Hierarchical MVC

Presentation-Abstraction-Control, Hierarchical model-view-controller

A UI pattern that forms a tree of components, each only connected to its parent and children.

The component hierarchy concept in UI's was first described as part of the Presentation-Abstraction-Control model, hence the pattern is usually called PAC. The name "Hierachical MVC" makes it less dependent on the specifics of PAC and allows it to be used in combination with other ui patterns.

Components are connected in a hierarchical fashion, thus:

Hierarchical ui architecture diagram

How does it work?

A component can send events to its parent and call methods on its child components.

Image from the original article by Joëlle Coutaz


  • All modern non-trivial applications use this pattern to control complexity.

Where does it come from?

Joëlle Coutaz first described it in a 1987 article (see Links).