Service Systems Thinking

A joint project of the ISSS, INCOSE and ISSIP

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1. Small Target Areas: The multi-service center servces a target area with population of 34,000 ± 20%.

2. Location: Service centers are located within two blocks of a major intersection.

3. Size Based on Population: The total size of an MSC which services a target area of population N, is .9N square feet.

4. Community Territory: The service center is divided into two zones, services and community territory; community territory includes space for community projects and a public area.

5. Small Services without Red Tape: No one service has a staff size greater than 12; each service is physically cohesive and autonomous; the services are loosely organized with respect to each other.

6. Expansion: the number of services can grow and the size of any one service can grow; but the relationship of all services to community territory does not change.

7. Entrance locations: The building's main entrances are immediately visible to a person approaching, by foot or by car, from any direction.

8. Parking: Either parking is provided for everyone [this will require .5N square feet for a target population of N], or there is emergency parking only; staff-only parking is never provided.

9. Arena Thoroughfare: There is a natural pedestrian shortcut through the MSC's community territory.

10. Open to Street: Major community projects, services and arena activities are plainly visible to passers-by, in the street.

11. Arena Enclosure: The public area is as open as possible to the world around it, while still maintaining the required Effective Temperature inside.

12. Locked and Unlocked Zones: The building is zoned according to three different time schedules: with one door closing each zone off from the next: 9am-5pm, 9am-11pm, and “always open”.

13. All Services Off Arena: All services open off the public arena; their frontages are roughly equal.

14. Free Waiting: All services share a common waiting area, which contains a variety of activities; this waiting area is part of the public area.

15. Overview of Services: All of the services housed in the MSC are instantly visible to a person entering the center.

16. Necklace of Community Projects: Small, store front type stall, organized and run by members of the community, ring the multi-service center.

17. Community Projects Two-Sided: Like store fronts, each community project opens onto the street; whenever possible, it opens onto the public space as well.

18. Windows Overlooking Life: Windows near places where people spend more than a minute or two, all look out on areas of “life”.

19. Core Service Adjacencies: personnel in core services are place according to frequency of INteraction; this will typically lead to formation of three cohesive units: administration, community organization, and program-evaluation.

20. Activity Pockets: The entire edge of the arena is scallopped with pockets of activity, alternating with points of access.

21. Self-Service: The waiting area contains a self-service facility, where job listings, welfare rights information and other do-it-yourself services are open, without restriction, to the public.

22. Pedestrian Density in Public Places: If an estimated mean number of people in the arena at any given moment, is P, the size of the arean should be 150P to 300P square feet.

23. Entrance Shape: Major entrances are either deeply recessed or they stick out from the face of the building, for visibility.

24. Subcommittee Watchdogs: Subcommittees of community residents have offices in the multi-service center; they are empowered to represent the communities interests in the center, and are set up to receive complaints and suggestions.

25. Building Steeped Back from Arena: Buildings around public courts should be raked back at an angle less than 40 degrees.

26. Vertical Circulation in Services: Services requiring space beyond that allocated to them round the arena, are directly connected to upper stories by interior stairs.

27. Self-Service Progression: Self-service begins on the street, in front of the MSC, with a “menu”, which leads directly to the self-service facility.

28. The Intake Process: Intake procedures are informally handled by field workers, in a lounge setting, near the major entrance.

29. Outdoor Seats: Outdoor benches are arranged overlooking activity, in the sun, and protected from wind; and especially suited for old people.

30. Ceiling Heights: Ceiling heights for all rooms and spaces are established according to the diameters of the “social bubbles” appropriate for those spaces.

31. Short Corridors: Straight corridors are never longer than 40 or 50 feet.

32. Child Care Position: The child care stations is visible along the path from the entrance to the services.


Alexander, Christopher, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. 1968. A Pattern Language Which Generates Multi-Service Centers. Center for Environmental Structure.

Last revised at SGU.

summaries_of_64_patterns.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/20 18:00 (external edit)