I am here to serve the land.
Though I always ask for confirmation through meditations, therapeutic sessions and courses, the answer remains constant: I incarnated on this earth to serve the land and this act of service has manifested through my work as a Landscape Architect and as a pilgrim.
I am continually learning that my work is a collaboration between myself and the land. This collaboration is embodied by using my design skills and my belief in the value of listening, of consultation and of sustainability in all projects. However, it also requires me to learn new tools to truly work with the land.
These tools are drawn from the ancient wisdoms of how the land itself works. In understanding and working in harmony with these ancient wisdoms, I strive to ensure that the land reaches its “highest potential” in every collaboration.
From the ancient wisdoms that relate to our association with land, I presently work with the great archetypes – the Wheel of Life, the Tree of Life and the Chakras system 1 and Geomancy – the ancient practice of creating harmonious relationships between people, the places they inhabit and the natural environment 2.
By using these I find a map unlocking each unique story for each particular piece of land and by acknowledging this story and working within its shape, a beauty and a harmony are created.
Initially the work carried out on any project is to understand the site, its position and listening to what it needs. Dan Kiley, an American landscape architect, was once asked how he arrived at his designs. His response was “…I walk on to the site and ask it what it wants…” For me, the greatest consideration is to ask all parties what they need.
Walking the land and listening to it marks the start point of the relationship. This initial response then evolves into using the archetypes and geomancy to establish the lands role, in both its wider context and within the site itself. Most will, for example, have a Chakras system, referred to as a landscape temple 1. Establishing where this is and how it is represented within the land, helps me read the issues and informs the design direction and detail.
My understanding deepens by looking at the stories and myths associated with the land and beginning to unpick the behavioural patterns that have influenced the area and the sites development. These reveal fascinating insights into those patterns that have had constructive contributions and those that have been destructive – the former to be used and encouraged, the latter to be acknowledged and realigned to work positively. As in our own selves, the land holds these patterns and they manifest again and again directing our relationships with the site. All this informs my design and guides the consultation and collaborations that are required to deliver a rewarding outcome.
It is important to ensure that there is an ongoing partnership, which requires that I leave my client as an informed custodian of their own land. A deeper understanding of its role in the wider landscape and its role in supporting them and their growth will empower them to take any design forward in a way that will be beneficial for all.
My work takes me from large public realm projects where a design will have an impact on a large number people momentarily, to someone’s private garden where the impacts are more profound and longer term. The approach is always the same: what ever tools and techniques are required, the key is listening and collaboration.
This service to the land is not only played out in my work but also in the act of pilgrimage. The tools I have mentioned are all those which I use in my own personal growth and part of that is to “walk the land”. I have found the act of pilgrimage a tremendous learning experience. Through listening to the universal nudges I have received on what to pilgrimage; using the tools to aid my understanding of what the land requires and aligning those walks with the solar festivals to give them a natural rhythm, I have deepened my personal relationship with my own act of service and my own life journey.
I am currently walking a line I have named the “player’s line” 3, taken from the recurring instances where stories have been acted to audiences along its path. The pilgrimage takes me from The Globe Theatre on Bankside to Canonbury Tower in Islington, from root to crown. The walking of this landscape temple not only benefits myself and the land, but draws me closer to understanding the ideal partnership between us and the life beneath our feet.
“The two questions we should ask of any strong landscape are: firstly what do I know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else? and then,…. what does this place know of me that I cannot know myself…..”
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
- The Great Archetypes and Landscape Temples. Peter and Sarah Dawkins. Zoence Academy. www.zoence.co.uk
- Geomancy. David Ellis and Melanie Thomas. Earthwise.
- The players line. For further information on the route please email firstname.lastname@example.org.