||Years ago, at the beginning of our professional careers, two of us were part of an effort to create a design language that was similar in many ways to what we are now calling 'the patterns of home.' In that work, A Pattern Language (Oxford University Press, 1977), we and our colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure in Berkeley defined over 200 design ideas, which we called patterns.
In a general sense, patterns are a designer's rules of thumb, the intuitive principles, often unspoken, that guide design work. And just as our innate knowledge of grammatical rules allows us to speak fluently and create well-formed sentences, an architect's innate sense of patterns allows him or her to design fluently, to create well-formed buildings. In A Pattern Language, our emphasis was on patterns that grew directly out of the way people use and experience buildings, dealing with such issues as how to create balanced natural light in a room, how to create a graceful flow of circulation through rooms, and how to organize a building to make comfortable outdoor spaces around it. The book contained our deepest intuitions and understandings about what makes buildings work, what makes them good to be in.
A Pattern Language was an important step, but it was not a building. As young architects, above all we wanted to build. Living in the Bay Area, we found ourselves surrounded by buildings that brilliantly embodied many of the patterns we had tried to define, inspiring and inventive houses by Bernard Maybeck, Greene and Greene, Julia Morgan, Charles Moore, Joe Esherick, William Turnbull, and many others. Hungry to put ideas into practice, we found a client and, in 1974, began a residential design practice that, combined with teaching at local colleges and universities, has remained the focus of our professional lives. The years of practice and teaching have taught that, while many of the original patterns retain intuitive appeal 'light on two sides,' 'entrance transition,' and 'farmhouse kitchen' are a permanent part of our design language -- many others have come to seem unwieldy or overstated or are simply irrelevant to the kinds of problems we have faced. And while it seems to us that the original notion -- that good houses are made of deep, traditional patterns, grounded in human experience -- is still valid, practice has made us realize that the really crucial patterns are far fewer in number than we had previously thought; and that this smaller group of patterns is more powerful than we had previously imagined.
The Critical Patterns
We can put this another way: While there may be many dozens, even hundreds, of patterns that go into the making of homes, there are only a handful that we would now say are essential. And further, these few essential patterns are more tightly clustered and interrelated than we had understood. When they are used successfully, they are like facets of a single thing, inextricably bound together, working in concert to produce the feelings that we associate with home.
When we sat down with our notes for this book, we each took a stab at defining the various patterns that seemed to us most valuable -- the critical patterns of home design that you must get right. We were surprised to find that we each came up with a similar handful and that they easily and clearly merged into a group of ten. As we talked with other architects and designers about 'our ten,' we began to see that, although everyone would parse it out a little differently, we all seemed to be talking about the same cluster of ideas, the same underlying phenomena.
It may be that trying to come up with a perfect list of this sort is impossible: The patterns of home are never, finally, the home. Good buildings are always more than the patterns they embody. Wonderful homes always instruct us anew on the power of natural light on a wall, the truth of materials, the pleasures of outdoor rooms, the proportions of height to width in rooms, the sense of arrival, the feeling of shelter and refuge. Even so, making the attempt to define the patterns and how they work to create a satisfying building raises our level of understanding; gives language to our experience; and may, in the end, make us better designers.
In the chapter that follows we introduce the ten patterns and some of the buildings we have selected to embody them. This introductory chapter is followed by the heart of the book: ten chapters that tackle the patterns one by one and show them at work in a variety of ways. Each of the ten pattern chapters features two or more homes that we think provide strong illustrations of the pattern in question.
Like all well-designed things, good homes do many things at once. They embody many more of the patterns than the one being illustrated in a given chapter. A home that is well related to its site, that makes its outdoors into wonderful rooms, will no doubt also be good at capturing light, creating lively spaces in the 'seam' between indoors and out, and so on. We make this clear by highlighting those aspects of the featured homes where there is a strong concentration of patterns; where, by virtue of good design, they are doing many things at once; and where the patterns are working together to illuminate our understanding of home.