Fragment of Generative Code for Neighborhoods


The order in which things are done

Originally written for neighborhoods in Berkeley, 1981-4

When a generative code is used, the order in which things are done plays a decisive role in proper execution of the unfolding process. For example:

  • Roads and driveways must be located and built after the pedestrian structure, not before.
  • Roads must be located and built after the houses, not before.
  • Sewers must be located and laid after public space is created, not before.
  • When houses are designed, the garden must be placed (located) before the house volume is located, not after.
  • Construction work must begin long before final drawings are ready, and the drawings develop, in parallel with the construction process.
  • Windows must be placed, designed, and measured and built, after the walls or wall framing has begun, so that they reflect the real situations in the room, its light, and view.
  • According to contract, changes of design which have no effect on quantity of units built, must not be viewed as change orders, but as part of the builders obligation, provided they stay within parameters of quantity and price.

    In an unfolding sequence, these things occur (of necessity) in this unusual order, not in the order we are used to. The changes of sequence are not whimsical, but necessary, to make sure that each thing can be adapted to the whole, in a successful fashion. They are necessary, in order to allow a coherent unfolding, of the neighborhood, where the right things come first, and the lesser ones take their place in the context provided by the major things. The "right" things, are the ones which have the biggest impact on the environment from a human and emotional point of view which is capable of making people healthy because their deepest feelings are respected.

    In order to see the contrast, we may refer to the order in which these things were usually done in conventional 20th-century development work. In current practice, there are many conventions of sequence, which have become part of the accepted wisdom, in planning, architecture, and development. For example:

  • CONVENTIONALLY: Roads are built before the buildings they serve.
  • CONVENTIONALLY: In a tract development, street sewers are laid long before the houses are built.
  • CONVENTIONALLY: Houses are placed, and the garden is whatever is left on the lot, comes second.
  • CONVENTIONALLY: Windows are designed and positioned at the time the building's plans are submitted for plan check.
  • CONVENTIONALLY: Drawings are completed before any construction work is done.
  • CONVENTIONALLY: Neighborhood plans are completed, before any construction work is done.
  • CONVENTIONALLY: Public spaces are designed after individual buildings.
  • CONVENTIONALLY: Changes are done by change orders, and therefore become very expensive.


  • Make a project management plan, which clearly establishes the correct sequence and order for all the important specific cases mentioned above, on a project calendar. At least this calendar should include sequence of drawing lot lines, roads, parking, gardens, trees, roof volume, windows, entrance position, and so on.

    This calendar will create a framework in which these vital decisions have room, within the construction protocol, to take the form they need, according to the previously unfolded work.

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