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Pattern languages: Economies of production


[thumbnail of SYMPOSIUM The Open Hand A Call for Civic Debate - 2014 - ST PAUL ST Gallery.pdf] PDF
SYMPOSIUM The Open Hand A Call for Civic Debate - 2014 - ST PAUL ST Gallery.pdf

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Writing under the pseudonym Ivor de Wofle, editor (Architects' Journal and Architectural Review 1927 - 1973) Hubert de Cronin Hastings begins his 1971 book Civilia: the end of sub urban man; a challenge to Semidetsia with an annotation advising town planners to disregard the publication. Aptly titled ‘Stick it’ Wofle suggests the content of the book is better served in the hands of ordinary people in the course of intelligent lay discussion and free from the veil of mystique available only to specialists who make decisions behind closed doors.

Proposing the development of a low-rise high-density city built on an area of spoil-tips and quarries in landlocked Warwickshire in England, Civilia describes a future city designed to release citizens caught in an onslaught of hazards to their personal freedom. Wofle pits his ideas for development against the diluted effects of modernism in the 1960s and 70s. Low-cost, systems-based building used as an instrument for creating cheap modern architecture and calculating economically favourable land-use planning had propagated a centrifugal force outwards. Development emerged on the periphery of cities - new towns situated somewhere between escape and participation – lacking the infrastructure of self-sufficiency and economic independence and heralding the birth of the commute, congestion and urban sprawl.

Wofle argued this new planning standard was based on an over-simplified and clichéd definition of society crudely borrowed from the economic principle of supply and demand. He determined that architectural and urban development was dominated by patterns of contacts mapping access to goods and services (production and consumption). The supply and demand of which, move individuals through an environment in different directions, placing different pressures on the environment’s available resources.

Architect and theorist Christopher Alexander developed his radical theory of planning and building A Pattern Language (1977) on processes that embodied living patterns - relationships between workplace, family, recreation, contemplation etc. Alexander shared Wofle’s belief in the redundancy of the specialized voice, buildings and planning based on patterns requiring the force of law or economic exchange to function were in his view dead and ineffective. Both argued that responding to the organic, contradictory and diverse elements that make up human life better determined effective patterns of settlement.

Alexander and Wofle’s utopian projections were underpinned by philosophies of collaboration and empowerment that emerged from modernism. The economic and bureaucratic processes that influence planning and design arguably defeated their ideals.

A planning policy has emerged simplifying patterns of human settlement into categories of economically motivated behaviour. To what extent do the values of growth and progress take precedence over the human experience of inhabiting space? In order to preserve a way of life, do we now require utopian visions of contemporary cities and societies to remain passive as symbols and memorials of hope and change?

Item Type: Paper presented at a conference, workshop, or other event which was not published in the proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords: Conference paper, architecture, economics, pattern languages
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Schools > School of Media Arts
Depositing User: Kim Paton
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2015 00:40
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 03:30

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