When a landscape architect designs a landscape for its clients – taking a vision and developing it through to construction – it is known as the design process.
Understanding the various steps in the design process can help you understand how a professionally designed landscape brings all the elements, from the house to the driveway to garden, together into one seamless product.
The design process begins when the landscape architect meets with its clients to understand their needs and desires. This includes gathering information about their lifestyles, activities, goals and their budget. It also determines what time commitment – if any – the clients are willing to put toward maintaining their landscape once it’s complete. The landscape architect uses this information to determine the direction of the design.
From there, the landscape architect will complete an inventory and analysis of the property.
If the existing landscape conditions are not already known or the site is difficult, the landscape architect may work with a licensed surveyor to record man-made features such as buildings, driveways or walkways, utility lines and natural ones like trees, drainage areas and steep slopes or rocks.
The site analysis takes into account other issues – both opportunities and constraints -- that may affect the design, including solar aspect, views, noise or winds.
The schematic design phase comes next, when the designer takes all of the previous information and assembles it into conceptual landscape plans. These initial drawings illustrate the goals and vision of the client, and designate locations for various landscape uses and design elements, such as seating areas and snow storage.
Typically, a designer will create alternative concepts from which the client can choose before they move forward to the design development phase.
In this phase, the designer takes the client’s chosen concept and brings it to life with details like the size and location of a garden or patio, the color and shape of the stones and flowers, and the species of trees and shrubs.
When the design development phase is complete, the client will be able to visualize the entire plan – which will incorporate various areas and elements and bring them together in a beautiful, cohesive landscape.
The final phase of the design process is known as construction documentation. During this phase, the designer produces all plans and drawings necessary for construction. These essential documents include all the necessary details (how will the wall be built, for example, or what is the exact location of each tree) for the contractor to understand the client’s vision and carry that vision through from the initial concept to reality.