Following these client
meetings - and while I am considering a huge array of aesthetic options
- our firm's civil engineer, Michael Brown, performs a site reconnaissance.
This happens before and actual design work begins.
For small sites located within subdivisions,
he'll provide me with an accurate plot map and information on any
issues he thinks might affect the direction of the design. For larger
or more complex properties (or those with extensive grade changes), he'll generate complete topographical maps. And,
when needed, provides his engineering expertise
While Brown maps out existing conditions, I'm doing my homework: I review the clients'
wish list, photos, any magazine articles they've given me and any
other clues I've gathered. In many cases, I end up giving myself a
refresher course in certain styles or reacquainting myself with a
particular poet, artist or architect who came up in discussions or
who I recognize as having influenced their lives, their style and
their aesthetic choices.
I walk the larger,more complex properties
again - alone this time. In some cases, I'll take a bag lunch and
a camera and spend a good while on site. I find this time spent on
the land to be invaluable, because it's the land itself that properly
dictates so much of the design.
In producing my concept plan,
I initially make a rough layout of the use areas, each of which I treat as an
outdoor "room" that relates to the other outdoor rooms and
to the home itself. These rooms are what I call the "urban"
areas of the garden. They are typically near the home, but not always.
By contrast, the further away I move
from the house, the more wild and natural the design becomes until
the work transitions into the natural landscape on the boundaries
of the property or in the distant or borrowed views.
With older homes or homes with distinctive
architecture, I will make direct references to the vernacular of the
house in my designs. But this is not a hard and fast rule for me:
In many cases. a design concept will grow independent of cues from
the house itself. In fact, the more generic and repetitious the architecture
(as with homes in planned developments) the less I allow it to influence