The Landscape Guide


Garden and Landscape Design for the 21st Century: a Simple Approach

The Simple Approach aims:

  • to draw from 'the wisdom of the ages' without being 'shackled by history'
  • to encourage a 'response to the site' without 'constraining the designer's creativity'
  • to manage the complexity of a multi-factorial design process
  • to facilitate design discussion with clients and design presentation to clients
  • to utilize the wealth of knowledge made available by information technology

The acronym PAKILDA summarizes the approach: It is a Pattern-Assisted-Knowledge-Intensive-Landscape-Design-Approach:

Pattern-Assisted: the approach makes use of diagrams to simplify the complexity of the design process

Knowledge-Intensive: the approach draws upon the expert knowledge and skills of artists, scientists, craftworkers, writers etc

Landscape-Design-Approach: the approach is suitable for both garden and landscape designers (the word 'landscape' is used in the acronym because the method encourages designers to respond to the local landscape in a more considered way than was common in the 20th century).

The Simple Approach was developed through visiting design sites and teaching students of garden and landscape design at the University of Greenwich in London. The theoretical considerations underliing the approach are explained in three articles, on the SAD Design Method, on PAKILDA and on the Flowers of Garden Design. The approach has been further simplified and for the website. It is presented as a linear sequence but should be thought of as iterative (circular): one needs to go through the issues several times.


The approach begins with words because much of our thinking is done with words. 'We need shelter'; 'That view is wonderful'; 'We should keep that tree'


Diagrams should be used in pairs: one to show the existing site and one to show the design idea. Each pair should relate to a specific aspect of interest and knowledge (water, vegetation, circulation, spatial enclosure, etc). They can be hand-drawn or computer drawn. The reason for using diagrams is simplification.


3-D models should be used to bring together the issues analysed in the diagrams. They can be physical models or computer models. The reason for working in 3 dimensions is that garden and landscape design sites are also three dimensional. Early models should be produced very quickly, using clay or paper and card.


Plans are a way of specifying design proposals. They are drawn to scale and using conventional means of representation so that the information they supply is unmistakable. Plans are of less use than models in fostering the creative process and of no use in explaining ideas to clients who are not accustomed to reading plans.

The design process is iterative

The designers progression from existing to proposed is more like the flight of a honey bee than a circle.

Ideas are at the heart of the design process.

Diagrams should be used to in pairs to simplify, analyse and explain ideas (this example explains an idea for changing the circulation pattern)

Patterns can be placed in four groups, relating to: (1) the natural world (2) society (3) the fine arts (4) design archetypes (patterns which have been found to work over a long period of time)