The Garden Landscape Guide

4.4 Honey Bee Analogy

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Bees also have clearer goals than doctors: to collect nectar and make honey. Yet they do not fly in straight lines. They proceed in a spiralling and apparently chaotic manner. The process of environmental design is closer to the flight of a honey-bee than to the path of a stagecoach. It passes between four types of pattern, before settling on a proposed course of action.

Each analogy indicates that the planning process must begin with an idea, or a vision, of some future state, not with a survey. In fairness to Geddes, who began the survey--analysis--plan method, it should be said that he fully recognized that goals have precedence in the planning process:

Our whole life is governed by ideals, good and bad, whether we know it or not. North, south, east and west are only ideals of direction: you will never absolutely get there; yet you can never get anywhere, save indeed straight down into a hole, without them. (Tyrwhitt, 1947)

Without a vision of the future, one does not know what type of survey to conduct. A need, a want or a desire for power leads to the formulation of concepts, which are then used in the collection and analysis of survey material. The stagecoach analogy illustrates this point. One's first decision is about a destination. Nothing can be done until this is known: that is why ideas lie at the heart of the design process. Then comes an analysis of the possible means of travel. When a horse-drawn coach has been chosen, a survey of routes can be made. In the terminology of linguistic philosophy, the types of analytical concept to be employed are constructs. The process can be represented as:

Desideratum -> Idea -> Survey -> Analysis -> Plan

This sequence can and should be applied to each characteristic of the environment. Desiderata, the things that are desired, lead to ideas about future states of affairs. Figure 2 shows thinking, represented by a nexus of arrows, at the heart of the design process. The ideas upon which it operates are placed in one of four stacks: Primary Patterns relate to the natural environment; Secondary Patterns relate to human behaviour; Tertiary Patterns relate to aesthetics; Quaternary Patterns relate to design archetypes, so that the four pattern types can also be described as Natural, Social, Aesthetic and Archetypal. A similar diagram could show a doctor's vision of a sick and healthy patient, with mediating concepts of physiology, environment, behaviour and aesthetics. There is no such thing as "a survey' that will serve for every purpose. Treating a nervous disorder requires different information from that required to treat a broken leg. Planners too must define their starting and finishing points, though they can begin at many points and travel in many directions. This principle applies at every scale, from placing a garden seat to designing a house or planning a town extension.



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Medium bumble bee original

Medium pattern group original

Fig 4.2 Ideas are at the heart of the design process. The dotted line shows the flight of a bee, collecting nectar from a selection of flowers.