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  • Designing gardens and houses

    Environment, Environmental Design

    "You cannot design a garden until you know where the house will be."

    So says the London Financial Times in a recent critique of the Government's lack of movement on committing to deliver Crossrail, a major new proposed development of London's transport system.

    This may be true when it comes to major infrastructure development but the F.T.'s comment assumes a sequential mindset that has slowed progress of improvement of the public realm throughout the world.

    In city development, the idea is to wait until decisions are made about structures and buildings, then worry about the ground that surrounds it. And in life, wait until all the ducks are lined up before making a move.

    There is little doubt that investment requires firm ground and context within which to pitch.

    There is also little doubt that society has suffered greatly from roads which lead nowhere, chaotic planning and beautiful but useless acts of isolated expression.

    But the mindset expressed by the F.T. ultimately disables entrepreneurship, marginalises the incremental and lays the ground for analysis paralysis.

    Why not start with the design of the garden? Why not apply the ethos of incremental development that we apply to our daily lives to the business of making change? Why not tear a leaf out of Reyner Banham and others' ideas of Non-Plan for a moment and think the unthinkable: a world without planning?

    Social-networking and software development have shown the power and value of open, evolutionary narratives.

    Scientific analysis of marathon sports, such as long-distance swimming has also shown that "you make your own water."

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