The Landscape Guide

4.5 Planning a garden Seat

Contents list

Placing a garden seat is the elementary task in outdoor planning and should be the first assignment for every student. Some of the patterns that govern the decisions are shown in Figure 4.3.

The circulation layer shows four alternative locations for the seat, as B, C, D and E, with the most commonly used routes. The shadows layer shows the noon and 6 pm shadows at the spring solstice. In a temperate climate, this rules out position B and favours position E, as the family like inviting their friends for evening barbecues. The views layer shows the direction of a view to the sea, making position D unattractive. The archetype layer shows an Alexander-type pattern for a garden seat, which could work in a variety of locations but is shown in position E. The geometrical layer shows an idea for the plan geometry: there is a transition from a regular paved area, which is the realm of Art, through a serpentine curve to an irregular area, which is the realm of Nature. Finally, there is a story underlying the garden. It belongs to a couple who remember walking along a coastal path on a fine summer's evening. The girl slipped. The man caught her. They fell into each other's arms and later became engaged to marry. This garden, being within sight of the sea and having a bank behind the garden's prime seat, reminds them of that evening.

What was the design process? One cannot say which idea formed the starting point for locating the seat: the natural patterns of sun, shade, and views, the social patterns of how the seat was going to fit into its owners' lives, or the geometrical idea for the garden plan. They came together. Because of its personal and social aspects, the design does not entirely satisfy Christopher Alexander's pattern 176, Garden seat:

Make a quiet place in the garden -- a private enclosure with a comfortable seat, thick planting, sun. Pick the place for the seat carefully; pick the place that will give you the most intense kind of solitude. (Alexander, 1977)

[Fig 4.3 ] Placing a garden seat is elementary, but requires careful thought.