By: Brad Priest, Designer at DG2 Design Landscape Architecture

One of the more abstract aspects of designing outdoor spaces is also typically the thing that makes them most memorable and special.  Human beings have an innate connection with nature that often goes beyond what they perceive an outdoor environment to look like, tapping into deeper psychological and physiological responses like how a space feels or how it sounds or even smells.  These sensorial reactions are a major factor in how a person experiences the space they’re in and how they remember it in the future.  An article published by Michael Hopkin in the scientific journal Nature discusses the role of sensory experience in memory recall here:

As designers of outdoor spaces we have an opportunity to connect people to nature and elicit pleasant sensorial experiences through thoughtful planning.  This somewhat vague task is aided by the site analysis process – by documenting existingfossilphotography-dg2-hospital-37-cropped conditions on a given site and analyzing its opportunities and constraints we are able to identify potential ways in which to connect meaningfully with the sights, sounds and smells provided by the natural surroundings.  From designing a bed of wispy grasses where they can rustle in a summer breeze to placing a seating area near a fragrant magnolia, ensuring that the designed space offers much more to its user than what we draw on paper is critical to its success as memorable place.

Designing beyond the concrete is often one of the most difficult things to do as a designer, and can be easily overlooked altogether.  However, when done well it can provide evocative experiences to its users that can last a lifetime.  As Landscape Architects that is something we should always strive to achieve if we truly want to help make the world a better place to live.

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