Form Language

What is a Form Language??

In “A Theory of Architecture” Nikos Salingaros describes how an adaptive design method relies on a complementary set of languages covering function and form (Pattern and Form languages). While Pattern Languages describe optimal solutions for interacting with our environment, Form Languages provide:

  • A repertoire of forms and surface elements that can be combined to create structures- more than just a style
  • Rules for how to combine and scale elements
  • A common vocabulary for describing a structure
  • Codification of geometrical properties like fractal structure, scaling, connectivity, and coherence/organization

The following index is an attempt to create such a Form Language for the platforms and projects on this site. It is an evolving effort!

Organization of the Form Language


The following format is used to describe individual forms, loosely following Alexander’s format for patterns:

  • Form Name: A short, descriptive, and recognizable name
  • Example: A photo or sketch illustrating a common instance of the pattern
  • Where to Use: Where this form fits into a design
  • Abstraction: What is an archetype for this form?
  • Related Forms: What are peers of this form? What forms are part of this form?


A simple, hierarchical numbering scheme is used as a short-hand (and to help remove any potential ambiguity from names alone):

xx Function = 01, Form = 02
yy Sequential numbering of categories under Function and Form
zz Sequential numbering of patterns within a category

This scheme permits adding new patterns while avoiding renumbering . No particular meaning is inherent in the order of the listing.

Natural Elements

02.01.01: Bonsai

02.01.02: Moss

02.01.03: Molten Core

02.01.04: Stem and Leaves

02.01.05: Weathering

Architectural Elements

02.02.01: Stonehenge

02.02.02: Zen Stones

02.02.03: Pyramid

02.02.04: Pylon

02.02.05: False Door

02.02.06: Obelisk

Geometric Elements

02.03.01: Golden Ratio

02.03.02: Rabatment

02.03.03: Rule of Thirds

02.03.04: Merge

02.03.07: Fractal

Technology Elements

02.04.01: Stacking

02.04.02: Revealed Mechanism