The Landscape Guide

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Community planning & design

Hassan Fathy* argued that good design requires co-operation between:

  • the designer
  • the builder
  • the client

The classic 'professional' approach of urban and landscape planners involves only one of the partners: the ego-laden DESIGNER.

The 'design-build' approach approach, common in garden design involves two of the partners: designers and builders.

The classic 'owner-designer' approach involves all three partners - and produced all the greatest examples of garden and landscape design, including the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Versailles and Stowe. Dan Kiley's Miller Garden, one suspects, was possible only because of the owners' enthusiasm for the arts.

The community planning methods used by urban and landscape planners have the inestimable merit of re-involving clients in the design process. One of the most sophisticated approaches was developed by Dr Tony Gibson of the Neighbourhood Initiatives Foundation and first used in the east end of Glasgow in 1977. The method involves large plans and models. Since 1977 community planningl has been used all over the world. The Planning for Real organisation, led by The Urban Design Group and The Prince' s Foundation in the UK has published a handbook. The website includes a full guide to sources of information. In the USA, information on community planning is available from the National Charette Institute, though there is no mention of landscape architects being involved. [Charette is the French word for cart and its use in this context derives from the practice of design students working as a group when taking their work to college for a design review - in a cart.]

Client involvement is also good practice for garden designers. If you talk to the client, return to the office, drawn a plan and bill the client, they cannot understand why the bill is so high. If, instead, you sit round a table, talking, drawing and asking for decisions then the whole process becomes clear - as does the fee account.

But it is also worth remembering the statement by Sony's founder: "We don't ask consumers what they want. They don't know," he once said. "Instead we apply our brainpower to what they need, and will want, and make sure we're there, ready." Some designers need to follow his example: they need to dream new dreams and make them real. Most designers are more like retailers: their job is to put the right product in the right place at the right price.

See also

Planning for Real in Exmoor National Park.

An example at Silkmore Primary School in England

See note on the place of community in design theory.

* Hasan Fathy is the author of a famous book Architecture for the poor in which he argues, amongst many points, the case for involving future residents in the design of housing projects. The illustration below shows part of Fathy's design for Gourna.

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Community planning - an
Urban Design Group exercise.