• Kelly Fountain

Landscape Architect

Walker Templeton and Aubrey McCormick, founders of Black Sheep Design Team in front of sustainable landscape architecture in Oregon

What is the purpose of a landscape architect?

Landscape architects aim to improve the quality of the environment by designing and managing the open spaces around us. They combine knowledge of human activity with the natural environment to design public areas in both cities and the countryside in order to help achieve client goals and conserve the environment. It is an incredibly broad professional field combining the natural environment and introduction of plants, spatial functions, creativity and an understanding of people and socialisation.

Landscape architects evaluate the quality of the landscape and determine remediation requirements before developing and designing the site. They do site visits to survey and analyse potential development before using computer aided design packages to model and experiment with designs. Plans are drawn up to help develop the area long term and in order to ensure conservation of the environment. Their clients are often specialist landscape architectural practices, environmental consultancies, transport planners and large engineering consultancies.

Sustainability is integral to landscape architects. Their strategies often aim to make the environment healthier and cleaner starting with energy saving and going all the way to water purification, regenerating polluted areas and contributing to air purification. With the introduction of plants orchids, roof gardens and green walls into urban spaces we can create a habitat with increased sustainability; whilst they will need to have proper quality of soil, water, sun exposure and protection from pests, in return the wider community will be granted better quality of life. Studies have even shown a reduction in anti social behaviour and criminality.

sustainable landscape architecture designed by Portland architects Walker Templeton and Aubrey McCormick who who own Black Sheep Design Team

What should a landscape plan include?

A landscaping plan must include drawings showing the location of existing landscape features such as trees, planted areas and hedges. It also must include a tree survey if there are a significant number of trees and the loss/retention of any of this vegetation in the proposals. The plan must also detail location and retention of historic landscape features.

A detailed design drawing with specifications of for hard and soft landscape features will need to be presented. Hard landscape features include paving, surfaces, edgings, steps, boundary treatments, lighting, street furniture, car parks, structures, play equipment, storage areas, cycling facilities, signage, areas of gravel, boulders, fountains and other elements in the external works. Soft landscape features include earthmoving and changes to site contours, removing or filling with soil, including levels information or cross sections to indicate any significant changes in levels. Additionally, areas to be seeded, covered by turf or planted with trees, shrubs, groundcover, herbaceous planting, hedges, natural watercourses and ponds will need to be detailed.

Visuals are fundamental where appropriate. This could include computer generated graphics of the plans and expectations as well as photos and drawings of the current situation.

Any temporary fixtures will also need to be drawn up and placed such as temporary access roads, compounds, storage areas for construction.

Landscape architecture designed by Portland architects Walker Templeton and Aubrey McCormick who who own Black Sheep Design Team

What are the 7 principles of landscape design?

The principles of landscape design include the elements of unity, scale, balance, simplicity, variety, emphasis, and sequence as they apply to line, form, texture, and colour. All of these elements are interconnected.

Unity in landscape design is the overarching design principle that is used to create a sense of wholeness or harmony in the landscape. Using too many individual plants or other objects in the landscape often leads to a cluttered and chaotic effect. On the other hand, too many of the same kind of plant can lead to a boring effect.

The principle of scale refers to the size of landscape elements in relation to their surroundings. There are two factors to consider; one is the size of your space (whether it be a rooftop, garden, field and so on), and the other is the size of objects in the larger landscape (existing trees in the community, size of the neighbouring building and so on).

Balance is the state of being and seeing. There are two major types of balance; symmetrical balance (used in formal landscapes when one side of the landscape is a mirror image of the opposite side) and asymmetrical balance or informal balance (differing from one side to the other) .

As the name implies, simplicity is keeping landscapes simple, not cluttered or fussy. This is not the opposite of complexity, boring or bare, rather avoiding using too many colours, shapes, textures and angles. Variety, on the other hand, is diversity and contrast in form, texture, and colour preventing monotony.

The emphasis in landscaping refers to that point where the observer's eye is first drawn when looking at an environment. This area represents the strongest single element of your design.

Sequence is the change or flow in form, colour, texture and size giving movement or life. For example, in a flower bed, use coarser textured larger plants at the back, sequencing to finer textured smaller plants in the front. Texture becomes finer with distance and is the natural development towards open areas in naturally grown areas such as towards the curve of a cliff or river.

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