What is the purpose of this phase of work? We establish an overall diagnosis of the area -- buildings, streets, and land -- as the basis for moving forward.
Throughout all the efforts at neighborhood building inspired by this website, we have one over arching purpose -- to maintain the wholeness of the living Earth in the place where we are working. This is a point of view that must be consistently applied to every step of building a neighborhood -- the way we conceeive it, lay it out, and build it physically. The primary task is healing the place and making it whole.
Compared with standard 20th-century models of architecture, planning, and development, this is a very unusual way to view the task of building a neighborhood. We must therefore begin, from the very beginning, setting out clearly how we are to go about it.
The wholeness of the site, as it stands today, is a structure made of strands of connection among parts and smaller wholes and the largest whole. This cohesion of these strands is undoubtedly (almost always) flawed. To attend to this, we:
(1) Identify those places which are damaged -- very badly flawed in their cohesion -- so that in rebuilding that place, we can improve the cohesion, and repair it.
(2) Most carefully catalogue all the places where cohesion does exist, and even if not perfect, still it may be halfway to being perfect, and therefore it is precious. We must hang on to these places for dear life, since it is SO hard to repeat and rebuild cohesion. Indeed, if we succumb to the hubris of thinking we can readily rebuild any wholeness we may find, we are doomed to failure.
(3) And there is a third type of situation, possibly the most important from the view of the artist. As we look at a site, there are certain places that invite action. They are imperfect or slightly formed centers, which have a potential for becoming more powerful and important centers. We call them "latent" centers. A latent center, is a place which seems to contain the potential for spreading out, and affecting a larger whole. It has the potential for becoming more than it is. These latent centers are the most important of all, because they are the ones which have the greatest chance of creating connections to the whole.
Wholeness only comes out of wholeness. We can not afford to waste even one particle that has it.
To carry out this program of action, we need to spend a great deal of time on the site before we start the diagnosis -- whether it is an urban site that is to be modified or rebuilt -- or whether it is a natural place -- a so-called "green" site. We need to build an accurate picture of these different places -- the good ones and the bad ones -- and be very exact about where they are. It is their specific locations, and the pattern of their locations, that will tell us how to grow a new wholeness from the one that is there now!
Only by walking about, looking carefully, making notes, and making our notes very specific to individual bushes, walls, driveways and so on can we achieve the necessary appreciation of the place.
We are searching for a comprehensive picture of the land and its buildings. This comprehensive picture shows:
Centers and latent centers;
Places that need repair;
How the wholeness is faltering or defective;
How we can build a neighborhood so as to repair and heal the land.
This means, astonishingly, that we always aim to make the place better than it is at present. This may be obvious, if we are dealing with a ruined part of the city; but an extraordinary aim if we are faced with a place of great natural beauty. Yet there, too, we must make our target and our determination that when we are done, it will be more beautiful, and even better than it is today.
First, to lay a basis for this work, it is necessary to make a sketch of the wholeness structure as it appears throughout the entire neighborhood. This is a way of understanding the largest pattern and structure of the place. It is illustrated and discussed in Wholeness Structure.
Next, we need to focus very carefully, on those places or areas where it may be said that there is some measure of wholeness there, glimpses of eternity, visible in the land. All these places need to be singled out and protected, so that we do not mistakenly destroy them. We can identify at least the following: Beautiful views; places that have a deep feeling; places where an ecological system is in good order and should only reluctantly be disturbed; buildings or structures which have the mark of the place in their bones; great trees; small businesses that have built the life of the place before. These are expanded in Precious Places.
We also need to make a map that identifies all the damaged areas, since in our effort at reconstruction we must use these damaged areas as the places where we build new things, and leave the precious places as far as possible intact.Repairing Damaged Places.
Possibly most important as a springboard for the future, we need to search out the latent centers which are the seeds of the new wholeness that can emerge. A variety of ways of doing this are discussed in Centers & Latent Centers.
Finally, in order to use what has been established by the diagnosis, all of the elements described above must be accurately placed on the basemap. Otherwise they may be destroyed accidentally as the plan matures. We are developing a way to use a GPS system to transfer the findings of a diagnosis to the Drawing Pad basemap. Please consult the technique which addresses these things through an Accurate positioning system.