Landscaping involves enhancing the appearance and practicality of outdoor space- not just filling the remaining areas around buildings with rows of trees and patches of grass. Additionally, there are many elements that need to be considered while designing a landscape, so much so that it might get overwhelming to start.
Here are some important factors to keep in mind while planning a landscape:
- Predetermine the project goals.
- Carry out climate analysis.
- Study hydrology.
- Study the soil type.
- observe the existing vegetation.
- Analyze the local context.
- Design for all senses.
- Make way-finding easy.
- Consider maintenance.
- Take Safety into account.
- Consider fire-proofing.
Predetermine the Project Goals:
Landscape planning should start during the ideation phase itself and should go hand in hand with the building design.
- Clarify and understand the project purpose, goals, and requirements.
- Weigh the environmental, economic, and social opportunities and restrictions.
Carry out Climate Analysis:
A thorough study of the site's climate is necessary since the survival of vegetation in the area completely depends upon it.
- Study the average, annual and monthly precipitation, humidity, and temperature of the site. This can be done through the psychrometric chart analysis.
- Determine the wind, solar, thermal and other elements in order to make use of them for renewable and sustainable strategies.
- Study the path of the sun to determine placement of shadows from trees and other structures.
Study and map the contour and natural water flow of the site.
- Estimate the volume of water (rainwater, greywater, stormwater etc) available onsite for reuse.
- Map existing water bodies (lakes, ponds, streams etc) and strive for ecological restoration opportunities.
- Make efficient use of the existing water resources on the site.
Study the Soil Type:
Research the site geology and subsoil conditions.
- Determine soil type and note its characteristics such as texture, pH, erosion potential, depth etc.
Observe the Existing Vegetation:
Identify and map vegetative communities, as well as wildlife species dependent on them, present on site.
- Identify areas to be protected or those suitable for development.
- Create a vegetative cover map that identifies historical trees, heritage or special status trees, invasive species, and any other significant vegetation.
Analyze the Local Context:
Sites are part of a larger ecological and social community. Hence, it is important to understand the surrounding conditions in order to mutually benefit.
- Developing connections with the community and supporting the local character of a region.
- Giving the stakeholders a sense of ownership of the place.
Design for All Senses:
People learn through a variety of methods, be it visual, auditory, reading/writing etc. Giving multiple means gives them options from which they can choose their best means to learn from. Making the design inclusive is a highly important factor.
Make Way-finding Easy:
Humans orient themselves to proper directions using vantage points or overlook. Hence, clear landmarks are an absolute necessity.
- Emphasize site entrances and gateways.
- Subdivide larger areas into smaller, memorable regions (approximately three to seven) to make way-finding easier.
- Use site landmarks (memorable shapes, mostly vertically oriented, which can be visible from different vantage points).
Choose native species as much as possible. Sites that are designed to thrive within their natural climatic conditions require less resources to sustain.
- The design form will greatly affect the maintenance regime. For example, a garden landscape with geometric and defined shapes, having a complex arrangement may require more and frequent maintenance than organic ones.
- Make sure the invasive plant species within or nearby the site are removed and constant maintenance should be done to make sure they are not there.
Take Safety into Account:
Safety is an important factor while designing any space. No matter how good a design is, it will not ppeal to users if it does not guarantee their safety while using it.
- Design for natural surveillance where the users can easily see the coming and going of others. This can be accomplished by citing entrances, walkways, and other points of site access visible from adjacent busy places.
- Improve visibility/sightlines. This can be achieved using lower ground cover (under 75 cm, in height) as well as an overstory canopy (above 2 m).
- Have proper buffer zones on all sides of the site from buildings.
- Make sure regular maintenance is done in order to remove the dead vegetation, which might catch fire.
There are numerous techniques and practices when it comes to designing a landscape. However, we should keep in mind that the design should not only be appealing to the eyes, but also beneficial to the environment, while also reflecting on the area's contextual beauty.
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