Here in the landscape architecture world, we have been celebrating April as World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM). This international occasion aims to introduce our profession to the public by showcasing spaces designed by landscape architects around the world. A noble endeavor, indeed – as many landscape architects will attest to the fact that not even our own close friends and family members really understand what it is that we do!
At RVi we also enjoyed participating in the month-long WLAM social media campaign, which encouraged people to share photos of landscape architect-designed spaces to promote a better understanding of the profession. I know that a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words, but in this case I can’t help but think these photos are only telling half the story.
As these photos so clearly communicate, the end product of a landscape architect’s work is often a nice outdoor space for people to enjoy. But until you are physically in that space, experiencing it from different angles and perspectives, it is difficult to fully grasp the scope of what landscape architecture is, and what a landscape architect does.
At RVi, when we sit down to plan or design an outdoor space – be it a 5,000 acre ranch or a 500 square foot garden, we acknowledge the fact that we are not writing the first chapter of this space. It is important to remember that someone else has already been there, with their own stories, which have become the site’s history. And in addition to the people who previously inhabited the space, there are many natural systems at work which we must seek to understand and respect.
As designers, we are charged with understanding and leveraging a host of different forces outside of landscape architecture that impact our projects – market trends, business economics, policies and codes, engineering, geography, and construction practices, to name a few. Along with our knowledge of planning and landscape architecture, these are the technical tools that we carry. It is the combination of these technical tools with our creativity as designers that tells the other half of the story of the practice of landscape architecture.
The end results, of course, are the beautiful outdoor spaces that we all enjoy every day. Successful outdoor spaces attract people, offer enjoyable spaces for both personal interaction and personal reflection, and they tell a story that is unique to the space. It is in these inviting, enjoyable, and inspiring places that people feel comfortable enough to create and share their own personal stories – and become part of the larger story themselves.