Fragment of Generative Code for Neighborhoods


Topographic survey of the land

Originally written for Kensington California, July 2000In order to perform a successful unfolding of the neighborhood design, you need to make a sequence of drawings, each unfolding one further aspect of the whole. If possible these drawings need to be made on an accurate, scaled topographic map.

It is not altogether easy to get this kind of map from a surveyor, since the items which should be present are very specific, and not typical. Here are the things you need to ask for.

  • The drawing should be made at 1:200 scale, or 1/16th inch to a foot.
  • It should include buildings, hits, and physical built features on the site.
  • It should include all trees with trunk position and tree type, including the approximate size and position of the crown.
  • It should include all existing paths and driveways.
  • Contours should be shown at 2 foot intervals, and steps and ramps should be shown.

    Some of these items may be charged at what seems to you an unnecessary amount, so before starting you should negotiate the total price of the survey and make it reasonable in price while giving you the essentials. At "essential" is any feature which is likely to play a physical role in the layout you make, and must be known in regard to size and position. You can save money by simply missing out the minor features which are unlikely to enter in to your design.


  • Ask for the drawing to be provided as a computer file.
  • Ask for one version to include the contours and another without the contours.
  • Ask for one print at full size 1:200.
  • Ask for another file which allows you to print the whole thing out on an A4 or American 8.5 x 11 sheet, with a graphic scale.

    A small, accurately scaled sheet like this is invaluable for drawing the result of a diagnosis, of a possible arrangement of house positions, or later more refined steps of unfolding.

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