The Landscape Guide

Prime Landscape Theory

A theory about the aim, the objectives and the techniques of landscape architecture.

Aim: to make a public realm that is rich in public goods


  • aesthetic qualities (venustas): line, colour, form, massing, composition etc
  • ecological and technical qualities (firmitas): biodiversity, habitat creation, sustainability, construction etc
  • social qualities (utilitas): public goods for public enjoyment: walking, cycling, sunbathing, swimming, boating, etc

Techniques: use appropriate techniques to arrange the five compositional elements of the outdoor environment: landform, water, vegetation, vertical structures (including buildings) and horizontal elements (including pavements)


  1. ‘Prime’ means ‘first’
  2. The three groups of objectives come from the oldest book on design theory, by Vitruvius
  3. The standard histories of the art of landscape architecture (eg by Norman T Newton and the Jellicoes) begin with design of public projects: cities, sanctuaries, and ceremonial gardens
  4. 'Landscape architecture' as an organised profession dates from Meason's 1828 book, which stated that 'The public at large has a claim over the architecture of a country. It is common property'
  5. The historical and theoretical foundations of the 1-3-5 theory is explained at greater length in an eBook on Landscape design history & theory 
  6. Prime Landscape Theory can be mnemonicized with the prime numbers (1-3-5): the landscape profession has one aim, three groups of objective and 5 groups of techniques
  7. The name 'Prime Landscape Theory' uses the word 'landscape', in the designer's sense to mean 'a good place' rather than in the geographers' sense or the artists' sense.