Every great landscape architectural project begins with a great design. Quality design does not only make a developer’s vision a reality; quality design proves that said vision will meet its target return, and considers certain factors and amenities to enhance the surrounding outdoor environment, effectively going above and beyond the original vision.
The design phase of a landscape architectural development project may seem fairly straightforward – give your vision to a landscape architect and get the necessary documents. But good landscape design work goes farther than that.
To ensure that all goes smoothly, we have here the four stages of high level landscape architectural design, the importance of each stage, and how an optimized version of each will grant you a greater ROI.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: PRE-DESIGN
Here the scope, features, purpose, and functionality of your development project’s landscape architectural design are defined. Together with your architect, the landscape architect develops and refines a “vision” for the development’s exterior. The expectation of wants and needs of those who will live, work, study or play in the space are also explored.
A key step in the Pre-Design phase is to gain familiarity with the site through a site observation analysis and evaluation, including topography, solar access, wind and weather patterns, water, vegetation, historic precedents, and ecology at large, as well as to qualitative characteristics like light quality and views. Other basic parameters are established as well, including code research, rough budgets and time lines.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: CONCEPTUAL DESIGN
Now the landscape architectural development project is moving in a specific direction, and all options are on the table. Your landscape architect presents concepts that meet the goals of your shared vision. The value of different amenity features such as bbq areas, lounge seating/gathering spaces, overhead shade structures, fire elements, pools/hot tubs, sculptural water features, and site walls and screens are evaluated and considered.
Although the conceptual design at this stage is not ready for bids, it can allow preliminary budget analysis. The design at this stage can also act as a long-range blueprint in the event that the overall project may involve stages to be implemented over time. Once all parties have agreed that the conceptual design represents the direction they want to pursue, then additional details can be developed to allow the design to be accurately implemented and refined in subsequent design stages.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
If the conceptual design was done correctly, then this stage is where you get to see your finished product further refined and fleshed out with appropriate material choices and combinations. Quality design will also incorporate demographic-based expectations and will be the template from which the rest of the process is derived. As far as you’re concerned, this is your last economically feasible chance to make minor modifications to your plans, so be sure that you know what you’re doing.
During this phase, the landscape architect will create a series of detail drawings, each one further fleshing out the basic concepts for the space with structural notations for patios, shade structures and canopies, rooftop pools/hot tubs, and notations for amenities that enhance and reinforce the theme you’ve chosen. Although this phase allows the designer to finalize space and function to a great degree, the primary achievement is to enable the client to understand how the project will function as well as give more detail about what it will look like.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS
Continuing the design process, the landscape architect prepares drawings suitable for permit submittal and construction which are referred to as construction documents. These documents -also known as Construction Drawings and Specifications- are used to actually build your landscape architectural design. These are legal documents that must be technically accurate, conform to industry standards and governmental codes. They are detailed representations that inform your builders of every item to be installed.
A typical Construction Document package includes dimensioned layout plans, site and hardscape layout plans, site amenity layout plans, low voltage landscape lighting layout plans, planting plans, irrigation plans, and construction details for all amenity features in your project. The detailed clarity of these plans helps the contractor understand your project, helping to avoid costly mistakes during construction.
Hopefully this post has helped you to better understand what you can expect during the landscape architectural design process. Working with a landscape architect—especially for the first time—can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Open communication and collaboration between you and your architect will help ensure you are guided to a successful project.