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The Outdoor Room Pattern [Design
Posted on December 14, 2016 @ 04:38:00 PM by Paul Meagher

In Christopher Alexander's seminal book, A Pattern Language (1977), he and his co-authors identified 253 significant design patterns that could be used for "Towns, Buildings, Construction" (this phrase is the subtitle of the book). I discussed this book previously in blog titled Learning a Pattern Language.

One design pattern that intrigued me at the time was pattern 163, the "Outdoor Room", because I though it was a pattern that would help me to enjoy working in my vineyard more. Take a break from weeding, pruning, or trellising by walking to a nearby outdoor room that would have some of the comforts of a room in your home. I never did get to build that "Outdoor Room" but it is on my todo list.

Today I realized that I actually built an outdoor room without even knowing it. When I blogged about my Garage Mini-Winery project I mentioned that one of the major issues I ran into was that I used my garage to store alot of junk and that the mini-winery displaced a significant area of the garage that was devoted to storing junk (e.g., barbecue, tires, car ramps, bikes, etc...). I am still dealing with the fallout of not having enough room in my garage for other uses so last weekend I worked on solving that problem by installing a roof underneath my deck. My wife suggested this as an alternative to building a lean to off my garage. So I purchased some 1 in x 6 in x 14 foot long pressure-treated wood, 7 Tuftex polycarbonate panels (10 foot long by 26 inches wide), 500 metal siding screws, and 4 in, 3 in and 2 inch deck screws for the project. I used a table saw to cut the pressure-treated wood evenly into two 1 in x 3 in x 14 foot strips and used these to install the strapping that the panels would attach to. I used 24 inch centers between the strapping and started with 4 layers of strapping for the outermost row of strapping, then 3 layers for the next row of strapping (24 inches apart), and so on. This pattern of strapping created the gradient for water to flow away from the house. Once the strapping was in place, I got my wife and son to hold the panel in place while I screwed in the panel. After the first panel, I installed the next panel by overlapping one ridge of the existing panel with the new panel. I then installed the screws along this overlap at each row of strapping, then I went back to the part of the panel closest the house and systematically installed 3 other screws per row of strapping until I hit the row of strapping furthest away from the roof. My wife pulled gently on the panels so they would install without any buckling. Afterwards I ran a chalk line down the middle of each row of strapping and I put screws at every ridge point of the panel (water runs in the valleys) along the length of the strapping. This is what the final product looked like.

I have since moved stuff into the area under the deck. Today I moved some cheap plastic Adirondack chairs under the deck and with that addition I realized that it was a nice place to sit and watch the wet snow coming down in my suburban back yard.

This for me is a bit of a lesson in how a pattern language works. Find some patterns in the book that appeal to you and you might be surprised how a particular pattern will manifest itself if you are aware of and receptive to the pattern. My "outdoor room" looks nothing like I initially imagined it would but it is sheltered from the elements and I can sit in a relaxing chair while I'm there. I'm not planning on spending large amounts of time in this outdoor room, but it is now an option and it gives me some joy to be able to do so. Note that the "joy" a pattern produces is one of the defining attributes of the design patterns that Christoper Alexander attempted to identify in his book. Any future changes to this space might be done with a view to it being an outdoor room and not simply a storage space. A small propane heater and a glass of wine might be a nice addition the next time I relax in my outdoor room.




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