Circulation in Landscape Planning

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Flow of Movement

In a well-planned house, the movements between and within the rooms are minimized for convenience by placing close together rooms that are interrelated in purpose, such as the kitchen and dining rooms. Openings between rooms are established for easy passage and convenient placement of furnishings. Furnishings and equipment are located in logical sequence for the purpose of saving steps.

Flows of movement are equally important in outdoor areas. Movements from one position to another, in and out and across and around an area, from and to the house determine the logical routes of terraces, walks, and paths. They help to determine the advantageous placement of structures and functional areas. They are important factors in the overall design of the landscaping.


Paths may serve to lead people to and from entrances, to points of special interest, around a sizable lawn space or meadow, they may run beside a terrace, a lake, a stream, a pool, or into and through a nearby woodland.

Paths are often omitted in the modern garden, where they are supplanted by spreads of lawn or paving that invite one to stroll in any direction.

A modest path might be 3-1/2 feet to 4-3/4 feet wide for two people walking abreast. Where numerous people are expected to gather, the width must be enlarged accordingly. A path may be planted in grass if it is not to be used intensively; otherwise, harder material must be used, such as gravel, broken stone, tarvia, brick, or cement.


Steps enable people to go from one level to another, and are particularly important on steep garden sites. They can be few or numerous, narrow or broad, straight or curving, simple or divided. Above all, steps are for use by people and so should be scaled to the human figure.

Long, unbroken fights of steps are to be avoided, and landings need to be provided where the vertical distance exceeds, let us say, six feet. For outdoors steps, it is customary to make the tread wider and the riser lower than for indoor steps. In some circumstances, a tread of 14 inches or 15 inches and a riser of 5 or 6 inches are both pleasant to climb and to look at. A rule of thumb that is often followed is that twice the riser plus the tread should be made to equal 24 inches. The widths will vary to suit traffic requirements.

Steps may be constructed of stone, brick, concrete, wood, or even of grass-covered soil. Due consideration must be given to stability, drainage, and frost action. Steps should harmonize with the wall or other structures of which they are a part.

Automobile Traffic

We live in the age of the automobile. Automobile traffic, and the need to provide for it, is one of the challenging problems of our day. Access for the automobile is a problem that is present in the landscaping of most domestic properties.

There are three main possibilities for entrances to modern houses. One of these is to allow for a large forecourt in which transient cars can park and turn around and leave again over the same drive. This must allow for free circulation of traffic and space for parked cars. There should be room for turning, and there should be room adjacent to the forecourt for driving into the garage.

Another possibility is a horseshoe drive giving access to the front door. In such a case adequate parking should be set apart near the garage or along the curving drive.

The least desirable possibility, but often the only practical solution on a small property, is a road leading straight into the garage. This requires backing out the length of the drive. The only way to provide for parking is to widen such a drive so as to leave room for at least an extra car. 


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