The Landscape Guide

Ten principles for garden designers and landscape architects

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Design, like most activities, has principles which can be ignored - at your peril.

1. "Consult the Genius of the Place' is the first law of landscape planning and design. She helps those who work on site, gets cross with those who deny her existence, and has some views on style. In areas of high landscape quality, whether urban or rural, she often prefers a conservation approach, which makes new development similar to its surroundings. In areas of low landscape quality, she usually prefers an innovative approach, which creates a contrast between new development and its surroundings.
2. Plan with layers. Designers should make places that are good from as many points of view as possible: social, functional, artistic, spiritual, economic, hydrological, ecological, climatological, and others too. Use can be combined with beauty, pleasure with profit, work with contemplation. The garden can be a crucible for the design of cities. Do not allow the specialist to grab even one petal from the six-lobed flower of life.
3. Work with your clients. But remember that plans and designs have many clients with divergent interests: those who pay your fees; users; builders; the wider community; the natural world. Landscape planners and designers must look beyond the narrow technical limits and tight geographical boundaries that constrain most of the built environment professions.
4. Precede good design with good planning. To work otherwise is to design castles upon sand. Sometimes, good planning occurs by accident. More often, it takes longer than design.
5. Design space before mass. Buildings, trees, shrubs, walls and mounds are mere packaging. They contain space.
6. Use materials of only the best quality. They may be the cheapest materials. Water, grass and water-washed gravel, for example, are of the first quality. Precast concrete slabs are a third-rate material. Sometimes, however, money must be spent with generosity. At the end of a long career, Thomas Mawson reflected that clients always appreciate quality and soon forget expense. If you try to save them money, they forget what you have done and always resent the inferior quality.
7. Learn from the work of painters, sculptors, architects, poets, musicians, philosophers, novelists and others. These interests can come together in what Jellicoe has suggested may be the most comprehensive of the arts. The principles of art and design are wide and deep.
8. Pay attention to the elements of design (line, shape, colour, texture, tone, form, space, depth) and the principles of visual art (movement, unity, harmony, variety, balance, contrast, proportion, pattern and rhythm)
9. Be economical with land, because 'they arn't making any more of it', and adopt a sustainable approach to other natural resources.
10.Remember the time dimension. Sculpture is a three dimensional art. Landscape architecture and garden design are four dimensional arts.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!
(Rudyard Kipling)

For the above principles, thanks are due to: Alexander Pope, Humphry Repton, Patrick Geddes, Paul Klee, Christopher Tunnard, Arnold Weddle, Siegfried Gideon and Geoffrey Jellicoe.