Landscape design is a balance of aesthetics and function. Attention to aesthetics requires sensitivity to spatial harmony, while function allows the space to work, particularly in a public venue, where it’s important to fit into an established order.
Focal points, featured in public spaces, work well—if they have mass to produce a visual impact. Too small, and they are lost in the background. If their value primarily lies in being a one off object, yet timid, their only impact is on the budget. Bang for the buck goes missing, disgruntled owners question the designer’s rationale and inconvenient (read: “costly”) reconnoitering is in order. Of course, no one who had charge of the purse strings knew anything about proportion, scale, the Golden Mean, etc., when it came time to pay for the Tuilleries. So there it sits today—just as it was designed—a model of dynamic ambiguity. Perhaps that was the idea at that point in French history.
The Visual Impact of Garden Landscape Design
With no hard and fast rule for making the decision whether to use repetition OR mass as a design guide, in fact, a combination often works well. However, it does come down to a matter of scale and focus. Perhaps Mum got it right when she gave Frank Lloyd a set of blocks when he was a little man. It’s difficult to find a dynamic error among his designs. It’s that third eye he had that captured three-dimensional space and knew how to manipulate it with enthusiasm and restraint, painting a composition with harmony of scale and character to which people could relate and enjoy. Somehow his designs seemed to lift people higher than they could get on their own. Contrasting the Tuilleries with Wright’s Falling Waters and the contrast becomes clear: enhance the natural environment with dynamics that harmonize through geometry. Horizontal vs. vertical clearly contrasts with scale and presents a focus—indeed a dynamic success: he honors the land and the trees. Click here to see some IOTA projects
Testing for Dynamics
Standing in the middle of an empty landscape, most people would still call it “space.” Designers don’t consider an empty landscape space until there’s something occupying it—giving it character, dimension and meaning. Just putting one item in the landscape begins to shape the composition and negative space, while still dominant, has been influenced. Keep adding items and the space is influenced directly in proportion to the number of items. The question is: has the space been changed dynamically?
We’ve Got This!
Playing with blocks may not be a bad idea. Easier to see when we can move the pieces around. Giving owners prime design calls for an installation that brings value-added dynamics, brought about by contrast in scale and/or a focal point. It’s much less expensive than a do-over and with a few illustrative photos (or an impressive high-tech presentation, commensurate with the budget), owners can see the difference immediately. Giving them the “doing it Wright” speech, along with the presentation, usually persuades them to render the best decision. No deux-overs.