Landscape architecture is the process of turning ideas into a physical space. As a landscape architect, you often find yourself endlessly deliberating about every aspect of a design, and meticulously making sure that each detail and specification comes to life during construction. In his presentation at the University of Oregon, landscape architect Ken Smith enthusiastically showcased this process. During Ken’s lecture he showed concept images, concept drawings, construction details, and even specification language. His focus on the intersection of craft, art, social and ecological sustainability perfectly illustrated each step in landscape design.
To get a sense of how people will interact with different elements of the space, Ken Smith’s team built full scale models along with site mock ups to make sure that nothing that seemed logical on the drawing board will seem out-of place in real life. For example, Ken had people actually sit on chairs in circles when he was designing circular benches at the TFANA Artz Plaza in Brooklyn, New York. These kinds of approaches are very hands-on, and give you a physical sense of what is happening with the materials and people in the physical world. In another example, Ken showed us how he filled holes and drew new holes in sheets of metal to find the perfect perforation pattern for his benches. This gave him a physical model to work with that could directly show him what his ideas would look like. Additionally, Ken’s team uses 3D computer models to examine how the different elements of the space will hopefully come together in real life. All of these tools close the gap between ideas and reality, and give you more space to explore and refine designs.
The final step of design, construction, is essential to bringing all of the hard work and attention to detail to life. Ken showed many images of construction sites depicting how his staff remains very involved in adjusting and refining the design while it is under construction. This massive amount of effort is absolutely necessary to assure that nothing gets lost in translation between ideas and reality, and Kens love for this intimidating job seeped through his presentation of his work.
For me , the lecture was a feast of recognition. I love to dream up unusual and thought provoking concepts. In Oregon my small firm is more and more recognized and sought out for innovative design. I also tinker endlessly with design details, at LandCurrent we paint or flag design lines on site and occasionally build full scale models. Ken really inspired me to do more of this. Though there has been no shortage of sweating over unique details and precise specifications at LandCurrent, Ken convinced me that, yes, it is worth the effort. His ideas resonated with my thoughts about on-site adjustment and greater involvement during construction. Landscape architects must insist on deep involvement during construction, and on-site adjustment as the final step to make ideas into reality.
Check out Ken’s work: http://kensmithworkshop.com/