By David Widelock
What is Landscape Architecture
Landscape architects, along with engineers and architects, design the environment that is created outside of buildings. That is a broad definition for a broad profession. The FDR memorial in Washington D.C. was designed by a landscape architect, Lawrence Halprin (who also laid out the Sea Ranch development in Northern California, among his other notable accomplishments). Your front yard may well have been designed by a landscape architect working with the original developer of your neighborhood. Parks and trails, street-scapes, remediated brown fields, commercial, public and residential gardens and landscapes are all part of landscape architecture.
For most site designs, meaning a set of drawings a specific address, a typical set of drawings and services might include all or some of the following:
Also called “Master Plans”, this is the conceptual phase, where the elements of the landscape architecture are planned. The shape and location of such features as walls, fences, decks, trellises, steps, paving and circulation, and major planting elements such as trees, lawns, shrub massing, and screening are fit together into a whole.
In this phase materials to be used in developing the landscape architecture design are selected such as types of paving, stone, finishes, and accessories.
This can include planting, irrigation, layout, grading, drainage, and construction details for decks, trellises, fences, paving, retaining walls, etc. These are drawings that a contractor uses to bring the planned landscape architecture off the page and into real life.
Working with city planning and building departments and design review boards to ensure that the plans meet the requirements and that required calculations are submitted, such as for the California WELO (Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance). Obtaining proper permits is an important part of any landscape architecture project and should not be overlooked.
Providing accurate and complete estimates of the costs that will be incurred bringing the landscape architecture project to completion.
Help with choosing contractors, and preparing bid letters and contracts. Almost any landscape architecture project will require the services of several different tradecraft professionals.
Site visits to observe construction and work with the general contractor to achieve a successful landscape installation; managing contractor payments, and creating and clearing a final punch list. Designing residential retaining walls (a good example of how a licensed professional can help you): in California, a licensed landscape architect can design retaining walls up to 3 feet high. Walls over that height must have calculations by a structural engineer.
So, instead of viewing a professional landscape architect as an unnecessary expense, making him (or her) an integral part of your team will go a long way towards ensuring that your project is done on time, on budget, and will last for years.
If you are located in northern California, David Widelock is a licensed landscape architect in Oakland, Ca. Visit his web site at DWL Design