By Fred Learey
Architectural Structures in Landscape Design
Incorporating structural elements into landscape designs can dramatically improve the function and aesthetic quality of a landscape. When properly designed, landscape structures choreograph the movements and views between various landscape spaces and the home. A garden gate defines a transition to a new garden room and visually draws the visitor to explore. Garden walls and fences delineate the walls of an outdoor room. Architectural elements in the garden define spaces and activities while adding form and structure to the organic nature of the living landscape.
Structures such as gates, fences, free standing walls, retaining walls, and pergolas serve various functional uses and also perform a critical aesthetic role. When properly designed and placed, these landscape features help our minds organize the space, putting us at ease, which then enables us to enjoy the other things: a bubbling water feature, striking gardens, the scent of blooming Lilac. In addition to helping us “read” the space we are encountering, structures can artfully create or highlight an existing focal point and gracefully direct us to interesting points throughout the space. Likewise, the horizontal line created from the outline of a fence or wall can be used to draw our eye away from uninteresting or unappealing elements.
If you are considering an architectural structural in your landscape design project, explore places that you feel have gotten it right and ask what works in those places. Alternatively, consider places that don’t seem successful and ask why. Do the built elements relate harmoniously to the existing structures, or do they look like add-ons? Do the walls, paths, or fences help you find your way through the space and create dynamic areas? Or do they seem plopped down amid a void of endless lawn or paving? Do symmetrically placed stone columns direct your attention to a gorgeous view? Or is your attention brought to an expanse of asphalt? As you learn to critique landscapes with these questions and more in mind, you will discover how the design details and overall layouts of architectural structures can contribute to successful landscape designs.