Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Pathways of Desire

One of the concepts we’ve been discussing in our meetings about how to improve the Nutsford Vale open space, is “pathways of desire”.

This is an approach that says that rather than planning new footpaths in a development, you hold back and let people ‘tell you’ where they need paths to go. Very quickly tracks appear that denote the common routes. You can then form the pathways to meet the established needs.

Looking at the aerial photos, I think our lines of desire are incredibly clear!

I like this idea of planning, it has humility in its founding principals. Such a refreshing change from the all too common approach of many professionals, which focuses more on a “we know what you need” line of thinking.

Of course it is entirely possible to go too far in the other direction, pathways of desire can be compromises forced by external factors (areas of poor draining boggy ground or inappropriate planting would be two that spring to mind on Nutsford Vale). Maybe the role of the professional is to use their skills to understand all these inputs, listening strongly to people’s needs, but also being able to see the wider picture and bring their skills to bare (“if we improved the dr@inage would you take the more direct route?”).

I suspect that the concept of Pathways of Desire has resonance far beyond landscaping work. In all our dealings with others how do we map and understand their pathways and avoid simply imposing our own?

I want to think about this more.