All elements in the landscape are composed of patterns. Patterns are not random events but are the result of an interaction between materials and processes. If we can learn to 'read' patterns we can then understand the interactions between materials and processes that are taking place and be better informed about the elements we are designing. Therefore, working with existing patterns is an important factor in developing new patterns. Pattern making with a purpose is design.

Natural patterns include waves, streamlines, cloud forms, spirals, lobes, branches, scatters, nets and webs, crystals and fractals. We can observe patterns in nature, in art forms and in aerial photographs. In addition to visual patterns we may identify sound patterns such as surf, drips, drones and clatters. While visual patterns are the stuff of visual arts, audio patterns are the stuff of music, and their combination is the stuff of dance. We see that pattern is already present and pervasive in our lives.

The importance of pattern to design is expressed well in the article "Nature's Geometry" (Van der Ryn and Cowan, Whole Earth Review, Fall 1995, pg. 112);

".... by matching the flow on a landscape to its inherent geometry, we allow ecological patterns to work for us. We can use natural drainage instead of storm drains, wetlands instead of sewage treatment plants, and indigenous materials rather than imported ones. We can work toward a steady convergence of dwelling, design, and the geometry of place".


The most comprehensive general reference on pattern in design is Christopher Alexander's Pattern Language. In this text Alexander looks at the nested relationships of patterns from regions and towns; to neighborhoods; to clusters of buildings; to buildings, rooms and alcoves; to final details of construction. He recognizes that no pattern is an isolated entity and that all patterns are embedded within other patterns, a truth recognized and developed in Nature's Geometry as well.