After this exercise, we considered the starting points for creating a garden design for a client – carrying out an analysis of the existing landscape and evaluating the requirements of the client. Lena taught us to think of landscape analysis in four categories: identity, anthropology, environment and perception.
- Identity: the location of the landscape; its character; any connections with other areas; the history and culture.
- Anthropology / humans: the functions and uses of the existing site; roads and paths; buildings; benches, lights and other equipment; infrastructure such as pipes and taps.
- Environment: the site’s topography; hydrology (where and how does water collect, does it sit stagnant?); soil; vegetation (weeds as well as intentional plants); orientation and micro-climates; signs of wildlife.
- Perception / use: views in and out of the landscape; the feeling of the place; sounds and smells, the true use of the garden (including parts that don’t get used); and how people move around it.
We were taught the importance of collecting this information through several in-person visits to a landscape before any design is put together. The information can be collected by taking photos, sketches, notes and obtaining any existing plans or surveys of the landscape.
In addition to visits to a site, a lot of useful information to inform a garden design can be obtained from a client questionnaire. This ideally would come before any plans or designs are drawn up, and may be more of a dialogue with the client than a one-off interaction. Lena pointed out numerous pieces of information that a questionnaire could ask for, from the basics about the infrastructure and services on a site through to allergies of garden users, pets that use the garden, how they want to use the garden and how they want it to feel (such as private, exciting, calm etc.). Here we were taught that it is just as important to ask what a client dislikes as what they like – for example, colours they don’t like, hard landscaping features that they wouldn’t want, areas of the garden they don’t currently use – as this can be highly informative in terms of being able to create a garden that will be loved and fully used by the client. In addition, this is the opportunity to find out how the garden will be maintained, such as who will be doing the maintenance, how much time will they give to this, and what budget will be available for maintenance after the initial creation of the garden.
Following the teaching of these key preliminary processes in garden design, we were then assigned a task that we would complete over the rest of the week. We were tasked with creating a garden design for a hypothetical garden in Greece. Our brief was:
to create a garden for a couple in their 40s with two children aged five and seven and a medium-sized dog. Their wishes are for a vegetable garden near the house, a herb garden, and a seating area with a pergola. Their plot is 20m wide x 25m long.
Over the course of the week, we needed to produce a design that included at least three parts:
• Bubble diagram (showing initial concept and connections)
• Garden masterplan, including a cross-section diagram
• Planting plan
The bubble diagram was to form the starting point of our design, as it is a way of arranging all the different spaces within the garden plot and looking at the relationships between them, without getting caught up in too much detail. All of the different components of our garden could be mapped out as bubbles within the plot, and we could consider how they would connect up, both visually and through movement of those using the garden. Here, we were using tracing paper over a fixed scale plan of the 25m x 20m garden, and we were using a freehand sketching style. As we considered which parts of the garden would or wouldn’t work well next to each other, and how they could be connected, we would discard and refine a bubble diagram, placing tracing paper over tracing paper, until we finally got to the space arrangement that we were happy with.