Pattern Language in Aquaponics
To: Christopher Alexander
Dear Mr. Alexander,
Your Pattern Language book has made a profound impression on me. I want to thank you for your inspiring work.
Some weeks ago, I mentioned Pattern Language to my Transpartisan friend Joseph McCormick,
and he referred me to a website on the subject of pattern language in “Dialogue and Deliberation”:
I have long had an interest in ‘architecture without architects’, and during the past year, I have been involved in learning Aquaponics; I am sure that I have seen your book referenced elsewhere, and seeing it a second time, and seeing that the work is so archetypal that it has been applied in other domains, I went to the shelves of the Willits (California) library, and found there a copy of Pattern Language.
I read (almost) the entire volume over the next couple days, and reread numerous parts. In a rare impulse, needing to return the book before leaving for a trip to Seattle, I left a few of the last sections unread to savor another time.
The book had a nameplate at front, ‘Gift of the Jeavons Family’. As it happened, I was about to dig a trench, and had also checked out a video called Dig It, in which John Jeavons
shows how to select and use a shovel – my background is ‘white collar’ and this year in the woods represents an effort for me to learn more about using materials and tools, and about working with plants and animals. Since John’s name had arisen twice that week, and since I was so grateful for Pattern Language, I wrote thanking him.
Since that time, I have been effusively telling one friend after another about Pattern Language, as it seemed germane in numerous conversations. I have been wrestling with what I call ‘design criteria’, and the desire to better understand the same, with the intention of writing an article on the topic. I have found that much of what I learned about design, and about project management in my past decades in publishing, websites, and video, is transferable to designing and building aquaponics systems. In my struggle to design an aquaponics system, I have found Pattern Language to be a revelation. Parts of Pattern Language concisely described things I had long felt, (such as the need for crosswalks to be elevated above the level of the street), and other parts explained things I had long wondered about. Other parts came as a relief, explaining why I feel uncomfortable in certain situations (such as a seating area not set back far enough from a walkway).
I have begun Timeless Way of Building and am looking forward to reading your other works, and also the derivative works such as the Dialogue techniques.
I am presently in Seattle visiting friends, one of whom lives at a co-housing community (in Bothell) called Songaia. At breakfast, I mentioned that I had just read Pattern Language, and that while reading it I was repeatedly reminded of Songaia. For instance, the communal workshop. One of the community members there explained that before Songaia was built, the members had a study group on Pattern Language. I wonder if you have ever visited Songaia, or if this is the first you have heard of it. It is a wonderful group of people, and a wonderful built environment, and I could ‘feel comfortable’ there.
Shortly I will be returning to my adopted home town of Ashland, Oregon, to proceed with an aquaponics project. My friend Asha, owner of Pacific Domes, has arranged for Rudy Behrens to visit to teach his version of aquaponics, Tetraponics. Rudy’s system includes an electricity generator that burns biomass, namely, duckweed, with its only emissions being CO2 and water vapor, that he calls the bio-energy dome.
Asha has long worked diligently towards building sustainable community, as have I, and so this project is only one expression of a larger mission, I want to invite your participation in this project at whatever level you might like. Your Pattern Language will be reflected in some degree in our projects, so at least I wanted you to know how grateful I am to you.