A Look Under the Hood at the Design Process
By Brad Priest
All projects are unique in one way or another, and each poses its own set of opportunities and constraints for design. To create the most successful result for any project, however, Landscape Architects all follow a similar process that allows them to systematically identify the most important information to progress the design to realization in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
Below are the general steps involved in this process and explanations for how each phase influences the next:
INVESTIGATE + ANALYZE
The first step in any project is to understand the existing conditions on site as well as the client’s needs and desires. Through discussions with the client and site visits to document and experience the site, we can start to build a base of information to work from. Site analysis involves breaking down the various natural features and processes found to exist such as sun/shade patterns, hydrologic patterns, slopes, viewsheds, etc. This information brings the hidden character of the site to the surface for further examination.
SYNTHESIZE + HYPOTHESIZE
Once a thorough site analysis is complete and the client’s desires have been noted, we can begin to sift through the raw data and focus on the most important points. This synthesis ultimately leads to a clear understanding of the potential opportunities and constraints for design – the foundation upon which all design decisions are built. It is at this point that we may begin to think about potential design ideas that may or may not work, and to investigate similar projects for inspiration on how to solve the design challenges at hand.
CONCEPTUALIZE + REVISE
Having done our due diligence, the next step in the design process is to develop conceptual design ideas that follow the framework set out by the previous steps. At this stage the conceptual ideas are generally big-picture, general feel and character type of things that explore design solutions from multiple angles. Following the conceptual design phase is the revision and design development phase. During this time, the design will be refined, and the general details will begin to be filled in, such that one can visualize the full scope of the proposed interventions and how the existing site will be impacted.
FINALIZE + REALIZE
Next is the finalization of the design process, which is to say the creation of construction drawings. These drawings are the ones that contractors will use to implement the design, and they therefore must include all the necessary information to do so. Construction drawings typically include information such as layout plans, materials, construction details, specifications, etc. Once the construction process begins, it is the job of the Landscape Architect to provide administrative support to the contractor to ensure that the design they worked so hard to create is realized successfully!