The more I work on projects, the more I become a designer of programs – “a planned series of future events, items, or performances.” These programs fall under two categories: 1. a planned agenda that works as a daily checklist (yoga, walking to the dog park, etc), and 2. a more open ended, “put X and Y together and see what happens!” program of chance. The latter is sort of like the game of Baskiceball for all you How I Met Your Mother watchers. I try to draw myself away from these active elements as a designer and attempt to experience nature or a space without an agenda.
While most of us can’t fully follow Thoreau’s suggestion to leave everything and “ready for a walk,” it’s great to start with a path, both literally and conceptually. Where does this path take us? What do we see along the path? There’s enjoyment to be discovered while looking at things along a literal or conceptual path. Observe how things are the same and how things change. Experiences along life’s path bring us joys like the burst of bright Toyon berries along a trail, or socializing among a throng of people during a Downtown LA concert.
Whether it’s a conscious programming of a space or the unconscious need for unprogrammed space I’m not sure…or if either is even better than the other. While we do need this space without description for our minds to imagine, I do like to be on a programmed path that takes me back to where I’ve walked before.
I try to integrate a little of these same ideals into my design process, intentionally designing with the distinct experiences of imagination and discovery integrated into the landscape along these planned spaces, affording the visitor an opportunity to imprint their own memories of the path laid out. For as Thoreau remarked, “…a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.”