Saturday, June 12, 2010

The difference

Recently, I reported that I watched with much pride as Shannon received her MFA in Landscape Architecture from RISD. Since that time, you would be surprised at the number of people that have asked me if I will hire her to design the landscaping for our cool mid-century remodel. You know...keep it in the family and give her a job and all that. And, I'm not the only one that gets asked questions like that. She does too. Will you do my garden? Will you design a layout for my backyard? What plant works better in partial shade??? And so I thought perhaps a little clarification was necessary.

Before I do the clarification, I must embarrassingly admit that I also didn't truly understand the role of a landscape architect until fairly recently. I thought she was paying a great deal of money learning to do garden design, but on a really really ginormous scale. You know... planning the landscape for something like Golden Gate Park, as opposed to deciding whether annuals or perennials were the way to go on your back patio. Ah, no. Turns out that's not AT ALL what she spent a lot of money learning.

I better understood her major after I had gone to the exhibition for her masters class. I looked at the projects. Frankly, most didn't make any sense to me (a few were highly theoretical and design-y and just sorta weird) - but some did. Shannon's did, but I wonder if that's just because I know her and she was there to explain it to me like I was five. There were a few where the materials used on the boards were just plain frightening ("trees" made of twisted wires in a real Tim Burton-esque manner for example). But it turns out that the trees are twisted wire, because the actual architectural design doesn't have much of anything at to do with actual trees and plants. Just sometimes where the trees and the plants should be. The projects were about taking exterior space (like entire marshes or malls or large public spaces) and making it better on a GRAND SCALE. It's more about....well, here's the wikipedia definition:

Landscape architecture is the design of outdoor and public spaces to achieve environmental, socio-behavioral, and/or aesthetic outcomes. It involves the systematic investigation of existing social, ecological, and geological conditions and processes in the landscape, and the design of interventions that will produce the desired outcome. The scope of the profession includes: urban design, site planning, town or urban planning, environmental restoration and recreation planning; visual resource management; green infrastructure planning and provision. A practitioner in the profession of landscape architecture is called a landscape architect.

And still - perhaps that definition is a little vague - a little confusing - a little - I don't know - above my intellectual pay-grade considering my non-design background and/or understanding.

Suffice to say - she will NOT design your back yard. She will NOT be able to tell you whether a particular ground cover will enhance the curb-appeal of your nifty mid-century modern rehab. She will conceptualize and design great grand places like parkways or malls or marshes or sports stadiums or watershed facilities or ecological designs or a whole bunch of other stuff. But, not your backyard (unless your backyard happens to be the historical mall in Washington DC). Instead, she will do stuff like this....

Does that help??? Probably not.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Tom would like Shannon's resume.