Land Use


The major land using components of any permaculture design are elements that consume area and elements that are lines along which we move. All design surface may be delineated as either an area use or a circulation use. There will be no 'left over' surfaces on a drawing. Land surfaces without a designation are places for which no decision on use has been made.

In a permaculture plan, typical area uses might be buildings, various gardens, composting piles, orchards, pasture, fowl yards, ponds and wild zones. Circulation for people and animals consists of roads and walkways. These paths may be highly defined or create more random patterns across open areas such as meadows. But, even in meadows, there will be 'desire lines' or paths along which people or animals will normally move. Movement patterns are not fully random as observation of any open space will show. We may also include water circulation and infrastructure patterns in our land use scheme since they are linear movement systems.

Once major areas are determined, they too may be further subdivided. With each change in scale there is a repetition of the area/circulation use pattern. A garden may be divided in areas where there are peas, corn, potatoes, herbs and so on. The garden may be served by its own internal circulation and water delivery systems.

Designers normally work from the largest scale down to the smallest detail in developing the nested relationships of various parts of the design. At the largest scale, the design will look like the general land use plan illustrated below. At each level of detail the design becomes closer and closer to 'reality' until finally materials and specific plants are specified.

Regardless of scale, be it region, city, farm or backyard, the area/circulation pattern approach can help us. It provides a method of approaching land use arrangements and helps us put the design together to achieve connections we have identified as important and avoid conflicts among various uses. Thinking in land use terms allows us to see the big picture of our design scheme and develop patterns that are visually coherent, understandable, and at their best, artistic while providing sustenance.


from: Basic Elements of Landscape Architectural Design, pg. 295.