The landscaping profession is small, but its impact on the urban environment is disproportionate. “Our profession is evolving and it is time for us to pursue partnerships and innovative approaches to our work that provide greater opportunities for landscape architects, students and educators who are focused on designing positive change in the world,” said Torey Carter-Conneen. , president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects. They announced a new partnership with Land8 Media and the LABash conference to highlight the essential role of landscape architects in urban design this year.
The discipline of landscape architecture may be rooted in architecture, but it has diverged into entirely separate fields. Architects focus on the design of buildings, while landscape architects examine how projects fit into the larger context of their natural and urban surroundings. As we push buildings to become healthier and more sustainable, we will need to assess the impact of their environment on their performance. “Landscaping and green spaces become such an integral part of a building,” said Chris Gentile, head of design technology at landscape architecture firm TBG Partners. “Architects realize that they are working in a bubble. The building envelope is their perimeter. They start from a white paper. For us, there is never a white paper. There is always something already there.
The problem at the heart of the disconnect between architects and landscape designers comes down to documentation. Deliverables are in 2D, plans are transmitted and approved by stakeholders based on two-dimensional plan documents, but the design process is increasingly taking place in three.
This modeling conflict is difficult to bridge each time the gap needs to be crossed, requiring time and new tools. This is because virtually every version of the design software is aimed at architects. Landscaping is still relatively a niche within the broader architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries despite its growing importance. Programs like Revit, Sketchup, and Rhino are designed to create operational blueprints, not to make things look pretty. But making things look pretty is one of the main purposes of landscaping. Nowadays, designing a green space is not just about “treating it”. There are layers of topography, flora, material sourcing, and sustainability in every well-designed green space. It takes finesse that most of these tools simply don’t have. The tools of architecture come into conflict with the art of landscaping. Modeling something is not the same as designing it.
“Context is so important, how a building blends into the neighborhood and surrounding connectivity,” Gentile explained. “The success of the building lies in its location on the site. Many of our clients realize that the success of buildings lies in how they are placed and fit together.
He now spends most of his time helping revamp his company’s design tool by building software with new workflows. Tools like AutoCAD, Plating F/X, Revit, Twinmotion, Bluebeam, and complex drone mapping need to work together, transitioning from 3D to 2D the moment a plan is completed.
Computer-aided drawing (CAD) has become an integral part of building information modeling (BIM). Think of CAD as a tool and BIM as a collaborative process. The Building Information Modeling process can be expensive upfront, requiring investment in new software and training, but experts estimate that BIM reduces project costs by fifteen to twenty percent, improving delivery rate and reducing operating costs by up to 30 percent. Much of the landscape architecture world has been left out of these workflow improvements, left to create their own tools and plug-ins to fit where they can.
Better tools create a more holistic approach, breaking down the silos between building, landscape and infrastructure design. This will lead to better decisions, more successful projects and lower costs, regardless of the type of work. Even a perfectly designed building still needs the surrounding landscape to create a good experience. “People are realizing, after being cooped up indoors for two years, how important outdoor spaces are,” Gentile said. “More budget is allocated to outdoor amenity space, knocking down walls for a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces.”
Integrating landscape into the building design process isn’t just about making things look better or work better, it’s crucial for low-impact sustainability. The right landscaping can be used for everything from a tenant amenity to a carbon sink and can do everything from recycling sewage to lowering outdoor air temperatures. How a building relates to its surroundings can impact circulation, utilities and walkability of the site. All factors have an impact on the success of a building and a site. Understanding everyone in the design process before major mistakes are solidified in concrete is invaluable.
The impact of the surrounding landscape on the sustainability of a project was firmly established long ago, but this relationship can now be modeled and understood throughout the design process. Landscaping can be extremely costly to building operations and the environment when done incorrectly, so getting it right is all the more important. Positive change in the built environment is a collaborative effort across all building sectors. Aligning the workflow of the architecture, engineering, and landscape industries is key to aligning their mission. As the tools are built in each discipline, bringing them together is the only way to achieve a holistic understanding of site design.