Have You Ever Seen A Woonerf?

Though the word may sound like something from Alice Through the Looking Glass, a woonerf is actually a Dutch word for "living street." An idea that has caught on in Europe, a woonerf is a shared community space where pedestrians, cars, trucks, cyclists and skateboarders use the same thoroughfare.

I remember dining at a restaurant one August night in Rome, near the Vatican, where our table was off the curb. We were sitting in semi-dark in the cobblestone street. Across the narrow street was another restaurant, also with tables in the street. Cars and even trucks would slowly rumble by us, the driver usually giving a smile and a wave.

At first I was apprehensive about this arrangement, but as our delightful Roman evening went on, I lost the fear of being run over. Apparently, this was how things were done.

A woonerf has a calming effect. According to blogger Ma Carr:

"[A] typical woonerf has no traffic signals, a very low speed limit, and many features to prevent cars from moving quickly or in a straight line. These features might be large planters, parking spaces on alternating sides of the road and curving road designs. Data show lower accident rates, improved traffic flow, as well as increased business for shops near them."

At the Learning Circuits Blog, Big Dog himself, Don Clark, compares the idea of a woonerf to the design of learning processes.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/30/06


Astha said…
I loved the concept! "Living street", akin to an ecosystem, marked by a give & take- and with much higher chances of adapting and surviving than a single species attempting to survive alone, in isolation.

If we were to superimpose the artifacts of this analogy back to the workplace- the automobiles could represent the fast trackers, the pedestrians the steady workforce, the shopkeepers could well be the 'storytellers', the people who keep the company culture alive- and the occasional diner, like you, the specialist. How can we create a learning conduit that facilitates all these diverse elements, rather than cater just to the fast trackers, like the roads cater to the automobiles?
Terrence Seamon said…
Forgive me for taking over a year (!) to respond to this comment.

I love your idea of overlaying the woonerf idea on an organizational learning design.

Best wishes,


Popular posts from this blog

Customer Service with HEART

Please Leave A Comment

The Devil's Approach to Change Management