The Landscape Guide

13.9 Aims of Landscape Architecture

Contents list

We can now return to the Socratic questions that were posed at the outset of this essay, and offer Platonic answers. In landscape design, what are the ends and what are the means? The ends can be defined with confidence: "The aim of landscape design is to make good places'. The means vary. Sometimes, the old "modernist' survey-analysis-design procedure will be best. At other times, even older art-based and craft-based approaches will be correct. On yet other projects, a post-Postmodern approach may be used, celebrating the death of the designer, beginning at any point, concluding at any point, taking advantage of CAD and GIS, allowing forms to come before functions, considering each layer as an independent design, celebrating design clashes as one does the meeting of wind and water, water and rock, heat and cold, sun and rain. How does one choose between the alternative means? One consults the Genius of the Place. She has to be consulted. She need not be obeyed. Practical philosophers require sympathetic oracles.

The pattern approach to landscape design is put forward as a way of dealing with the multiple inputs and multiple outputs that should characterize landscape design. It uses both inductive and deductive logic. The former works from the particular to the general, to identify patterns. The latter works from the general to the particular, making use of patterns. Inputs can be brought into relationship with each other by being represented on pattern diagrams. Alexander states that "If you can't draw a diagram, it isn't a pattern' (Alexander, 1979) Outputs can be read as different sets of patterns. Instead of the project being a Master Plan by an author-god, it becomes a feast for the viewer. Just as one can read a novel from the viewpoints of literary style, philosophical outlook, characterization, narrative or social history, so one should be able to read a plan from the viewpoints of colour harmony, ornament, composition, proportion, social value, conservation value, symbolism, mythology, narrative. Any of them or all of them. It is a layered approach to design, and it fits remarkably well with the layering capabilities of computer-aided design (CAD) and geographical information systems (GIS). Ideas, representable by patterns, should lie at the intellectual heart of landscape design and planning.