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Mental Patterns

When I initially planned this course, this was intended to be a deep, speculative examination of what makes certain places of such great important to people. I intended to combine several ideas that I find interesting. We think in terms of narratives, analogies, and patterns. The cool, clear logic of the mathematician is not the way to present winning arguments. Stories, narratives, and patterns that “speak” to us are the real basis for successful arguments.

There is an open question about the degree to which successful stories, narratives or patterns are specific to a particular time or place. How much does a successful argument depend on the culture of those to whom the argument is being presented? The jury is out on that question. There may be some stories that really are universal, based on culturally independent features of all humans. But it doesn't much matter. We tell stories here and now, to fellow members of our society.

Turn now from stories, analogies and patterns to places. All successful places seems to be built from a consistent “language” of architectural patterns. Pattern consistency seems a requisite feature of (most) places that speak to us. The social overlay that we put on top of a place may induce a difference sense of place, at least for those who are participants in the social overlay process. But new-comers to a place are going to be struck, first and foremost, by the pattern use found in the place.

I've used this kind of argument for “my” stretch of Yonge Street (between College and Bloor). New buildings, I have argued, should employ the successful patterns found in the historic buildings along this stretch of the street. New patterns should be allowed, but only if a clear way can be seen to employ those new patterns elsewhere along the street. Ideally, the new patterns should provide a more complete, consistent, and satisfying patterns language for the street.

This argument has been nominally accepted in the North Downtown Yonge Street Planning Framework. I fear, however, that few readers of that planning framework recognize the potentially deep implications of the brief paragraph that talks about existing and new patterns along the street. Maybe the ideas will be reconsidered in the next round of planning for Yonge Street.

Anyway, this is the kind of logic that I initially intended to include in this section. My current thinking is that the whole subject goes somewhat over the top. It's just too much for the course context. I'm now content to bury these thoughts in this brief document.

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