Navigating Approaches to the Use of Pattern Language Theory in Practice

Ruihua Chen, Marina Bos‐De Vos, Ingrid Mulder*, Zoë van Eldik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language Theory (PLT) has been recognized as a valuable methodology to understand complex systems. It has been applied across domains through a variety of different approaches. This article reviews exist-ing approaches to PLT application and reflects upon the differences between them. We find that application generally differs across four components: artefact, activity, roles and tools, informed by practitioners’ diverging values and needs. We elaborate on how consciously navigating the dimensions that these components consist of can help to broaden the application of PLT in practice. We report on the development of a set of conceptual tools that aim to support this process. The resulting “activity kit” has been applied in a Dutch housing renovation project to support homeowners in communication and decision‐making to illustrate the applicability of our methodology. It can be concluded that the “activity kit” is a promising approach to broaden the use of PLT and contributes to the methodological repertoire of researchers and practitioners to address complexity in today’s societal challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-168
Number of pages13
JournalUrban Planning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • action repertoire
  • design methodology
  • housing renovation
  • literature synthesis
  • pattern language theory


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