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 The liquid shape of this driveway (above) appears to have been poured into place by tributaries of rock and stone, the natural contour creating the sense of a shoreline breaking gently on fields of grass. This landscape exemplifies the union of material, function, and artistic form.

Successful hardscaping often involves bringing a sense of order to the site and enhancing the natural surroundings and the existing buildings. In the past, hardscapes were traditionally utilitarian, a place to park the car, or a pathway leading to the door. However, more and more homeowners today are looking at their landscapes as an extension of the home.

In today's world, with so many houses looking virtually identical, the backyard and exterior areas often represent the unique signature and personal statement of the home and the homeowner. Hardscaping design and construction, in addition to reflecting the owner's personal style and taste has a direct and measurable impact on both the real and perceived status of the home or commercial property. The attributes and details of exterior landscape areas are often just as important as the interior spaces. As a result when a designer considers the key elements required to create an attractive and functional hardscaping design it often pays to consider the "big picture".

Design Elements of Landscaping

The following list describes some of the essential elements of landscaping and landscaping design:

Theme: The development of a landscaping theme is an essential element of professional landscape design. Where practical and possible, landscaping should repeat or reinforce the architectural style of the property. When considering pavements and retaining walls it is often more beneficial to complement the existing architectural features in moderation.

Scale and Functionality: Effective hardscaping designs work more effectively when coordinated with both the scale and function of the property and buildings. In some cases, this means emphasizing certain features or spaces, which make the property stand out from its neighbors. In other instances, landscaping may serve to detract your attention from less desirable features of the property. When it comes to paving installations the movement of vehicles and pedestrian traffic should be a primary consideration. If the property is located on a busy street, for example, the addition of a turnaround space is highly recommended

Vantage Point: The hardscaping design should always consider the vantage point when developing a design approach. As a rule of thumb, consider yourself an invited guest arriving at the home for a first time visit with the owner and his family. Consider the vantage point when arriving at the residence. Paving installations, when properly designed, should "welcome the way" to the residence.

Color: Color plays an extremely important role in today's hardscaping design. However, it requires concentration to ensure that the primary colors displayed in the façade (and plants surrounding the home) are coordinated effectively with the hardscaping. It is also important that the colors chosen for hardscaping do not "overpower" the landscaping installation.

Focal Points: In almost every case, the main entrance of the residence will be the primary focal point. The treatment of this area often sets the tone for the entire landscaping design [Occasionally residential properties, along lakefronts or scenic locations, will be orientated towards the rear or side entrance and will require a different approach. In other instances the property owner may indicate otherwise for reasons of privacy or security].

Texture: Minor differences in texture are usually magnified in landscaping and hardscaping. For this reason there are occasions when you may want to consider a mockup to determine the effectiveness of textures and colors.

 Some footpaths are designed to keep the mud off your feet between the driveway and the front door. The entranceway to this residence is an architectural prelude to the home's inner sanctum, anticipating the interior design with light, color, and texture.

Light and shadow: These components of landscaping literally change with the time of day and the season. This is one area where careful inspection of the property at different times of the day, can assist in planning.

Safety: Although safety factors may not be a concern on every site there are occasions when water features such as pools and ponds or rapid changes in grade should be considered during the design stage. In many cases, there are more attractive alternatives to fencing or barriers that can be effectively incorporated into landscape designs. LASN

 Brian Burton is a member of the Standing Committee for Technical Valuations for the Canadian Construction Materials Commission.  He is a frequent contributor to Landscape Architect and Specifier News and Landscape Contractor Magazine.

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September 17, 2019, 11:03 pm PDT

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