Adrian Hodgson’s Sketches on Design Process Ecology and Succession

Hey all,

Dan here. Wow I can’t believe six weeks just whizzed by. I did co-facilitate a PDC, attend my second Possibility Lab, worked through a few health issues, and move house, but even still.

I’m currently sort of reeling in the sheer volume of profoundly insightful comments (see here for instance) and private messages that have been coming my way in relation to MPS in the last few weeks. Where one sentiment I have is that much of these ought to be full blown posts.

I’m also still processing what I got from the Ben Haggard chat and from my ongoing engagements with Carol Sanford and others. I have so many great questions to chew on and this joint feeling of wading through thick mist and a deep excitement at the radiant hints and glimpses of living process possibilities and permaculture potentials I sense ahead.

I am working on a post that will summarise where I see myself focusing my energy for the next stretch, which I guess will be most of next year. Can’t wait to share that then launch into fresh expeditions together, where falling deep into the question around permaculture’s originating impulse looms large.

Meantime, actioning the sentiment I started with, I’m going to start sharing some otherwise private messages as posts. Big thanks to Adrian Hodgson from Design Jam Permaculture for letting me share his words and wonderful exploratory sketches here. I look forward to reading your reflections in the comments as well as sharing mine there too.

Adrian’s Initial Email (Nov 30, 2019)

Hi Dan,

I’ve been thinking with great excitement about a lot of what has been explored and shared on this meta level community “development” project of yours (MPS). I needed to put a few of the thoughts that were swimming around in my mind onto paper and so I have drawn up a couple of sketches that I would love to share with you.

One of them is an exploration of the design process as an ecology as inspired by your chats with Dave Jacke (see here and here). This emerged to be conceived of as what it might look like to gaze into the ‘rings’ of the freshly cut permaculture tree.

Another sketch that I made was to try to illustrate the idea of personal development –as getting to one’s singular core– into the idea of a succession of design-process means and expression. I have charted this on a spectrum with one axis representing the continuum of degenerative to regenerative and the other axis representing one’s calling to be a designer to “maturation” and inevitably death.

From here, I am working on what to do with the insights of my sketches and would love to participate in some collegial dialogue around these ideas (as is ongoing with your MPS endeavours of course).

I am currently exploring the notion that living systems may “call” us in as designers –there are ecological precedents for this (ie: corn silk). Were Mollison, Holmgren and Fukuoka generated by the greater living systems they came from?.. hmm, this is far out of my usual territory.. murky waters ahead I suspect. I’m actually quite scared..

On a more down to Earth level, I will also be exploring how to reasonably use the “design process ecology” as a tool (back-breeding it with proceedural generation).. and I have a few thoughts and ideas around how to do that that I am experimenting with. This is based on a theory that I have inferred from “Glantzing” into the tree rings of the coppiced permaculture tree (perhaps a process sucker sprouting from the coppiced stool).. Haha.. it’s all very foggy still and I don’t want to ‘master-plan’ this.. That is why I thought that sharing these ideas with you may be the next best step.

Please let me know if there is a preferred email address that I can send these along to you.

With deep gratitude for the spaces you have been creating,

Adrian Hodgson

Dan’s Reply


Great message! Look forward to replying/engaging properly and in meantime share those sketches, and continue letting beings emerge from the mist / fog :-), and participate in some collegial dialog around these ideas!

I am intrigued and excited by the hints you’ve shared and look forward to continuing the conversation. Maybe you want to submit a guest post or something? Or maybe we have some to-and-fro on email then publish the thread as a post? Let’s see what happens I guess.

For me your message is a continuation of an almost overwhelming flow of brilliant comments and messages in the last week or so. I’m feeling so humbled to be helping hold space for the quality of dialogue that is emerging around MPS and next steps are feeling foggy for me too – though I know whatever emerges from here is going to be beautiful.


ps. Oh and I like this metaphor continuation of gazing into the rings, each ring a year of permaculture’s growth since inception. Where this focus Ben Haggard helped me refine on the originating impulse is going right back to that little pith in the core then tracing it back down to the moment of germination and the forces at play that contributed where, as you say, maybe living systems of the world were like, “okay we better call in some fresh flavours here, for shit is getting out of control!” 🙂

Adrian’s Sketches

Hey Dan,

Glad to hear that you are intrigued. I’d love to keep the conversation going and am not opposed to our commencement here being posted as a thread.

Here is an invitation to look at the sketches I made. If you need a different format just let me know.

To be honest, the tree ring thought only came up later after I drew the one sketch and was gazing into it.. the thought emerged.. and needs much more exploration. I am not much experienced at tracking formally.. but did like the idea of “glantzing” (a nod to Joel) into the rings.. where as you had described David Holmgren doing to image/aspect/inspect/sidespect etc. the depths of a place.. Tree rings can tell a lot about a story.. though I was also envisioning something kind of like ‘Dumbledor’ gazing into his ‘pensieve’.

Happy tracking. Chat more soon!

1 Comment

  1. Hi Dan,
    Loving these explorations. I’ve been tossing around the client interview process. I have always done it after sector and site, but when I teach I acknowledge that many designers interview the client first. Recently I had a clear thought around why I don’t work this way. My friend and fellow designer, Sandi Pointner, said this:
    “When we were looking for land to buy, people used to ask us what we wanted to do with it. They seemed confused when I told them that I wouldn’t know what we were going to do with it until we found the right piece of land, did our sector and site analysis, and allowed the land to let us know what it needed, and what its potential might be.”
    The human ego inclines us towards anthropocentric thinking, where human needs take precedence over everything else. Surely one of the primary aims of permaculture is to turn this around and to reconnect us to our place in the natural world; to understand that we must first care for the earth before we ask what the earth can do for us. There’s a blog post coming (of course! :D)
    Now I’m shifting the client interview to even later in the design cycle and working on a model where we reconnect people to place, help them to read their own landscape in an evolving and ongoing way so that they can restore and rehabilitate before they reap and impose. How do we get people to understand that food production is not the aim of permaculture, but one of the many techniques we use to minimise our impact (at least) or to restore ecosystems (at best).
    Here’s my new favourite definition:
    Permaculture is an ethically based design pattern for creating and maintaining systems that rebuild ecological health while providing for human needs.
    I agree with Rowe: I am yet to see a design task that isn’t improved by applying the permaculture pattern. I appreciate that it is not the only design tool available to us, but it is a consistently powerful and effective one. What a debt we owe to David and Bill.
    I hope your health issues have resolved and that the move wasn’t too distressing for your family. I’m very much looking forward to the advanced design course next year.
    Best wishes
    PS: Your recaptcha is still glitching 😀

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