Designing modern gardens has become more and more challenging in the last few years, with sustainability being the prime objective of good business. Traditionally, landscape contactors have re-used or reclaimed building materials when budgets allowed, and have always had an eye on recycling topsoil and hardcore, just because it’s a labour and capital intensive job to remove them off-site. Always better to improve soils than discard them and better to spread hardcore or use it as soak-a-ways or backfill behind retaining walls. When access is easy and when there is a healthy budget, there is a tendency to let principles slip because machinery makes light work of it all: there is, as always, economy of scale.
Sustainability is a broad and much argued concept but for my purposes it encompasses energy use and a business’ ability to waste as little as possible whilst maintaining as many design outcomes as possible. I now try to limit or not use at all, products or materials that are highly energy intensive to produce, polluting to create or dispose of, have a short life expectancy, cannot be recycled or reclaimed later or have a poor ethical supply chain. This has led to some small cost increases and difficult decisions but ultimately feels right and will pay off in the long run.
I am a designer who looks at any job from both the client and contractors point of view. Both ultimately want the same thing-a fine job, with the least amount of work, efficiently done and for a price that is fair. Ultimately, as everyone knows, you get what you pay for and anyone who has tried to cut corners will agree that they’ve regretted it and probably cost them more in the end.
On principle, I design to a brief, whilst at the same time make a creative interpretation of it so it challenges the expectation of the client and makes the design process more interesting for me. The challenge is to partner good design with a budget that is necessarily limited and make it achievable.
“there is hope in honest error;
none in the icy perfections
of the mere stylist”
I quote this because design is a process like any truly creative endeavour. No-matter how brilliant the outcome is, it has gone through a tortuous and rigorous process of trial and error to arrive there. Styling is a fashionable preoccupation and has little to do with design; it borrows and copies others hard won creative work. TV programs and magazines are crammed full of styling and for an onlooker, there is little to distinguish between style and design. Style arises as a product of good design; it has a certainty and a confidence that is unmistakable.
Am I a good designer? If you look at the world around you and are impressed by how well designed it all seems, take a look at individual examples…you’ll find that each example has severe limitations but within those limitations, the outcome can work beautifully; it is a snapshot of its evolution and a complex of compromises packaged in way that functions until the evolutionary ‘brief’ changes. My design work is thus a complex of outcomes, dependent on site, budget, access and the openness of the client to experiment. Some clients are very open to ideas but most, I would say, know what they want but don’t know how to achieve it. Whatever category you fit into, you’ll find that my approach is inclusive, co-operative, accommodating, non-judgemental and transparent. It is, after all, your garden and you will be using and looking after it after I’ve moved on!
© spacemagic garden design 2012