Great article on patterns by Kris Meukens here.
My slightly self-indulgent reply is below. I’ve always been fascinated by how our understanding of IT and organisational design in general seems to follow the same path of Christopher Alexander’s works on the design and architecture of the built environment.
I think it’s interesting to see the parallel and delayed timeline between “patterns” as they evolve in built architecture theory, versus patterns in IT.
I’m not an expert in either but I see the history of patterns in built architecture through the lens of Christopher Alexander:
- Notes on the Synthesis of Form (1964, year 1). Starts to describe what later came to be known as “patterns”.
- Notes on the Synthesis of Form – Preface to the first paperback edition (1973, year 9). Already starting to rebel against those who focused on “design methods” as a meta study and assets “I reject the whole idea of design methods as a subject of study, as I think it is absurd to seperate the study of design from the practice of design”.
- A Pattern Language (1977, year 13). These are fully formed patterns with the notion that they can be combined to create designs. It’s not a simple mix and match – still leaves room for a design process.
- The Nature of Order (2003, year 39). Doesn’t exactly reject patterns but focuses on wholeness, a set of qualities, and a set of structure preserving transformation that help designs unfold.
- The Battle for the Life and Beauty of Earth (2012 – however focuses on 1985, year 21). This focuses on two world views that he saw as in battle – one of which was opposed to his style of building.
Reading “Battle” in particular makes you feel our current understanding of patterns and our obsessions with Agile, Design Thinking, etc mean we are in the equivalent of year 25.
Reading the above article feels like we’re heading towards the equivalent of year 30. I mean this as a compliment.