Creating The Perfect Collaboration

Creating The Perfect Collaboration

September 30, 2020

Architects and landscape architects provide very different services, but their work is not necessarily mutually exclusive. 

How do we work together to design a project and how can the client take advantage of their diverse skill sets to achieve optimal value for their project?  Typically, a house is designed first, and then the landscape and hardscape design follows in a very reactionary fashion.  Often the architect and the landscape architect never meet, or they have very minimal collaboration late in the project’s design phases.  But this does not have to be the case and for the greater benefit of the project, should not be the case. 

Houses that are smartly designed have a regard for site-specific planning, sustainable design techniques and passive cooling strategies.  Too often, however, home design is driven by trendy floor plans and exteriors, market resale concerns or hyper focused curb appeal.  Similarly, landscape design can be more about aesthetic appeal and less about its practical effects.  The purpose of landscaping and hardscaping is not to just make a house more beautiful.  If a house can and should be smartly designed apart from trends, landscape design should follow suit to complement this effort. 

In the climate zone of Southwest Florida, passive cooling strategies should be a primary objective.  Passive cooling involves utilizing structural and landscape design techniques that do not rely on mechanical or electrical systems to achieve solar heat-gain mitigation and spatial cooling.  The architecture of a house can be crafted in a way to strategically create passive colling opportunities, but the landscape and hardscape design is a critical component of this effort.  For this reason, the architect and the landscape architect need to collaborate earlier in the house design process to strategize about the project.  Together they can study the solar orientation of spaces and glass openings, the seasonal prevailing winds that carry moisture laden air, the property’s shading needs, and the radiant heat gain from materials.  Knowing this information, the landscape architect can utilize certain types of trees, landscape buffers and hardscape materials on the property.  Shade structures like a pergola, planted courtyard or clustered tree canopy can be used to create exterior “cool zones”, which drop the ambient temperature around the house.   Glare from undesirable sun angles can be tempered with proper tree types and placement.  Radiant heat-gain effects of hardscaping can be significantly reduced by careful design and selection of materials. In addition, indigenous plantings that are inherently sustainable in the climate zone of the house should always be considered for their low impact on maintenance and the environment. 

Apart from being environmentally responsive, collaboration between the architect and landscape architect is also important to the design of the building.  The style, scale and proportions of the architecture can all be complemented by the proper landscape and hardscape design.  Layering the scale of density of the landscaping can transition the eye to perceive a pleasant context of marrying the natural surroundings with built structures.  Visual sight lines can be organized by a series of intentionally connected exterior points of interest or uses, but then terminated by the presentation of a carefully selected landscape ensemble.  Similarly, a far-reaching view can be framed by selectively placed landscaping to focus the eye on the intended object. 

Too many times the landscape architect is brought in later in the process – an unfortunate situation because there are missed opportunities for critical collaboration, often due to the client’s perspective on what to focus on first versus later.  If there is no synergy or communication, the landscape architect is just picking up the pieces of a concept we have started, but without a collaborative vision. 

Most properties are on some sort of amenity, like the Gulf of Mexico or Golf Course.  We use landscape architecture to create a focal point for the house. The structure and the land must marry together, and the architect and landscape architect work together to make that happen.  Many people may not consider how architecture and landscape architecture can relate to each other with very intentional purposes for something as common as our homes.  Whether those purposes are practical or aesthetic, the collaboration of the two disciplines is necessary for overall good design-which adds value to our home environment and the daily experience of our lives. 

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