Rebuilding Venice

From Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn series: “Planners the world over take inspiration from Venice. But Venice was never planned”

This points to a fundamental mistake everyone makes, whether you’re planning a city or trying to relive a vacation you enjoyed – you try to match an example or experience, by building top-down what was built bottom-up, orchestrating what happened unexpectedly, reverse engineer Venice.

This is likely to fail: even if you have to resources and skill to copy Venice, your copy by definition is located in another place, with another weather, a different economy, inhabited by different people and so forth. So your copy of Venice, however precise, will always feel contrived and forced unto its environment and people instead of growing organically to meet them.

In software, these copies of Venice usually happens when you build an application without much user feedback in the process. You set your goal to an existing product which you admire, but don’t involve the users in the process. You often end up with a features users don’t require, an interaction which doesn’t make sense to them or even a whole product which doesn’t serve a real need.