In many great building designs, the landscape around the building and the building itself are so closely connected to the overall experience that it is impossible to imagine one without the other.

Landscape architecture has a rich history, and for centuries has been intimately connected to the experience of the buildings it enriches. Whether you are looking at a formal garden surrounding a French chateau, with carefully shaped and tended plants, or a Japanese garden, where every view angles is considered and layered with plants and objects of different texture and color, or an English garden, where a less formal design creates an enhanced vision of nature, or an elegant backyard garden, every culture in every era had it’s own way of using landscape design to create beauty and build spaces for reflection, contemplation or gathering.

Similar to Architecture, Landscape Architecture blends art and science. It studies formal principles as well as ecology, botany and engineering to design, plan, and manage our gardens, yards, parks, and so on.

So, What is a Landscape Architecture?

Landscape architecture is the integration of nature with buildings and built environments. From small gardens and courtyards to citywide park systems, it is a broad field of practice, with powerful impacts on how we experience the world. Landscape architecture is a different track in education and apprenticeship from architecture, with it’s own certification process. It includes the design of intimate, private spaces, outdoor public areas, parks, and playgrounds and the conservation and restoration of natural places disturbed by humans or natural events.

This field is tasked with crafting spaces that respect the natural environment while striving for function and beauty. The connection to nature and landscape is an important part of our wellness architecture design philosophy, and our use of Biophilic Design principles to design spaces that resonate with our mind, body and spirit.

Techniques and elements such as plantings, terrain shape and elevation, and water features are meticulously planned and deployed to enhance or transform perceptions and uses of space.

So, What is a Landscape Architecture_

Importance of Landscape in Architecture

Picture the photos of great buildings and how they connect to the landscape around them. How does a row of trees lining the drive set the stage for our first impression of a building? How do you experience the gardens, both as you walk through them, and as you look across them from indoor rooms? How does the sound of a fountain or creek change how you feel? This is how landscape architecture shapes our world.

Landscape architecture is much more than adding a layer of beauty. It plays a key role in environmental sustainability and social well-being. We mentioned it was both art and science. On the science side, landscape design contributes to a region’s ecological health by promoting biodiversity, managing stormwater, and reducing ambient temperatures through strategic plantings and the creation of shaded areas. These elements work together to mitigate urban heat islands and improve air quality.

Landscape architects are often tasked with designing the grading of the land around buildings, protecting foundations and basements from water damage. They collaborate with architects, civil engineers and geotechnical engineers to help determine where the building is placed on the site, and how it sits into the ground.

Moreover, landscapes are integral to individuals’ psychological and physical health. Thoughtfully designed outdoor spaces encourage physical activity, reduce stress, and promote mental wellness. They provide essential community spaces that facilitate social interaction, recreation, and relaxation, enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. In architectural planning, including landscape elements is essential for environmental benefits fostering vibrant communities, and enriching human experiences.

Importance of Landscape in Architecture

Types of Landscape Architecture Projects

Landscape architecture projects vary widely, each designed to meet specific environmental, aesthetic, and functional needs. Below are some common types:

  • Public Parks and Recreational Facilities: Designed to provide communities with green, open spaces for leisure, sports, and gatherings, enhancing community cohesion and well-being.
  • Urban Design: Integrates infrastructure such as green roofs, courtyards, roof gardens, green walls, and tree-lined streets into city planning to beautify urban environments, improve air quality, and promote sustainability. Think of how we can use of trees to create shade along the sidewalks, or to define the edges of outdoor spaces. Think of how parks break up the journey through a city, bringing light and air.
  • Residential Landscapes: Designing harmonious and functional outdoor living spaces for homes, including garden design, natural swimming pools, and outdoor seating areas. Works with architect and engineers to make sure water drains away from buildings.
  • Ecological Restoration: Aims to rehabilitate damaged ecosystems, restoring native plantings, improving soil and water quality, and increasing biodiversity.
  • Commercial Landscapes: Enhances the aesthetics and functionality of business properties, providing visually appealing and functional spaces that reflect the business’s brand and values.

Types of Landscape Architecture Projects

Role of Landscape Architects

Landscape architects play a pivotal role in planning and designing outdoor spaces, contributing to the overall aesthetic and helping come up with practical solutions for the areas that surround the architecture. Their responsibilities can be outlined as follows:

  • Design and Planning: Landscape architects create comprehensive plans incorporating natural and man-made structures. They balance ecology with visual appeal, ensuring that outdoor spaces are both beautiful and functional.
  • Environmental Stewardship: They advocate for and implement sustainable practices, aiming to preserve natural resources and promote ecological balance. This includes selecting appropriate plant species, designing for water conservation, and restoring natural habitats.
  • Community Development: Landscape architects enhance public spaces through thoughtful design, fostering social interaction and community engagement. Their work contributes to creating environments that are conducive to public health and wellness.
  • Technical and Regulatory Expertise: They navigate complex zoning laws, environmental regulations, and building codes to ensure that projects are compliant.
  • Educational and Advisory Role: Landscape architects also serve as educators and advisors to clients, communities, and policymakers on the benefits of environmentally responsible planning.

In essence, landscape architects are not just designers but also custodians of the land, playing a crucial role in shaping sustainable, functional, and enriching environments for all users.

Role of Landscape Architects

Elements of Landscape Architecture

Landscape architecture involves various elements essential to crafting functional and appealing outdoor spaces. These elements include:

  • Plantings: Trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses are selected for their aesthetic qualities and ecological benefits. Plantings can provide shade, improve air quality, and create seasonal interest in a landscape.
  • Water Features: Elements such as ponds, fountains, and waterfalls add visual interest and a sense of tranquility to landscapes. They can also play a role in sustainable water management by incorporating rainwater harvesting or recirculating systems. Often they will be involved in coordinating the design of swimming pools, and the areas around them.
  • Hardscape Elements: These include non-living components such as walkways, walls, patios, and stairs. Hardscape materials are chosen for durability, aesthetics, and their ability to complement the architecture and the surrounding landscape.
  • Lighting: Strategic lighting placement enhances the landscape’s usability after dark and increases safety. It can also highlight key features and create dramatic effects.
  • Furniture and Amenities: Benches, picnic tables, bike racks, and other amenities increase the functionality of outdoor spaces, making them more enjoyable and accessible for users.
  • Structural Features: Arbors, pergolas, bridges, and gazebos add vertical elements to a landscape, providing shade and architectural interest.

Landscape architects carefully integrate each element to create cohesive, sustainable, and inviting outdoor environments.

Elements of Landscape Architecture

Integrating Landscape and Architecture Design

Integrating landscape and architectural design is part of the architect’s role, and they select a landscape architect that works well with their team and can translate and enhance the vision of the project. Coordinating the building and the landscape is where the magic starts to happen.
In the initial stages, the landscape is carefully considered so that the project respects the natural topography, existing flora, and environmental conditions. The orientation of buildings is strategically planned to maximize natural lighting and heating; each room can be thought of in terms of it’s daylight needs, and what you see looking out a window can change your experience entirely.

Material selection is also a critical aspect of coordination between the architect and the landscape architect. The materials of the building and the landscape features need to work together, and are then accentuated by the plantings used in the landscape. We prefer to use natural materials such as stone and wood for a variety of wellness, performance and visual reasons. Native plants are often chosen because they tend to thrive using less inputs.

Water management is another crucial area where landscape and architectural design intersect. Innovative solutions, such as green roofs and permeable pavements, are implemented to manage stormwater effectively, reduce runoff, and seamlessly integrate the water cycle into the architectural design.

Through thoughtful planning and collaborative design efforts, landscape and architecture can be aligned to create spaces that make us feel good, enhance our buildings, grow and age beautifully and perform and contribute to the greater environmental context.