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Pattern carries with it nearly infinite definitions and interpretations. Every field of study has its own way of claiming patterns. For designers, patterns have enjoyed a recent renaissance, no longer relegated to mere ephemeral decoration or determinate underlying order. Many contemporary projects have employed patterns, oscillating between expressive faรงade systems, structural diagrams, interior graphics, and circulation plans, all operating on multiple scales. This thesis acknowledges and appreciates the fact that pattern has demonstrated itself as a matter to be taken seriously. Its intention is to investigate the potential that modern pattern-thinking has as an alternative to current practices in architecture, urban design, and master planning.


same nature, a subject that will be further expanded.


Defining Pattern


Pattern is the foundation for this thesis and the lens through which further topics will be viewed. Therefore it is important to establish a simple foundation for what a pattern is. First is determining its basic components. Part of the reasoning for patterns previously being overlooked in the design profession as a serious design tool was the ambiguity of the term itself (Andersen and Salomon, 17) . Pattern can simultaneously refer to an ideal original and its endless copies, in addition to invoking a loose description of temporal and spatial repetition of objects or behaviors [18] . Within this repetition however, there is not necessarily any regular or welldefined symmetry (Isaacs) . Pattern consists not only of repetition, but redundancy. The variation of a pattern’s repetition and redundancy results in complex constructions, imbuing pattern with the capacity to distort, absorb, amplify, and fluctuate (Andersen and Salomon, 33) . The adaptable, dynamic character of pattern hints at the potential for generating complex urban designs of the








Over the last half century there have been numerous theories that address pattern with specificity. While the three presented here are not the only pattern theories from the last fifty years, they are the most relevant to the trajectory of this thesis. György Kepes argued for the congruence between process and pattern in nature, and identified a lack of such in the visual patterns of human-created landscape (Kepes, Thing Structure Pattern Process, 207) . Kepes states that patterns are the meeting-points of actions, a “…temporary boundary that both separates and connects the past and the future of the processes that trace it… process in patterns, pattern in process” [205] . Most importantly is the concept of moving past “thing-seeing” to “pattern-seeing” which favors interactions (Andersen and Salomon, 46) . This was an effort to assert a dynamic equilibrium, looking to nature for clarification on relations of order [48] .

Theories of Pattern



c s synthesi

e sup

om b inat ion


rfi n cia lity random e mo dular nois

es s Christopher Alexander is undoubtedly the most well known of those listed. In his books The Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language , he similarly steers clear of patterns as “things”, instead recognizing each as a set of spatial, formal, and functional relationships (Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building, 247) . Alexander describes the act of building as a “…process in which space gets differentiated…a process of unfolding, like the evolution of an embryo, in which the whole precedes its parts...” [365] . The embryological model is such that the designer works to eliminate randomness and noise through a process of negative feedback (Andersen and Salomon, 60) . The purpose of such is to reduce change, maintaining the pattern’s function of explaining the randomness of the world [46] . However, Alexander does allude to the possibility of overlapping patterns in unpredictable ways, resulting in the generation of new and unforeseen relationships (Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building, 223) .




First Order First Order

Second Order

Th The Patte

Gregory Bateson stands in somewhat of a contrast to Alexander, and to a lesser extent, Kepes. In Mind and Nature , Bateson states: “We have been trained to think of patterns…as fixed affairs...the right way to begin to think about the pattern which connects is to think of it as primarily...a dance of interacting parts and only secondarily pegged down by various sorts of physical limits and by those limits which organisms characteristically impose...” [13] This dance metaphor elucidates Bateson’s position opposite Alexander. For him randomness and noise are “…a necessity to be cultivated” (Andersen and Salomon, 58) . He accepts that “…the pattern may be changed or broken by addition, by repetition, by anything that will force…a new perception of it” (Bateson, 29). New patterns are established when deviations emerge in a fixed pattern, opening up to positive feedback, and allowing for information that will push it from a state of equilibrium. This is a model of evolution, learning, and accretion, functions of the base pattern’s repetition and redundancy against which new patterns can be read (Andersen and Salomon, 61) .


Second Order

First Order

First Order

what could be rather than wha

hird Order ern that Connects


learning | evolution


predictability randomness repetition



at should be


The relationship between pattern and randomness is such that any assumed dichotomy is dissolved, as demonstrated by Gregory Bateson. Randomness is an avenue to newness when allowed to interrupt a pattern, “…serving as both a point of departure for and a perturbation within…the random event forces the designer to re-interpret each outcome” (Verbeeck, 8) . Additionally, there exist complex objects and processes that have the appearance of being void of pattern, but do in fact contain patterns (Verbeeck, 7) . This is what is referred to as perceived randomness, where the knowledge of such underlying structure is simply not immediately available. Stephen Wolfram points out that every form or pattern in nature can be explained and generated from simple rules [17] . These are referred to as self-organizing systems, “…complex adaptive systems that have the ability to grow, order, and organize all by themselves” (Mehaffy and Salingaros) . 16

A Relationship with Randomness


An organization such as the flock is characterized by a loose structure which, by means of negative and positive feedback, is resilient to total dissolution. The flock’s behavior is not “ …a property of any individual bird, but rather emerges as a property of the group itself” ( . Any individual can initiate movement, which then propagates to the rest of the flock by means of positive feedback. Jittery movement at take off is the result of the random movements by individuals which easily generates changes in the behavior of the flock, yet is quelled by means of negative feedback to establish a consensus. It is pertinent to expand on the topic of feedback which can be described as a pattern of organization (Lawley and Tompkins) . First it is important to note that the terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are not an indication of each one’s desirability. Put simply “… either a change in the system is reinforced (positive), or a changed in the system is dampened” ( . Without negative feedback, a system would devolve into complete chaos, and without positive feedback, a system would become unresponsive to environmental changes. In fact, a system without feedback loops operating has no way of adapting to change and will eventually cease to survive. According to Lawley and Tompkins, the continued survival of a system with an interplay between positive and negative feedback will create the dynamic equilibrium Kepes referred to. 18

Self Organizing Systems + Feedback

disturbance as mistake




disturbance as information


way to begin to think about the pattern which to think of it as primarily...a dance of interacting nly secondarily pegged down by various sorts of


the known known



designer accompaniment

user influence





cyclical: regular dynamic

targeted: need based dynamic

indirect interventions succession

Feedback loops and adaptation do not exist in a vacuum; they are leveraged against an input. The ecological theory of disturbance serves to better understand the adaption of complex systems (such as a ecosystem, or city) and to perhaps even promote it. Similar to Verbeeck’s use of randomness as a means of creating newness in the design process, disturbance is a means of “…deflection of a community from some otherwise predictable successional path” (Pickett and White, 373) . Relatively infrequent events play an important role in shaping the structure of a community, with the result of the disturbance being a function of initial conditions [373] . Disturbance does not necessarily result in equilibrium and in some cases will cause a “flip” into an entirely new state (Lister, 41) . Instead, there exists a “shifting steady-state mosaic” , where a community is made of different patches, such as a forest comprised of clusters of trees that vary in age. A disturbance will kill a patch, at which point it starts over. In this way, the forest remains a forest, but the mosaic of patches is constantly shifting [41] . If disturbance is the input, then resilience is the adaptation. It is defined as the capacity of a system to recover from disturbance, by means of reorganization and return to a similar or different state than it was in before the event [44] . In ecosystems, the primary means of achieving resiliency and adaptation is biodiversity. This creates the potential for several different paths of reorganization [44] . Within ecosystems, diversity, complexity, and uncertainty are normal [41] .

no intervention succession

Disturbance and Resiliency


The discussion of disturbance and resiliency can be shifted to the built environment. There are several forms that disturbance can take on here, ranging between physical to non-physical, and controlled to uncontrolled. Another term for these might be predictable and unpredictable. Throughout history there has been much disturbance in the built environment, though very rarely is human disturbance cyclical. Much of it takes place in the form of a singular event such as the destruction of neighborhoods through the construction of highways or failure to meet projections of any sort. On occasion, there is no hope for recovery from a disturbance, leaving an area permanently fragmented with no way of gleaning any information from the event to develop a new pattern. Perhaps this is because there was a lack of patterning, and therefore a lack of a critical level of complexity that ecosystems boast.


Achieving resiliency in the built environment is a matter of recognizing the complexity and unpredictability of both planetary ecosystems and human societies (Sterner, 70) . In the The Black Swan , Nassim Nicholas Taleb states that there is importance in limiting not the interactions between entities, but the size of them. It is necessary to have a diversified ecology so that risks (disturbances) are more frequent but less devastating (314) . This sentiment is similarly expressed by Mehaffy and Salingaros, who call for a strategy of adaptive design by means of self-organization, which is achieved by utilizing local rules on a small scale to generate large-scale complex order (Frontiers of Design Science: Self Organization) . True resiliency on the part of the built environment requires the implementation of repetition and redundancy, which may not always be most efficient, but will ensure survival and provide a point of departure after disturbance (Sterner, 70) . Maintaining tight feedback loops ensures the capacity of a system to readjust constantly, “…rather than returning to some fixed or equilibrium point after perturbation” (McGrath and Marshall, 50) . This concept invokes Gregory Bateson’s notion of pattern where randomness, for which the concept of disturbance can be substituted, is read against the backdrop of redundancy to serve as a departure point for a new trajectory, or new pattern.


CONTROLLED predictable ‘known knowns’

‘known unknowns’

NON-PHYSICAL ‘unknown knowns’

‘unknown unknowns’ unpredictable


There is more than enough critique to go around when it comes to Modernist master planning and even current methods of planning. The research of this section is not meant to pile on to an already sizable rebuttal of such planning and design, but to critically understand what it is about these systems that have created environments that are non-resilient, non-adaptive, and lacking in the complexity that is afforded by patterns. Camillo Sitte identified three methods of city planning in his time; the grid iron, radial, and triangular systems (Collins and Collins, 229) . The major critique of the uncritical adoption of these street patterns is that all design was predicated on a purely technical platform. Sitte set this method against the inclusion of artistic principles in developing urban plans. Jane Jacobs was another proponent of the importance of artistic principles in “…illuminating the rich complexities…of urban structure” (Mehaffy and Salingaros) . Top-down emphasis on hierarchical traffic systems, division of functions in the city, and rejection of historical styles were staples of Modernist planning (Landscape Urbanism Appendix, xv) . This reflects “…a simplistic view of a city that negates its basic complexity” (N. A. Salingaros) . As was observed in the previous sections, “…the new city model needs to maintain a level of flexibility and adaptability” , which is deemed impossible because traditional deterministic models focus heavily on infrastructure that is “resource-intensive and time consuming to reorganize” . This either requires infrastructure that is more adaptable, or shifting the focus of a plan dramatically away from it (Temporal Mutability: Post-Structuralism and the

Indeterminate in the Discourse of Landscape Urbanism) . Furthermore, the fixed, rigid, spatial frame is not capable of containing the “…dynamic multiplicity of urban processes…” which have previously been identified as a key to resiliency (Corner, 26) .






It seems to follow that if a large top-down, centralized, one-fellswoop master plan or urban design is incapable of allowing the complexities of self organization to emerge as well as demonstrating resiliency to disturbance, that smaller, bottomup, de-centralized, phased plans must be the correct alternative. This type of ideal can be traced through the ideals of a multitude of projects, firms, and theories, starting with the mega-structure projects of Archigram and the Metabolists. Though Archigram claimed that 85% of their projects were buildable, they were in fact utopian (Kasugai) . Projects such as Plug-In city demonstrated a penchant for the design of cities as being in constant flux, imagined an alternate reality that would be possible if “….planners, governments, and architects were magically able to discard the mental impedimenta of the previous age…” [8] . The Metabolists, on the other hand, were “…intent on developing a philosophical system based on the concept of cyclical change…” [5] . Kenzo Tange, designer of the Tokyo Bay project, declared: “Limits can not be set on urban growth…” [7] . One of these projects was ever built, the Nakagin Capsule Tower. It has now fallen into disrepair, and not once were any of the capsules changed as was planned [5] . This stands as a caution that a patterning of literal repetitive changeable elements (albeit with little variation of said elements) does not presume adaptability. Economic viability of the project plays an important part in the actual implementation of such theories and methods of planning and design. In addition, the time taken to construct such megastructures would have been too long, falling out of fashion before they would even be completed. A similar critique may be applied to current master planning and urban design trends that set timelines up to fifteen years.


METABOLISTS kenzo tange tokyo bay project ‘60

kisho kurokawa nakagin capsule tower ‘70 - ’72

ARCHIGRAM ron herron walking city ‘64

peter cook blow-out village ‘66

arata osozaki clusters-in-the-air project ‘62

peter cook plug-in-city: paddington east ‘66 peter cook plug-in-city ‘64



aldo van eyck

alison + peter smithson robin hood gardens ‘72

amsterdam orphanage ‘55 - ’60

golden lane competition ‘52



frankfurt - romerberg competition ‘63

caen-herouville ‘61

free university of berlin ‘62 - ’72

Along a similar thread is the concept of the Mat-Building. Propagated by Team 10, mat building was the first attempt to “…incorporate the historical and typological study of urbanization patterns into the modernist discourse” (van den Heuvel, 40) . The strengths of Mat-Building lie in its position as a design strategy as opposed to a style, employing the use of repetitive elements to exhibit emergent behavior as a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts ( . Alison and Peter Smithson sought to “…adequately accommodate possible programmes and their future changes…creating an architectural space which offers leeway…for occupation by spontaneously emerging patterns of living” (van den Heuvel, 42) . The Smithsons understood the city as a heterogeneous space defined by non-linear interactions (42) . This certainly puts them in stark contrast with many of their Modernist brethren, yet aligns them closely with Archigram and Metabolists. Each developed the idea of permanent frameworks that could play host to the “changing possibilities of inhabitation” (Luna, 7) . In terms of patterns, it is possible to understand the pixilated, horizontal framework of mat building as a base pattern, able to adapt and act as background to the more dynamic patterning of program. The overlap of these patterns is what gives way to the emergence of complex behavior, and more closely positions it to the workings of a resilient ecosystem. Stan Allen takes Mat-Building a step further, into the contemporary realm of Mat Urbanism. In his essay “Mat Urbanism: The Thick 2-D”, Allen describes Mat Urbanism in a way that overlaps the language used in this thesis to discuss patterns. This is observable in states such as: Out of a fundamentally regular system (building, rational), a high degree of variation is achieved through local adjustment, and through the activation of void spaces within the fixed fabric (121).


Allen describes an “…overall intensity based on repetition and accumulation…” (122). This statement draws comparison to the Bateson theory of pattern. Allen then poses a critical question: If mat building represents a reworking of the spatial patterns of the traditional city as they emerge over time, how can the new patterns of the contemporary city be woven into contemporary urbanism? (124) The role of the designer is to create conditions under which “… unanticipated spatial characteristics…” may emerge from the reaction of designed elements to the indeterminate future (126) . From a disturbance standpoint, the indeterminate future harbors disruptive forces which the designer must anticipate so that a new course may be charted for the designed elements, that while not anticipated, maintains a resilience and continuity. addition, Allen adds the concept of field conditions, of which can be overlapped to create a moiré. The moiré is the combination of repetitive and regular elements that produces complex behaviors and serves as a method of studying the disturbances which can be created from[within]individual repetitive elements (Luna 22) . Intertwined with the study of Mat Urbanism is that of Landscape Urbanism. James Corner, in his essay “Terra Fluxus” for Charles Waldheim’s Landscape Urbanism Reader , sets Landscape Urbanism apart from both Modernist and New Urbanist methodologies. He quotes David Harvey has stating that “…both fail because of the presupposition that spatial order can control history and process” (28) . This declares the shift of focus on form to an understanding of process, or “how things work in space and time” (29) . Shifting this focus requires acknowledgement that “…apparently incoherent or complex conditions that one might initially mistake for random…can, in fact, shown to be highly structured entities…” (29) . Kepes had anticipated the shift from “thing-seeing” to “pattern-seeing” or “process-seeing”.


Landscape Urbanism demonstrates the importance of process. Ecological, economic, social and political processes continue ad infinitum, at multiple scales, placing the design in a perpetual state of “becoming” . The above mentioned processes can be patterned onto a site, becoming its infrastructure, one of Corner’s three “surface strategies” (Landscape Urbanism Appendix, vii) . The strategies (demarcation, infrastructure, adaptation) establish new conditions for future development (vii) . In Bateson’s terms, these processes are information. According to his principles, “…no new order or pattern can be created without information” (Mind and Nature, 45). Similarly, the “processes and flows” of the site are rearranged to form new interrelationships with the potential for “…stirring new relationships on the site” (Landscape Urbanism Appendix, vii) . These strategies of Landscape Urbanism are ways to engage with the dynamic complexity of the site, and the city. Process Urbanism is a recent “-ism” that has recently sprung up, related very closely to Landscape Urbanism. It is a straightforward approach, stating that “since society is dynamic, the planning of our cities needs to be dynamic too” , calling for urban planning that is “permanently adjustable” (Process Urbanism: The City as Artificial Ecosystem) . It is a rejection of master planning, instead opting for a model based on recognition and knowledge rather than belief. Process Urbanism seeks to foster more unpredictable urban planning, allowing the “urban ecosystem” to regulate itself. There is acknowledgement that planning for the unexpected is necessary, “…for exactly that which we do not yet know will happen…” A strategy for allowing smaller “collapses” or disturbances to happen is proposed, so that a major collapse is prevented.


marine corps air station el toro santa ana, ca. 4,682 acres

What is posited from the study of these theories of planning and design is the necessary use of pattern so as to better engage the complexity of the built and natural environments. The world operates as a patterning of processes, from which emerges dynamic behaviors that cannot be predicted. This unpredictability lends itself to the richness of life. However, rigid planning efforts that do not account for processes, dynamism, emergence, resilience, and adaption by way of a complete lack of patterning, drain the designed environment of the richness. In attempting to negate complexity, the full potential of a site is also negated. Military base closure provides the grounding for this thesis by interpreting closure as a disturbance on the local community. The intention is to also question the large scale pattern of base redevelopment, and through pattern analysis and recognition, develop a new way to study abandoned military bases so as to best invigorate them for civilian use. As stated by Barbara Bronstien, after the Cold War ended, Congress formed a commission to make closure and realignment recommendations through the Base


Grounding: Base Closure as Disturbance

portsmouth naval shipyard portsmouth, me. 4,150 jobs

philly navy yard philadelphia, pa. 1200 acres ellsworth a.f.b. box elder, s.d. 3,852 jobs

fort monmouth red bank, n.j. 5,272 jobs

brooks a.f.b. san antonia, tx 2,923 jobs

fort mcpherson atlanta, ga 4,141 jobs



Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The most recent round of closures took place in 2011. As one can imagine, “The loss of related jobs, and efforts to replace them and to implement a viable base reuse plan, can pose significant challenges for affected communities� (Cowan & Gonzales, Military Base Closures: Socioeconomic Impacts). In addition, a community generally has a small window of opportunity to acquire the land from the government, establish an authority to qualify for funding, not to mention the daunting prospect of luring potential businesses to help fill the void left by the sudden loss of jobs. This sort of disturbance is reflective of that seen in ecological systems, where the structure, dominance, and predictable successional path is flipped on its head. The study of Base Closure through patterning will provide a community with the tools and analysis necessary to adjust its current stagnant course so that complexity and unpredictability can become dominant in a site that the public had not had access to for some time.