Thursday, February 5, 2009

Patternless Patterns

Beautiful patterns make us feel at home. They provide a sense of order and connection. They offer hope that the world can make sense. Within the fixed walls of architecture, patterns, such as checkerboard floors, create a sense of depth and movement. Often we try to turn the moving patterns of nature, like the cycles of sun and moon, into solid concepts. We attempt to make the fluid terrain of living into a frozen map that defines the coordinates of where we are and where we go.

Yet, the liquid patterns of nature are much too subtle and varied for our minds to grasp. They slip through the grids of our clever formulas. The shifting designs of the world are trickster-allies constantly loosening our false grip on reality. 

I experienced this the moment the photo above appeared on my computer screen.
It was instantly beautiful and mystifying. What it showed, I didn't know, but it was somehow familiar. The description explained that this was a photo of stingrays migrating off the Yucatan coast. 10,000 of them out there flapping their stingrays wings in unmeasurable permutations of form and color. The infinite weaving of their patternless pattern-making carried my mind from the neatly understood bounds of daily concerns into spacious wonder. It sparked the notion that the patternless patterns of nature are constantly breathing life into every moment. 

As I type here and now, Rain taps it's un-mappable symphony on Roof. Wind dances the infinite variation tango with Leaves. Somewhere, Sun shimmers on Water's rippling geometries. Birds flash bright wings through a crazy canopy of branches and flowers. 

Genuinely green architecture attunes itself to nature through patterns that search for the patternless. The odd paradox facing us is that truly sustainable design requires dwelling places that invite continuous change. 

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