Creating a new landscape layout for your home is an exciting endeavor. Whether you want to have a pool house, a new seating area with a fire pit, or even just add a planting bed for an extra pop of color— every outdoor creation brings value and joy to your home.
So, how do you get started? You need to have a landscape design process to ensure the success of the finished project. This process occurs before the building of the landscape and involves different phases to enable easy management and efficiency.
But before we dig into what each stage of the process entails, let’s cover some basics.
A landscape architect is a licensed professional who specializes in the planning and design of exterior spaces. Thus, they can help you lay out a plan for your yard if you want to spruce things up or need structural changes.
It’s important to note that landscape architects don’t build landscapes; rather, they’re trained to design landscapes. They collaborate with their client and other contractors by creating detailed design drawings of the landscape or structure.
An architect works by following the landscape design process. Landscape design is defined as the planning, analysis, and design of outdoor living spaces. It integrates a diverse range of elements to achieve spaces that are functional, up to code, and beautiful for outdoor living.
Some examples of what these specialized architects design are gardens, plantings, fountains, pools, pool houses, decks, and paving.
Beginning construction of a new pool house without going through the design process in architectural landscaping is like building a dresser from IKEA without reading the directions. You’ll end up spending longer than you need to put the dresser together, only to be left with drawers that don’t open correctly and four extra screws. While the stakes are pretty low for a dresser, you definitely don’t want this to happen with your new pool house.
That’s why you need a design process to ensure everything is ready to go before you begin building. This process transforms ideas and goals into a three-dimensional reality. It happens before the actual construction begins to ensure that initial concepts can come to life effectively. Thus, you could say that this process is an effort at creative problem solving that occurs between the first representational drawings and the actual building of the structure or landscape.
There are many steps in a landscape architectural design process. Depending on the scale of the project, the budget, time constraints, and collaboration, steps may be added or eliminated. But, there are a few stages of the process that can’t be ignored regardless of what the landscaping goal is.
So, in this article, we’re going to focus on the three most important phases of architectural design: schematic design, developmental design, and communicating construction protocol.
Also known as the schematic design phase, the sketch is the first drawing of what the potential landscaping project will look like. You’ll likely see more than one sketch, as one may be for the layout, another for a particular section, another for a view, and so forth. These drawings are typically vague and open-ended, but they’re a super fast way to put your idea on paper and give shape to your vision.
Once your architect completes the schematic illustration of the project, you’ll get to review it together.
During this phase of the landscape design process, your architect will show you a variety of sketches and inspirational photos so you can get a glimpse into how the space will come together. You’ll also get to browse through material choices, plant types, and different layout scenarios. This is all the fun, aesthetic stuff you’ll look at with your architect before you talk about structural and functional details.
Once you’re both on the same page regarding the overall appearance of the project, your landscape architect will walk you through reports to help you understand the practical aspect of the architectural design process. These reports or plans will show proposed spatial arrangements, basic functions the landscape or structure will feature, programs, and any constraints.
Mood boards are used during phase one of the architecture process to bring a variety of inspirational sources into one cohesive collage. The purpose of these boards is to provoke creativity for the project’s major visual elements. So, your mood board may include color palettes, previous similar landscaping projects, patterns, pavers, and textures.
A plant palette is a collection of different plant species that’s used as a reference point in this first phase of the landscape design process. If your project will have plants, this type of palette is very useful as it creates the overall look for gardens by showing a variety of specific plant species. For example, it’ll highlight foliage textures, types of blooms, colors, and plant forms that’ll pair well with the overall aesthetic of the landscape.
The primary purpose of this phase in the architectural scheme is to create a concept plan that sets the vision and tone for the project. The sketches drawn by your architect, the mood board, and the plant palette form your concept plan.
Expect your concept plan to be loose. Meaning it should convey the intent and feel of the landscape project by showing the big picture and general ideas. For example, it likely won’t note the particular type of plant you’ll have in one spot; rather, it’ll list suggestions of plant types, textures, and colors. So, it may say “garden hedge” instead of “a mix of evergreen shrubs of similar heights” and “large, shade tree” instead of “northern red oak tree.”
During this phase of the landscape design process, your direct and honest feedback is necessary to ensure you end up with a landscape that you love. Because this part of the process is all about seeing the big picture and the overall features of the design, make sure to ask your architect questions and state your expectations and desires for the finished look.
Once your concept plan is complete, and you and your landscape architect are on the same page, you’ll begin to nail down specifics during the design development (“DD”) phase. This is the part of the process where the architect finalizes the schematic design and starts to refine the details established in phase one. In other words, your architect will develop the concept plan into the three-dimensional form it’ll be once the project is done. This will help you further understand the scope of the design as you’ll begin to see what it will look like in the flesh.
Design development in architecture is the logical next step in the landscape design process because it shows how the conceptual ideas from phase one can come to fruition. Thus, it helps the architect figure out how to work around potential topography or budget issues.
Design development documents are a crucial piece of the architectural method because they provide information that’s necessary to the construction of the landscape.
These documents may include site plans, elevations, plumbing guidelines, and mechanical and electrical drawings.
The construction design phase isn’t the actual building of the project. It’s the stage in the landscape design process where the parameters for the building of the project are established through construction drawings (“CD”). So, it usually requires collaboration with other consultants who specialize in construction. This collaboration is important to avoid possible issues of architectural design and construction overlap.
The CD documents prepared by your architect help expedite the building design process by providing the general contractor with helpful construction details. These documents typically include schedules for the construction workers, blueprints, permit applications, and plans for specific building sections.
Now that you know what to expect during your collaboration with your landscape architect, what’s stopping you from achieving the outdoor oasis you’ve always wanted? Call one of our landscaping design experts and get one step closer to bringing your landscape vision to life.
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