2018/10/26 14:00 Michael Mehaffy, Ward Cunningham, “A Pattern Language for Rapid Urbanization: Launching a Digital Pattern Language Repository”, PUARL Conference

Plenary by @MichaelWMehaffy and @WardCunningham with #YodanRofe at @PUARLuo 2018 Conference.

PUARL 2018
Ward Cunningham, Yodan Rofe and Michael Mehaffy at PUARL 10th Anniversary Conference

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

Michael Mehaffy is executive director of the Sustasis Foundation.

Ward Cunningham is inventor of the wiki technology, and the first program chair of the Pattern Languages of Programs conference.

Yodan Rofe`is a senior lecturer at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and a member of the Building Beauty Master Council and Program Commission.

[Michael Mehaffy, Deputy Director ]

Started with Ward in New Orleans, developing peer-to-peer tools

  • Started a non-profit for the State

Yodan Rofe taught with Christopher Alexander

Rapid urbanization going up, a lot of destructive

  • Problems with sanitation, health, opportunities for life
  • Need a city-wide public space frameworks — some of which are in pattern language

Have put some patterns from Mehaffy dissertation into federated wiki

  • Includes the ability to calculate, metrics, using a pattern language approach

Want to create a universal grammar

  • Notes on the Synthesis of Form, semi-lattice
  • Patterns have strong forces between patterns, weak forces between other clusters

Example:  two hinges, handle — have to be in the right place

  • Need a configuration in the pattern
  • Not just functional
  • Strong patterns at one scale, with weak patterns at another scale

Going back to the image and text in the original pattern language book

  • Supported in the wiki

But what haven’t pattern languages been more popular in the built environment?

  • Used more in software

Need the web way of doing this

  • Have to get beyond the “bible problem”, want them to be improved over time

Sample:  Polycentric Regions

For architects, need to speed up feedback cycles, get better adaptive quality

Ward:  How do you generate, rather than specify?

[Ward Cunningham]

Presentation is at http://puarl.ward.wiki.org

Want to put some effort in writing patterns, that led to discussions about how programming would change (towards agile)

After Xerox PARC, Internet and PLoP conferences came along, the same time

Set up with a goal of a new literature of computer programming

  • Should be more human, not formalistic mathematical

From this experience, emerged agile

But Internet isn’t like it was, 20 years ago

  • Wanted to try to create an environment where I could create my own pages, and come back a month later
  • Also, I like your stuff, but I want to change a little bit

Prefabricated experience:  why Facebook and Google have taken over

  • Bucking this experience

Ownership is complicated:  doesn’t mean you need a server, but maybe you do

[Demo through graphs]

[Yodan Rode:  Examples of urban planning and transportation patterns]

Boulevard Patterns (2002)

  • Final chapter is called Guidelines for building boulevards (which are really patterns)
  • Created as case study designs

Other examples of pattern language use

  • Duany, Speck, Lydon:  The Smart Growth Book — they used the pattern language format, without justifying
  • NJDOT and PennDOT:  Smart Transportation Guidebook, A Pattern Language for Major Road Design

A few years ago, tried to start a group with a programmer in Israel

  • On the Internet, the medium isn’t so important, it’s the community
  • We have to start collaborating in this group
  • It starts with politics, economics, ecological
  • Problems are social

[Michael]There are institutions (e.g. UN Habitat) that don’t want the original patterns (e.g. ring roads)


Hard to get people working on a project, if there isn’t something in it for them

  • Could publish a book, but could still have some content online … and publish small books.


New forms of publication

  • Need better ways to use the printed word


Marvin Minsky, Society of Minds, as beginnings of AI, going up and down hierarchies.  Then gaps in urban design and analysis, problems with geometry.  How to make bridge to complex geometry?

  • [Michael] e.g. process patterns, we don’t really have them in the architecture world

Alexander project, would like to focus on topological.  Alexander has used geometry, but it’s really topology.

  • [Michael] It’s about language.  Not to get wrapped up in clutter.
  • [Ward] Took a year to write the wiki, and have been working for 6 years.  Now have been working on new data types, e.g. graphs.  Should be something that works with other people.
  • [Michael] Maps about what’s important to people in a neighbourhood.  Are we going to learn the technology, as opposed to have technology driving us.

Management and labour divide.  If we want to change the built world, we need to pay more attention to people who will change that world.

Need to form a community.  There’s a pattern science Facebook group, which is a small start.

Boulevard book has had influence, and see other books.  But then, we’ve failed?  Maybe they know what they’re doing, and we don’t?

  • [Yodan] Success of something is not only up to you. Sometimes you say things, and it becomes unheard.  Other times, people are ready to hear.  Boulevard book came out at CMU around the right time, on major arterials.  Solution was there, abandoned 50 years ago. 
  • There’s a lot of political work that has to be done, to move from theory to reality.
  • Pattern language had a lack of social movement
  • [Michael] Don’t have to come up with new knowledge, just have to come up with a form that people can see, like Wikipedia.

Ownership.  Working with urban communities and individual clients, it’s one thing to get a client to commit to pattern language, but hard to get them to address patterns about you that you don’t own, and downstream from people who can’t tell you what to do.  Wholeness has to look above you, and downstream.

  • [Ward] On the original C2 wiki, maybe 1000 patterns.  But only a few books made it there.  We want to encourage people to write careless patterns, we don’t have to read them.  The 2 or 3 that are gems might find a way to the volume.  Have to make it easy to write something that doesn’t disappear on your hard drive.
  • [Yodan] Mass mind doesn’t necessarily show the best.  Don’t know process of curating.  When we have 5,000 patterns, we can work these things out.

#pattern-language, #puarl2018