A Permaculture Reflection: The Learning the Design Process, by Stacey Doll

This past weekend was the third installment of the GALA hosted Permaculture Design Course. The group spent the sunny weekend diving into the design process. Stacey Doll writes about our time together and explains the design process in depth:

Learning about the A&A layering process

I was pretty excited and anxious for our third Permaculture Design weekend, as it was dedicated completely to the design process and we were going to roll up our sleeves and start designing.  We started our morning Saturday by discussing design patterns found in nature that we can use in our designs.  Design patterns included:
  • Scattered
  • Natural Drift
  • Circle
  • Spiral
  • Dendritic
  • Serpentine
  • Mosaic
  • Radial
  • Fractured

We were given items from nature such as seashells, leaves, driftwood, and bark to see how many patterns we could find.  In some cases, patterns are nested, where perhaps one circle is within another circle.  This is referred to as annidation.  We also learned that tesalation is the ability of cells in nature to flatten out like a sheet and that super imposition is when one pattern lays on top of another pattern.  It was quite fascinating to think about how many patterns are in nature and we, as designers, can incorporate those natural patterns into our designs.

We were then given an overview of the Permaculture Design Process, one that we would get to know intimately over the weekend.  The Design Process begins with articulating goals for the site.  You need to clearly articulate short and long term goals for the site using present tense and an active voice.  With goals clearly articulated, the final design will clearly express the clients’ core values and lead us to a design the is useable, integrating the permaculture principles with the goals and designing with the existing natural features in mind.  After goals have been articulated, you then must begin developing a base map for the site and perform an analysis and assessment (A&A) of the site.  The A&A includes examining, researching, identifying and mapping the following layers of information for the site:

Creating the Wildlife and Vegetation A&A layer

  • Climate and Microclimate
  • Landforms
  • Soils
  • Vegetation & Wildlife
  • Water Resources
  • Aesthetics and Sense of Place
  • Legal/Zoning
  • Access and Circulation
  • Buildings and Infrastructure
  • Zones of Use

After all the layers of information are collected, you then create an A&A Summary which includes the most relevant pieces of information from all the layers, giving you an existing site foundation to work from for your design.

After an amazing lunch provided by Lynnette, proud chef of the new Café Ole in Wolfboro, we began our first Design Process.  Using the Grange Hall in Ossipee, we were broken up into teams and asked to develop a basemap of the Grange and existing accessory structures and then begin mapping the A&A layers.  However, before we could start, we had to hear the history and goals for the site from Josh and Molly who live at the grange.  Again, it is critical to articulate goals with the client before beginning design.  We spent the rest of the afternoon examining the site, mapping, and drawing our A&A layers.

Saturday night included another fabulous potluck meal and then a group of us headed over to Tuftonboro to hear fabulous Irish Celtic music from The Forge, a four woman ensemble that rocked the house.  It was a wonderful way to end a great day of design.

Using triangulation to map buildings, landforms, infrastructure, and vegetation.

Sunday morning, a few folks headed back to the cranberry bogs to get the last cranberries for the Thanksgiving meals while others stayed at the Grange and engaged in a gentle flow yoga practice.  After an additional hour of A&A layer mapping, each group presented their information.  We now had a complete set of A&A layers for the site.  Our groups were rearranged and we were paired up with different partners to develop an A&A summary layer and then begin working on a final design using the summary and the articulated goals set by Josh and Molly with help from all the students.  Each team spent several hours re-examining the site, brainstorming and mapping out ideas.  The day concluded with each of us presenting our final designs and accepting feedback from our teachers and peers.

Our challenge is to now begin the design process on our own sites and in December we will get “studio time” to share our base maps, A&A and begin working on design with input and feedback during the process from our teachers and peers.  I’m very excited!!!

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