Fragment of Generative Code for Neighborhoods


Diagnosis: Extracting that vital structure of wholeness which must be extended, preserved, and repaired.

Originally written for a 600 acre new town site in Brookings, Oregon, 2002 Now it is time to walk the land. What is precious, and where is it? What is ugly? What is desperately in need of repair? What has the potential to become something wonderful, with a minimum of work? We find it most helpful to do this with a map in one hand and a pen in the other. -- a surveyor's drawing of the site, with the boundary marked, with trees and existing buildings marked, recognizable features so that you can locate yourself as you are walking around and know exactly where you are.

Identify special spots in the land that must be enhanced and protected. Determine needed density by considering what the land can hold comfortably -- not based on how to make the most money, but how to hold the land as sacred in perpetuity. In any case, as a preparation for making a generative code for a particular place, it is essential to make a diagnosis of the place. This is a record of all beautiful and important spots, all places in need of repair, all views and view corridors, all those important trees and buildings, gullies, edges, which are especially vital to the heritage and spirit of the place.

Mark all these places on the map and write down what they are. Use an arrow for important views. a dotted line for a natural path that it is natural to follow. Remember this is a working document. It is very vital information, and you should hold on to it, and store it in a safe place. Keep working on it, over subsequent visits and walks.

This diagnosis is the well-spring of the life that can arise in the new neighborhood. It is the source of inspiration that connects you to the land.

Your diagnosis is your attempt to capture the wholeness of this piece of land as it exists todayIt is, above all, made of details. And it is made of those details which you can be sure of, because they come from your feeling. For example:
  • You know that this tree is important, to the feeling of the place.
  • You know that a view through between these buildings is important, and fills you with feeling when you are standing there.
  • Even though it seems trivial, you know that the sunshine which falls in a certain circle, is what draws people, and needs to be kept (if possible) in any future neighborhood.
  • You know that this old brick wall, with jasmine growing on it, even though it is leaning, and moss covered, is a valuable part of the past, and should, if at all possible, be kept.
All this together is an approximation to the structure of the land. These spots and views and lines of movement, and many others like them, are anchor points in your understanding of the land. If you get confused later, when you are trying to unfold the appropriate positions of new parts of the neighborhood -- you can always come back to this diagnosis for security, and calmness of mind, because these are the things you are sure of.

The diagnosis is the point of origin for the unfoldingThe structure of the land, with all its subtle detail, is the key to all subsequent unfolding. It is this structure which is then to be unfolded, when you begin to use the generative code.Indeed, above all, the task will be to hold on to this precious structure, both in its detail, and in its overall character. What you do with the neighborhood, is to preserve this structure, enhance it, and extend it.It is this action, above all, which will make the neighborhood both natural and a living continuation of the land.


On a scale map of the whole neighborhood, you and your colleagues should write a record of your observations while walking the land.
  • Arrows to show important views which should be protected and made much of;
  • Circled areas to designate important precious places which should be protected and enhanced;
  • Marks for good places to come in to the site, and good places to leave by.
  • Marks to identify places which are urgently in need of repair

    If possible, this map should be kept in a place where they can be shared by all the partners, so that it may be contemplated, in quiet.