I recently reread some of Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language", published in 1977. When originally introduced to this work 15 or more years ago, I recall being most interested in understanding the patterns the work describes for communities and regions. This time, however, I was more interested in the social observations and how the work relates these observations to the pattern language. For instance, the life cycle discussion (Chapter 26) is quite pertinent to our work in affordable housing:
. . . a real community provides, in full, for the balance of human experience and human life . . . To fulfill this promise, communities and neighborhoods must have the range of things which life can need, so that a person can experience the full breadth and depth of life in his community. . .
To live to the fullest, in each of the seven stages, each age must be clearly marked, by the community, as a distinct well-marked time . . .
Everyone can recognize the fact that a person's life traverses several stages - infancy to old age. What perhaps is not so well understood is the idea that each stage is a discrete reality, with its own special compensations and difficulties; that each stage has certain characteristic experiences that go with it.
. . . To re-create a community of balanced life cycles requires, first of all, that the idea take its place as a principal guide in the development of communities. Each building project, whether the addition to a house, a new road, a clinic, can be viewed as either helping or hindering the right balance for local communities.
. . . Each community must find ways of taking stock of its own relative "balance" in this respect, and then define a growth process which will move it in the right direction. This is a tremendously interesting and vital problem . . .
Therefore: Make certain that the full cycle of life is represented and balanced in each community. Set the ideal of a balanced life cycle as a principal guide for the evolution of communities. This means:
- That each community include a balance of people at every stage of life cycle, from infants to the very old; and include the full slate of settings needed for all these stages of life;
- That the community contain the full slate of settings which best mark the ritual crossing of life from one stage to the next.