Authors: Robert Powell
Most architects and urban designers will be familiar with A Pattern Language - compiled by Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center (sic) for Environmental Structure at the University of California, Berkeley, and published by Oxford University Press in 1977. I first chanced upon this seminal book and its companion, The Timeless Way of Building, in 1983 while teaching at a Summer School in Cortona, Italy, My particular interest was in the patterns that specifically relate to Urbanism. Over the subsequent three and a half decades A Pattern Language has never been far away from my desk but my renewed interest in the book was the result of relocating to Kuala Lumpur in 2016. The public transportation system in the Metropolis is disjointed; towers and condominiums are isolated; there is a lack of legibility; there is very little public realm; and there are no places for pedestrians other than the ubiquitous shopping malls. Increasingly dismayed by the dominance of the private car and the erosion of public space it occurred to me that I should put my time in Malaysia to good use and produce a Pattern Language that is appropriate for a city on the tropics. A Malaysian Pattern Language has subsequently been compiled using a similar format to that Alexander and his colleagues devised in the 1977 publication. Each pattern describes a problem that occurs numerous times in the built environment and then examines the solution to the problem. The pattern is first illustrated with a picture, ‘which shows an archetypical example of that pattern’. After the picture there is ‘an introductory paragraph which sets the context for the pattern‘. Then the essence of the problem is described in a paragraph followed by a discussion of the pattern culminating in a solution to the problem in the form of an instruction. The intention is to educate policy makers, planners, architects, and ‘ordinary people’ about the unique features of the public realm in Malaysia.
Keywords: Malaysia, pattern language, mosaic of subcultures