Fragment of Generative Code for Neighborhoods


Finding and establishing pedestrian centers in the neighborhood (within an urban or brown field setting)

Originally written for a neighborhood in Strood, Kent, October 2005

This particular unfolding shows a case where the procedure of finding and establishing the network of pedestrian centers in a neighborhood, can be done in an urban setting, just as well as in a greenfield setting. In this case, too, the unfolding process is entirely different from the normal process of planning streets as it has been done during the last two hundred years!

Let us ask ourselves which places in the urban area dedicated to the new neighborhood are the ones that most inspire us by their present life or potential for life.

To do this, we need to walk around the place many times -- both with others, and alone -- asking ourselves which spots, corners, places have the natural magnetism to pull us to go there, which make us want to stay there, or simply BE there, and which have the power (potentially) to give us life merely from our being there. The 14th street subway station in New York comes to mind. Raucous, smells, noises, people of every age and color and clime -- wearing every kind of hat. That's one of these kinds of places.

In other words, we look for the places which are lively in their present state. We take a mental position, that these very lively places, should become public places, and should be marked, and kept, for the benefit of the neighborhood as a whole.

In an urban site, if it turns out that a major vehicular thoroughfare is one of the most pleasant and lively places in the neighborhood, we would then consider that it might, if at all possible, be transformed to pedestrian use, on the assumption that vehicle traffic, inherently more manipulable, and not as easily damaged functionally by lack of atmosphere, can be diverted or rerouted to a less important road.

On a green field site, where a neighborhood does not exist, similar feelings will most likely be generated by a view, by the form of the land which has a natural protected area, a declivity, or by a high spot which looks out. Great trees, are also capable of giving us such a place, naturally occurring water, the edge of a forest, the bottom of a cliff. It is impossible to predict with any general principles, what feature of a particular piece of land will have this character. Each piece of land is different, and will tell you, in its own way, what unique feature, on that land, is best suited to become the spiritual center of a future neighborhood built there.

On a site that is part of an existing neighborhood, or part of an existing town, the procedure is not very different, though it may turn out to be more complicated.

The main point of this unfolding is that rather than designing a path network, according to our ideas of such a network, we start with those places in the neighborhood that have the deepest feeling -- and then choose to MAKE THESE DEEPER PLACES into the streets and elements of the new path network. The network comes into being as a result of what the potential of the site and its small and large places tell us, not vice versa.


  • Without regard for existing traffic or lines of traffic, simply identify the most beautiful places in the neighborhood.
  • Focus attention on these beautiful places, and use them as the backbone of what will become the pedestrian network.
  • Take the shape of these places -- as they are now -- seriously, and leave them with the shape that now makes them beautiful, as it is.
  • Transfer the positions of these shapes and spaces, with stakes in the ground.
  • Measure their positions by direct GPS survey, via computer, to the topographic map you have.
  • Complete the connections and connectivity, to take these most beautiful fragments, and connect them to each other to form a network.
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