The field of landscape architecture is known by such other names as landscape gardening, landscape design, landscape planning, landscape engineering, landscape contracting, and landscape nursery work.
You can realize the importance of landscape architecture by comparing buildings that have been adequately landscaped with those in which the landscaping has been neglected. Such comparison will show that a poor arrangement of the landscape can greatly decrease the value of a well-designed building. Proper landscaping, on the other hand, can provide a beautiful setting for a building. It can add to the comfort of the occupants by providing shade and windbreaks and by screening off undesirable views.
The purpose of this article is to give you a working knowledge of the principles and problems underlying the practice of landscape architecture, and of its applications, primarily as they relate to domestic architecture. A knowledge of landscape architecture, which helps people to achieve a better way of life through the fullest use of the out-of-doors, is especially important to the architect, landscape architect, draftsman, homeowner, landscape contractor, gardener, nurseryman, and realtor.
Landscaping in Ancient Times
To understand the principles and problems underlying the present-day practice of landscape architecture, you should be aware of some of the achievements of the past in this field. These achievements have accompanied the development of architecture through the ages.
The gardens of ancient Egypt reflected climactic, physical, and religious influences. The gardens of a high official, for instance, usually occupied a square of land and were surrounded by lofty walls. The dwelling houses within the walls were carefully hidden away and shaded by trees, and the grounds were enlivened by ponds, waterfalls, and green borders. In the middle of the gardens were vineyards and rows of trees.
The gardens of the Persians were rectangular and enclosed by high mud walls. They were divided by intersecting raised paths and low fences, and embellished with little tunnels and blue-tiled pools, pavilions, kiosks, and canopied summer houses. Outdoor features in the early Greek cities included baths, stadiums, open-air theaters, porticoes, and colonnades.
The monasteries of the Middle Ages in Europe were grouped around central courtyards that were framed by colonnades and enriched with central fountains, beds of flowers, and statues of the Christian saints.
Landscape Design in the United States
Landscape design in the United States has certain qualities common with all the great landscape traditions of the world: Chinese, Japanese, Persian, English, Spanish, French, and Italian. Originally, these traditions were localized in certain sections of the country: the French influence was evident in New Orleans; the English, in New England; the Spanish, in California. Today, with the development of rapid methods of transportation and communications, sectional differences in the United States have almost disappeared, so that among contemporary gardens, the typical New England or California garden, for instance, is very rare.
New Expression in Landscape
Landscape design has developed along the lines of two principal traditions, the formal and the informal. The formal tradition has behind it elements of order, proportion, rational planning, and beauty. It revealed an intimate formality in the earlier English gardens. Too often, however, the formal tradition led to a slavish regard for preconceived patterns and designs, and to undue drafting board influence.
The informal type of landscape design was irregular, informal, simple. The informal landscape design reached its lowest status when it included a careless scattering of plants and meaningless irregularity.
Today we have a new conception of landscape design, in which not just views but also the use of space, space relations, and new materials, as well as freedom of form, are important considerations. The design may be formal or informal, or a combination of the two.
Perhaps the biggest change that has occurred in landscape architecture is in the concept of the relation between house and gardens. Until recent years the garden was designed t walk in or through. Today the garden is designed to live in, and the use of glass walls has made the garden a part of the living area of the house.
The use of glass, more than anything else, is responsible for the great interest today in Japanese gardens, since the Japanese with their sliding walls have for centuries done away with the iron-clad division between the indoors and the outdoors.
In the United States the technological revolution which accompanied the early twentieth century abolished pumps, outhouses, and chicken runs, and eliminated the distinction between front and back yards, thus making it possible to place the contemporary house in the midst of a garden.