Christopher Alexander was born in Vienna in 1936, where he was raised in the United Kingdom. He began his chemistry and physics studies before moving to Cambridge’s mathematics and architecture. He earned his very first Ph.D. in architecture at Harvard. He later lectured on architecture at Berkeley.

Book in Focus: A Pattern Language Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander - Sheet1
A Pattern Language _©Christopher Alexander (“A Pattern Language”)

Alexander’s work is used in several contemporary architectural communities of practice. It also includes the Naval Urbanist movement, which helps people regain control of their own built environment. Alexander was controversial amongst some architects and critics because his work was often severely criticized.


A Pattern Language is a book that assists in designing a home. It is useful to work with anyone to improve any city or district; also, it is possible to design offices, workshops, or any public building. This is simply not a book, but a useful guide to the actual construction process.

This book was published in 1977 by Christopher Alexander with a few of his pupils Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, and Shlomo Angel. The idea of this book may be radical, but Alexandre observed it from places that are designed by people, not architects

Over 250 of the models in that language are described, each consisting of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. Alexander acknowledges repeated design problems which are repeated but always in a slightly different manner. 

“The solution is to treat design issues as models. When we realize that all our design problems can be matched to a pattern and that these patterns are interlinked, then a kind of language is generated, known as a pattern language.”

The book is composed of 253 patterns. The first 94 patterns focus on broader issues, countries, cities, and communities. The next set 95-205 are construction patterns. Patterns 206 -253 are building construction models. Thus, the patterns logically follow on a coarse scale which helps to choose and jump between the patterns.

Book in Focus: A Pattern Language Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander - Sheet2
Patterns of rooms_©Christopher Alexander (“A Pattern Language”)
Book in Focus: A Pattern Language Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander - Sheet3
Patterns in Urban Planning_©Christopher Alexander (“A Pattern Language”)

Key Points

  1. Each building, each room, and each garden is better when all the models it needs are squeezed as much as they can be. The building will be less costly, and the meanings it will contain will be dense.
  2. Gender division distorts reality and perpetuates and solidifies distortions. Ensure that every piece of the environment is made with a mix of the instincts of men and women.
  3. The university as a market is seen as an enclosed university with a closed administrative policy and rigid procedures that dictate who can teach a course, killing learning opportunities.
  4. Positive exterior spaces are deliberately designed and not just what remains after building construction.
  5. Decoration and design of interior design have become so widespread that very often people forget their instinct for things.
  6. The gardens are these places that are tranquil and safe to sit and be with nature as well as a place to grow your vegetables and plants.
  7. If we spend half our day at work and half at home, then our workplace should be less community-based than our home. This is known as a working community.
  8. If the parking lot gets too big, it destroys the lot. The physical environment creates the potential for social communion, including communion with one’s self.
  9. The choice of the location of individual buildings, according to the nature of the site, the trees, and the sun, is one of the most important models.
  10. The south is the best location for light and ambiance.

“My favorite model from the book is “39. Housing Hill”, which recommends that in an area where high-density housing must be built (30 to 50 houses per acre) or build tiered or terraced apartment buildings. Each house is a unique story with a garden on the top of the house underneath. Then,
“The terraces have to be south-facing, big and intimately linked to the houses and strong enough for the ground, and bushes and small trees also serviced by a large open central staircase that also faces south and leads to a communal garden.”

According to Alexandre, the templates are not discovered or created. There are many model languages some are still to be discovered and some are up for improvement.

“It is not possible to avoid the need for high-speed roads in modern society, but it is essential to place them and build them in such a way that they do not destroy communities or countryside.”- Christopher Alexander


The guide to creating perfect surroundings, from whole cities to single rooms.
The key to tapping into people’s subconscious and making them feel calm, safe, and in abundance – allowing them to do everything. Like most ledgers, ideas and lessons are applied far beyond the mere area he immediately describes.
An architectural student will come up with a well of great practical advice to use in a structured way for design projects. It also provides a network of ideas from which you can organize a design approach and get inspired. I would suggest letting A Pattern Language be more like a guide than connecting it to an entire type of metaphysical.



Juhi Goyal is a budding architect as well as a passionate poet. She believes that as an architect, you should be courageous enough to find something you love. She is a curious learner with the aim to improve her design skills, to maintain her creative spirit. Apart from architecture, she is a poet and has a keen interest in the exploration of new places and people.