The Landscape Guide

3.1 'A city is a not a tree': it is a landscape

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Complexity is one of the great problems in environmental design. Adequate information about the existing environment and about the types of place that it is desirable to make cannot be kept inside one brain. The invention of design-by-drawing made a significant contribution to the problem. Drawings help people to work out intricate relationships between parts. Mathematical calculations are facilitated. Many designers can cooperate on one project, each working on a part of the whole. This requires one person to produce a Key Plan, or Master Plan, which coordinates the phasing and drawings (Figure 3.1). The people who produced these drawings became known as Master Planners, and, in environmental design, the art of producing overall layout drawings came to be known as Master Planning. If one is attracted to being a master, or having a master, this prospect may be alluring.

Christopher Alexander, an Austro-English-American mathematician who has been described as "the world's leading design theorist', proposed two radically different ways of dealing with complexity in design. Let us begin with a caricature. After leaving England to study architecture at Harvard,Alexander became a classical East Coast highbrow, applying cold reason and higher mathematics to design. His Notes on the Synthesis Of Form envisaged a modernist, computerized and wholly rational design method (Alexander, 1964). It did not work. After moving to the West Coast, Alexander grew his hair and applied group creativity and folk wisdom to design. The Pattern Language was the result of this work. It was conceived as "the archetypal core of all possible pattern languages, which can make people feel alive and human' (Alexander,1977).

Medium city tree original

A city is not a tree: it is a landscape

Medium phasing original

Fig 3.1 Plans can master sites, unfortunately. This master-plan type was used for ‘business parks’ all over the world in the late twentiety century. Generally, it killed the genius loci