the second book in the series, is a working document for ‘a new traditional post-industrial architecture’.

The book takes the form of 253 patterns each pattern describes a problem that occurs in our built environment and then suggest ways to tackle that problem in a generic form, such that the application of the pattern to the problem will result in a unique and effective solution. The problems tackled range in scale, from number 1 the macro Independent Regions pattern that concerns itself with the size and nature of the largest autonomous congregations of people, through to pattern 253 things from your life a micro level pattern, that accentuates the need for the personalisation of our surroundings.

I can draw much from this book for my own project. The Secret Place pattern helps me to decide what to do in an awkward space between a bedroom and its en suite bathroom. The Six Foot Balcony pattern helps me plan a potential balcony and with reference to the pattern its usability should be ensured. Cooking Layout helps to derive the optimal kitchen design.

This is a pick-and-mix of a book, not all patterns will be of relevance to all projects, many are very high level, the first hundred or so are concerned with region, city, town & neighbourhood planning and so have minimal value to measly barn converters (although hopefully some relevance in planning shared spaces). Others betray the times in which they were written, Communal Sleeping, Dancing In The Street and Sleeping In Public evoking the more innocent, hopeful hippy-dippy 1970’s.

Having said that, despite its 30 year vintage, this book remains a thought provoking tome that is an essential reference resource for anyone designing or thinking of designing a building.

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Progress

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