This paper describes work carried out at the University of York; its contents do not represent the views or opinions of BT. It provides an example of how insights into the field of IS can be gained by looking at it from the perspective of other academic disciplines. Based on the idea that physical and virtual office spaces exist to serve parallel organisational requirements, it is argued that designers of information systems (IS) should be able to learn from the experience of architects in order to improve their methods and redefine their objectives. Firstly, the work of Christopher Alexander is reviewed to show how his work on architectural patterns has been of value to the designers object-oriented systems. Secondly, similarities in the literature between notions of failure in architecture and IS design are identified. These are then examined through interviews with practitioners to establish the relevance of the approach. Finally, the area that Alexander described as ‘the quality without a name’ is highlighted as a topic for further research.