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The Emotions of Landscape Design

Emotions of Landscape DesignEveryone knows that the process of designing a landscape involves solving practical problems regarding the site and determining what landscape related elements you want to place within that site. Most everyone also knows that you will benefit greatly by selecting a garden theme that will provide a proper setting for your architecture and allow you to enjoy your gardens to the maximum. What many people don’t know is that every landscape imparts an ambiance and elicits emotion to various degrees throughout the gardens. Quite often the emotions experienced come about quite by accident, but a good landscape design professional will actually consider what kinds of feeling they would like to project and take steps to integrate those objectives within the design.

Please take the time to glance through the following “thumbnails” to determine if there are certain feelings or emotions that you would like to incorporate within your gardens and discuss them with your landscape design professional. You won’t be sorry if you perform this function as your landscape will end up having a greatly increased personality as a result.

Please visit The Art of Landscape Design under "Photo Tours & More" to read an expanded description of these garden subjects in Chapter IV, with Garden Gates 8 and 9 in our book "Gateways To Your Garden".

Design Mood/Feel

Design MoodEvery landscape design emanates an atmosphere or mood and that feeling should not be achieved by accident. Even if it is not the primary objective of the garden style, mood or atmosphere will be the result of creating a specific garden theme, but the landscape design professional must have knowledge of how that emotion is demonstrated, as a tool to flesh out and create almost any garden style or theme.

Abstraction: The message of this landscape art form is to impart a viewpoint that can mean different things to each viewer, to be interpreted by their own perspective.

Design Mood and FeelActive: Create spaces with an ambiance that encourages planned activities and urges viewers to participate.

Amazement: This is an excellent goal to achieve in a landscape design. It is also difficult to produce surprise or astonishment without courting the possibility of poor taste.

Amusement: This garden must present something that amuses, entertains, or pleases the observers or participants. You have to know the humor range of those you want to amuse before you attempt this design style.

Atmosphere: The resulting atmosphere in a landscape should not be accidental but result from a successful planning strategy.

Awe: That “drop dead,” “slack jaw” effect. This is a very difficult design goal to effect without getting tacky or becoming tiresome over a long period. If attempted, use quality material in a strong simple style.

Design Mood and FeelCharm: This is hard to define but obvious when you see it. Experiment with design and if you achieve a sense of charm, keep it.

Clarity: A design concept should be obvious to a viewer the minute they walk into it. Make what you create clear cut with no ambiguity.

Consciousness: The designer might attempt to raise the consciousness of the viewer in matters of knowledge or aesthetics. The degree of design subtlety in this matter would depend on the anticipated viewers.

Consistency: There should be a consistency in the design of a garden segment as well as throughout the entire landscape. Inconsistent themes or elements will detract from the whole.

Contrast: Except for an occasional monotone theme garden, contrast between plantings leaf textures, tones & sizes is essential, and even then a very careful control comparison between similar plant characteristics is required. Choose carefully that each plant or plant groups make their own statement.

Controlled chaos: This is not an oxymoron. Chaos in design, carefully considered can be exciting or stimulating.

Design Mood and FeelDimension: A landscape is not a photograph. Plants grow up and down and expand side to side. Manipulate your garden elements to create the most effective dimensional scene from every viewpoint.

Elegance: Not always a result of formal planning, it is always the consequence of good planning and excellent taste in design. It reflects a given culture’s highest ideal and as such, is always appreciated.

Emotional: A bad landscape plan is one that elicits no emotion. Successful design effects the emotion in some manner. Be it envy, nostalgia, inspiration, awe and any or many of the other numerous senses.

Design Mood and FeelEnchantment: Sending a viewer to a different, perhaps unexpected emotional place is reaching enchantment. Get there by creating an atmosphere and insert a powerful iconic element or two.

Focus: Design focus must be strong and directed. Ambiguity is the least tolerated emotion in landscape design. Insure what each element means to the design and demand that the composite is strong.

Grandeur: This impression is best attempted on a large site with considerable help from natural surroundings. When that assistance is available, keep the design simple and in scale.

Humor: These elements are meant to uplift the spirit and create enjoyment for the viewer. They also impart important information about the character of the homeowner.

Design Mood and FeelInspiration: A landscape designer can inspire with their garden designs. Religious and spiritual inspiration can be enhanced with the use of appropriate icons in a beautiful setting.

Instinctual: This is a means for the designer, who when following a strong artistic instinct can create the most original and inspiring designs. Technique alone can only go so far.

Magic Realism: Quite often a perfectly ordinary landscape can be imbued with a unique “magical”, almost surreal twist. By inserting a major accent that doesn't "seem" to fit but by its presence sparks a sense of magic within the viewer.

Melancholy: Just short of sadness, melancholy can be a legitimate design target. Avoid uplifting colors or shapes and provide accents that invoke respect and contemplation.

Design Mood and FeelMetaphors: It can be great fun to insert meaningful metaphors within the garden design that will delight those viewers who know enough to look for them. The designer and client should collaborate on this subtle delight.

Monumental: The signature element in the design should be very large or even larger than life scale and specifically add drama and respect to the landscape scheme.

Movement: A landscape is alive and growing. Leaves and stems move with breezes and windy gusts. A selection based on capturing those movements would be very effective.

Design Mood and FeelMystery: As with all mysteries, there should be a sense of the unknown within the garden. If you can see everything in one glance, there is no mystery.

Nostalgia: Remember grandma’s garden with the hollyhocks and roses, or grandpa’s vegetable garden with the picked off the vine tastes? Clients and guests love being introduced to or sent back in time.

Originality: Assuming good design techniques and taste are considered, everyone enjoys seeing something new in the landscape. Use your imagination and generate surprise.

Peacefulness (& Tranquility): Usually you mimic nature in some form to create a peaceful atmosphere, but it is quite possible to be artistically original in this quest if you avoid conflicting elements and tones.

Rhythm: Keep joyful movement in your landscape lines. Contour your lands up, down and to the sides. Use straight or curved linear edges to transport eyes and minds to a vista or element.

Romantic: Create a mysterious or fascinating quality of romance or love in the garden with symbols and icons that remind or encourage people of those intents.

Design Mood and FeelSerenity: Serene gardens should not be affected by disturbances, but display the quality of being calm and unruffled throughout.

Sense of place: This represents the goal in landscape design to create a garden that appears to be perfect for the site and have the proper appearance and function to complete the targeted theme.

Simplicity: Simplicity of design does not mean simple in implementation.

Spaciousness: Essential in an estate plan, adequate and impressive space, implemented within a proper scale can be effective in every planning venue. Overly small terraces, lawns and ground covers are to be avoided.

Design Mood and FeelSpartan: Spartan and under planned are not the same. A garden done on the cheap is not Spartan. However, a lone strong dramatic element such as a sculpture or tree in a simple setting is Spartan and wonderful.

Spirituality: Any creation that is uplifting to the spirit is considered spiritual and there are few ways to demonstrate this better than in the creation of a garden that innervates the spirit.

Surprise: Boredom is never desirable in any arena. The landscape is no different. Both designer and client should build in surprises to excite and please the viewer.

Symbolic: A garden can contain symbols or in some cases be a symbol. The symbol may represent something natural or demonstrate attainment of status, maturity or creativity, among many other things.

Garden Gate: Psycho/Synthesis

Design Mood and FeelThis is the merging or resolution of the designers and clients psychology and goals within the landscape plan. The client normally cannot efficiently implement a landscape plan without the assistance of landscape design professionals and using their knowledge, talent and experience. Those landscape design professionals cannot effectively create a meaningful garden project for others without the vision, statement of desire and ongoing support of the client. This synergy is critical and the following category segments are some of the areas requiring cooperation and coordination of both the client and designer.

Ambiguity: This is a trait to be avoided. Landscape planning requires specific solutions to specific problems. The inability to define those solutions is anathema to good design.

Design Mood and FeelArtistic expressions: The sense of style and originality of thought of the client/designer will often express itself to the degree of collaboration between the two.

Collaboration: The client and landscape design professional must work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort to decide upon and plan for a perfect garden design.

Contemplation: Both designer and client must consider the ultimate goal for their gardens. Aggressive planning has its place, but quiet contemplation alone or together can achieve wonders.

Designer/client relationship: A designer’s successful relationship with the client is based on paying attention to what the client says. The clients in turn trust that the designer will listen to them and use his or her experience to make their goals a reality.

Design Mood and FeelDesigner/community: The designer must understand the community’s needs, rules & regulations. Then the client must be urged to respect those requirements and influence the ultimate design accordingly.

Designer/environment: The environment, the government and its regulatory guardians have certain authority over residents in some landscape matters. The designer must be aware of these rules and guide the client accordingly.

Imagination: Some designers lose sight of the fact that their clients have an imagination. Explore this talent together. The results may surprise them both.

Design Mood and FeelImagery: Because of their experience, professional designers should be better at the faculty of imaging the soon to be gardens, but don’t count on it.

Passion: The passion evident in most landscape projects should be that of the client, not the landscape design professional. Find out what that client’s passion is and incorporate it in the design.

Power: Strength in the garden design, particularly when imagery is strong and significant and its meaning is evident, equates power. This is felt by the viewer and is highly valued.

Synergy: The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that the combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Visualization: Having the ability to produce an image in the mind and to form a mental picture of a subject.

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