Landscape Architecture by Christine Bell - The Building Press Issue 10 September 2007

I love plans. They are tangible. Ideas on paper. A stroke of the pencil and something new is created. A plan drawn to scale of a property is a wonderful starting point for design. It represents a large area of ground on a small piece of paper.

It’s fun to work with plans because you can see relationships between areas that cannot be seen so readily on the ground. They provide another perspective. Another way of looking at things.

A plan drawn to scale is perfect to work with because the proportions are accurate. You can balance large areas of open space with large areas of planting. There is a sure sense of proportion. Putting it on paper is easier and cheaper than putting it initially on the ground. You can see what works and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t look good on paper it will not work on the ground either. If it looks right on paper it will look right on the ground.
It’s not about the graphics, it’s about creating a pleasing sense of proportion and good relationships between spaces.

Interplay between site and paper is important. It is good for a designer to get ideas from the site, put them on paper and play with them. See what evolves. New ideas emerge. Relationships between spaces will become apparent on paper that you were not aware of on the ground. There will be a flow that comes into the design. It just comes when you play and enjoy what you do. Spaces will flow from one to the other. Form will emerge. When it starts to look good on the paper more ideas will come and the design will grow.

When you are happy with the plan, or more especially if you are not, take it back to the site and imagine what it will look like. You will know what will work and what wont. More ideas will come from the site. The design will continue to evolve and grow. The interplay that comes from working between site and drawing board allows a design to emerge that is appropriate to the site.

The other interplay that is just as important is the more personal one, the appropriateness of the design for the client. The design must not only fit the potential of the site but also the needs of the client. The client will know how they want to use the site and what feels right to them. Good communication between client and designer will allow a plan to emerge that feels right to the client as well as to the designer. When a designer is aware of their clients needs these naturally become incorporated into the design.

It is important to be aware of all outside parameters, from the client and from the site. Then the flow can happen and the design can naturally evolve in a way that is satisfying.

Allowing the ‘flow’ is where the magic is.
It is fun.
It is creative.
It is intuitive.