Sydney planner Greg Paine, author of our long running Elephant Series of a few years back, will present two papers at the Regenerative City Conference in San Francisco at the end of October,which will be based on the work of mathematician and architect Christopher Alexander and his Pattern Language book.

One of Mr Paine’s papers will be based on 10 interviews with people who work in a “patterned networked way” around sustainability, originally conducted as research for a PhD, and now reframed as a potential book on the topic.

The second topic will be about the potential of a networked approach to develop a set of indicators of what makes up a healthy built environment, recently produced for the City Futures Research Centre at the University of NSW.

See here for Healthy Built Environment Indicators
See here for the Regenerative City, PUARL Conference 2016

Below are links to The Elephant Series, which deal with how to remain “personally mindful of sustainability in work and domestic life”.

Hints and guides for the series were gathered from interviews with a group of people that formed part of Mr Paine’s research for a PhD on this area, and which he is now adapting as a book.

The series of articles discusses the “imperative for continual change and innovation,” Mr Paine said this week. “Even small acts can make a difference, of how not to fall back into very easy but unhelpful and unsustainable habits, the ‘elephant in the room’.”

According to Mr Paine the point of his work in this area is to create a “pattern” format for sustainable living – drawing on a method developed Christopher Alexander.

Alexander, said Mr Paine, “wrestled with that perennial dilemma – how to delineate and promote salient points from the daunting complexity behind most of our sustainability and urban environment questions today. He did this in ways that are easily understood and easily-actioned, so that they feel right, so that we must action them and not freeze because it all seems too hard.

Interestingly, much of Alexander’s early work that led to A Pattern Language, still a best seller, was funded by the US Institute of Mental Health, as part of an interest in how the shape of the places where we live and work impact on our wellbeing, Mr Paine said.

“As a mathematician, Alexander was interested in how a response to complexity could be effective by visioning it as a connected, unbounded network and not as a series of simplistic straight-line cause-and-effect algorithms as is still the vogue.

“His ideas resonate with the new idea of network science which is now leading to all sorts of new insights from how to deal with terrorism to how to deal with cancer.”

The conference organised by the Portland Urban Architecture Research Laboratory will focus on “various aspects of regeneration in the city, the nature and quality of evidence based approaches to urban challenges (including the pattern language approach), and planning and design issues that we are facing in urban environments and buildings throughout the world today,” the conference website says.

See a selection of articles from the series below, or check out the whole series here 

The Elephant Series: Mindfulness Pattern No 11 – Self as example: Be seen being green

Acting alone to improve behaviours can be discomforting if you appear too different: “Almost no-one in society doing it”; and can lead to frustration if you think others are not as equally caring.

The Elephant Series: Mindfulness Pattern No 10 – look ahead, look behind, think of humankind

Where societies have a more cyclical view of time, a concern for what is passed on to those who are younger, and the idea that what has past is still with us, travel together. In turn, this also breeds a respect for the knowledge of those who are older.

The Front Elephant Series: Mindfulness Pattern No 9 – don’t mess with your nest; understand the connections

The understanding within systems thinking of connections – causality and implications – is important if we are to derive solutions which are sustainable.

The Elephant Series: Mindfulness Pattern No 8 – love the shadow as well as the light

One key to sustainable development is a renewed attention to the idea of holism and to the inter connections that are a part of systems thinking