The Landscape Guide

Garden design an approach to urban design

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Many of the world's most admired cities and urban designs have their origins in garden designs. The reason for this is that garden and landscape designers have always been concerned with the composition of landform, water, planting, buildings and paths (including roads, avenues and garden paths). Having learned this compositional skill at the human scale of gardens and parks, they bring their experience to urban design. The term 'landscape urbanism' came into use in the 1990s (see Wiki article on Landscape urbanism):

  • as a revival of the ancient compositional skill of relating architecture to landscape
  • as an opposition to the dominance of road engineers and building architects in urban design
  • as a counterblast to the inhuman concrete jungles produced by the modernist design approach which dominated the twentieth century
The development of urban design since 1900 can be summarised as
  • Modernist urbanism: plan cities by engineering the roads, placing buildings on plots of land, putting some greenery around the buildings if space permits (see Wiki on Modernism)
  • Postmodern urbanism: plan cities by routing highways and urban development where it will do least damage to natural processes
    (see Wiki on Post-modern architecture)
  • Post-postmodern urbanism: plan cities by designing space before mass. This is sometimes described as designing a landscape infrastructure but the word 'infrastructure', as used for  roads and underground utilities, implies a stress on the functional aspects of landscape.
    (see Wiki on Post-postmodernism)
  • See Landscape design theory in relation to Modernism, Postmodernism and Post-postmodernism
Users of the term Landscape Urbanism should take care to specify that they are using the word 'landscape' in the special sense it had before it was adopted by geographers. This will provide continuity with design of space by Sixtus V did for Rome, Le Notre did for the Champs Elysee,  Nash for London and Olmsted for Boston. The advance on the work of our predecessors comes from scientific insights of geographers and ecologists. Landscape urbanism is a design approach resting on concepts from the worlds of art and science.
 Isfahan landscape and urbanism
 Islam landscape urbanism garden design
 Isfahan landscape urban design
 Islamic garden style diagram
 London landscape urbanism design  Landscape urban design style
 Section of Abercrombie open space plan for London. He proposed a web of open space transitioning from an urban centre to a natural landscape  Landscape garden transition from rectilinear to wild nature
 Washington DC urban landscape design  Baroque landscape garden style
 L'Enfant's plan for Washington DC, like Haussmann's earlier plan of Paris, was based on the Baroque style of landscape design, as originally developed in Rome  The Baroque style of garden design was later applied to urbanism 

Paris urbanism plan

The Tuileries garden and the axis of the Champs Elysee are north of the River Seine in the top left corner of this nineteenth century plan of Paris. Baron Haussmann and Louis Napoleon re-planned  Paris in the nineteenth century, converting it from a medieval and renaissance city into a baroque city inter-laced with a network of urban avenues - the greatest of which is the avenue of the Champs Elysee. Paris is one of the best examples of a great city designed on the basis of an idea which was born and nurtured in gardens. The first section of the axis, which runs from the Louvre Pyramid to the Place de la Concorde still has a predominantly garden character. The central section, which is the Champs Elysee is a major traffic artery - despite having a landscape name, meaning Elysian Fields. The third section, which runs through La Defense, has the character of an urban landscape design - which it is.

Diagram showing the relationship between urban design, garden design and landscape architecture urbanism

Olmsted's Emerald Necklace for Boston gave the city an urban design structure

The idea of basing urban design on axial planning derives from early Baroque Rome. Pope Sixtus V used the idea in his own villa and then for his plan for Rome. The axial idea was later used for Paris, Washington DC and New Delhi. It is a historic approach to landscape urbanism.

For 200 years after 1800 the dominant idea  in urban design was that of relating urbanism to landscape through creating creating a transition. In terms of open space it ran from town squares to country parks to national parks and nature reserves

The charbagh, in Isfahan, was a garden design idea that was given an urban landscape use by Shah Abbas I

Sixtus V plan for Rome used avenues and vistas of the kind he had previously used in his early Baroque garden at the Villa Montalto (see above drawing with the axial avenues picked out in red)

The central area of Beijing, comprising the Forbidden City and Beihai Park, was the imperial palace compound. The plan, for landscape and urbanism, derives from a very long history Chinese garden estate planning.

The plan of Nara, in Japan, like that of Beijing, derives from the layout of palaces, gardens and cities in Chang'an, China, now called Xian

The axis of the Champs Elysee, in Paris, is a projection of a garden axis by a great landscape architect: Andre Le Notre garden. The urban avenue now runs from the Tuileries to La Defense

The design of renaissance squares and streets derived from garden designs