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How Patterns In Design Can Make For Better Spaces

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © seier+seier | Flickr

Patterns in design are important when it comes to architecture. In fact, they can help an architecture to meet many needs at once because patterns speak multiple “languages”. Patterns in design can be used to solve complex problems as well as to form new boundaries. (1) In the book, The Architecture of Patterns, the author says this:

“When the same pattern that generates a building’s visual, formal, or spatial sensibility […] concurrently serves as an effective delivery device for informational, climactic, structural, and other programmatic services, unconventional categories and methods emerge, new hierarchies are established, and boundaries are perforated.” (1) — Paul Anderson and David Salomon

So, for example, a pattern in design can be visual — or a pattern can be structural. Thus, a key is for you as an architect to better understand the patterns that you use within your building designs. In other words, are you using patterns for all that they can be?

For instance, don’t forget about the “invisible” patterns that get used within an architectural design. Consider, for instance, the patterns of behavior with which your building occupant engages. You see, you can have a layering of patterns within your architectural design. One layer could be patterns of occupant behavior, another layer could be structural elements, and another layer could be visual — what is communicated through the design in terms of beauty. The patterns could be overlapping, or the patterns could be the same one.

Remember that patterns are multi-angled, and the qualities of patterns can help with your building design, making it stronger, more beautiful, and more functional. For instance, you could use structure of pattern to convey greater beauty, you could use rhythm of pattern to foster better functionality, and you could use repetition within pattern to drive meaning.

The language of pattern is multi-faceted, and as a designer of built environments you can learn to use pattern to make your architecture better. Remember to look for pattern to strengthen your design beyond the visual. While the visual can create beauty, there is also much more that you can do with pattern. Use it to make your design meet more challenges, by solving for more complex problems with simpler solutions — solutions which employ patterns in design, from multiple angles.


(1) Anderson, Paul and Salomon, David. The Architecture of Patterns. W. W. Norton: New York. 2010.


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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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